Fr Jacek Molka

Many believers often think that sloth should not necessarily be treated equally to such sins as pride, anger or lust. Contemporary man sometimes thinks that if he has stolen nothing, killed nobody and had no envy in his heart he will have clear conscience. However, Christian morality perceives man in a much wider perspective in which sloth, both spiritual and physical, deprives him of the essence of his humanity. Since the essence is man's constant response to God's love.

Sloth as today's disease

Sloth can be briefly defined as the chronic avoidance of any effort in all aspects of human existence. Some succinctly define it as inactivity or idleness. Of course, it is rare that someone does not do anything. If it happens so we undoubtedly deal with pathology, which should be treated as quickly as possible. Laziness is usually limited to some part of our life.
Undoubtedly, the present technological progress favours laziness. And the attitude 'dolce far niente', i.e. 'delightful idleness' becomes something so common that it begins to function as a social norm in the contemporary consumerist societies.
Sloth is commonly accepted by young people who do not see anything wrong in it. Take for example my class from the grammar school where I teach religious instruction. None of the pupils was willing to read 'Potop' (obligatory novel in the first form of the grammar school) since they thought it was boring and long. They preferred to read a summary of the novel, which is available in the Internet or in the form of popular abstracts. And only a few pupils out of over thirty saw the film based on the book.

The Church teaching

Both the Old Testament and the New Testament revile sloth. As far as the former is concerned the books of wisdom do not praise it. Take for example the Book of Proverbs or the Wisdom of Sirach to see that sloth is a deadly sin against God, oneself and neighbour. The New Testament also shows this attitude in bad light (e.g. Titus 1:12 or 2 Thessalonians 3:10ff).
The Catechism of the Catholic Church lists sloth with such vices as indifference, ingratitude, lukewarmness and acedia. 'Indifference neglects or refuses to reflect on divine charity; it fails to consider its prevenient goodness and denies its power. Ingratitude fails or refuses to acknowledge divine charity and to return him love for love. Lukewarmness is hesitation or negligence in responding to divine love; it can imply refusal to give oneself over to the prompting of charity. Acedia or spiritual sloth goes so far as to refuse the joy that comes from God and to be repelled by divine goodness' (2094).

Consequences of sloth

Psychologists generally agree that sloth leads directly to apathy or total indifference to what is going on around us. Additionally, a lazy man can have surges of unjustified sadness. Indifference usually leads to boredom. Boredom supported by lack of interest in anything is the first step to fall into depression. And depression takes its toll in almost the entire world. Much is spoken and written about depression since a man who falls ill loses all sense and meaning. Sloth can, therefore, be one of the causes of this common phenomenon.
Moreover, sloth leads to the attitude of passivity towards events and situations in which one should take some stand in normal circumstances. Thus sloth absolves people of responsibility for other people and for themselves. It is easy to become a man who is said to 'have no heart'.
Another consequence of sloth is comfort-loving nature. It is usually connected with the attitude of wishes-claims, which is often the attitude of young people. It seems to them that they deserve all things. But they do not take any initiative to succeed in life and make an effort.

Dynamics of love

A Christian who daily follows the Good News of loving God cannot yield to sloth because it gradually destroys his relationship with the Creator and other people. And examining our conscience (during Holy Mass in the act of penance we say 'I have sinned through my own fault, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do) we open ourselves to receive good and love from God.
This dynamic approach to God becomes our daily life in which there is no room for mediocrity, apathy and sloth. Since a believer knows that he is only a pilgrim on this earth. He also knows that he has a unique one life that is not worth wasting by doing nothing. He also knows that life is worth experiencing in the perspective of God's love, from which Christian joy of life flows.

"Niedziela" 11/2007

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: