Our pastor preached an excellent sermon on Jesus and the paralyzed man who was lowered through the roof (Luke 5:17-26). He drew our attention to the fact that the man's main problem was not that he couldn't walk but that he had sinful thoughts and actions that needed forgiving. Now how can a man who lies in one place all day be such a sinner? Well, he can still think, can't he? He can still resent, perhaps. He can still lust, and be selfish.
The pastor shared that he has often idealized certain groups of people and later discovered he was wrong. He has been to nursing homes to minister, and found that there are a lot of nice old people but a lot of nasty ones, too.
He told about the time years ago when his sister went to Africa with idealism and a Ph.D. in agriculture and her heart set on making a contribution to soil development in an impoverished area. She returned home disillusioned: She was not prepared for the laziness she encountered.
After church I shared with someone the African incident, and she responded, "The African people that woman met just had different priorities, and we should not judge them."
I felt chastened as I considered: What if the Africans that my pastor's sister met were more interested in a simpler and slower-paced life and in leisurely conversations with neighbors? And what if we ugly Americans are imposing our own lifestyle preferences that, obviously, have had their own negative aspects?
This morning I happened to open to Proverbs and I read:
"A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. He who gathers in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame" (Proverbs 10:4-5).
"Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense" (Proverbs 12:11).
So then, according to Scripture, diligence is a good thing and lack of diligence is not a legitimate alternative lifestyle. In fact, wasn't the Lord's very first command to be diligent to farm the earth?
"Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on earth" (Genesis 1:28).
The reason I share this meditation today is not so much to discuss poverty or its causes. Rather, this is an appreciation for the way that the Word of God, time and time again, slices through my confused cultural thinking and sets me straight about truth and ends all argument. Whether the subject is lifestyles or "noble savages" or the elderly or the young or education or love or marriage, the Word of God is the final word.