Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Slackerly Sloths

“Concerning whom we have many things to speak,
and difficult to be explained,
seeing you are become slothful in hearing
[or dull of hearing]

(Hebrews 5:11)[1] 

sloth (n.) 
late 12c., "indolence, sluggishness," formed from Middle English slou, slowe (see slow (adj.)) + abstract formative -th (2). Replaced Old English slæwð "sloth, indolence." Sense of "slowness, tardiness" is from mid-14c.
The slow-moving mammal first so called 1610s, a translation of Portuguese preguiça "slowness, slothfulness," from Latin pigritia "laziness"....[2]

The opposite of the biblical diligence is the idea of sloth.  The sloth mammal was aptly named because its habits so matched the biblical description! 
They are named after the capital sin of sloth because they seem slow and lazy at first glance; however, their usual idleness is due to metabolic adaptations for conserving energy.[3]
These cute smiling creatures have some very curious characteristics. It is an interesting fact that sloths accumulate many odd things on their fur that can weigh them down:
Sloths make good habitats for other organisms, and a single sloth may be home to moths, beetles, cockroaches, fungi, ciliates, and algae....  [T]he fur hosts two species of symbiotic algae, which provide camouflage. Because of the algae, sloth fur is a small ecosystem of its own, hosting many species of non-parasitic insects.[4]
A sloth's metabolism is unusually slow:
As much as two-thirds of a well-fed sloth's body weight consists of the contents of its stomach, and the digestive process can take a month or more to complete.... [T]hey have very low metabolic rates (less than half of that expected for a mammal of their size), and maintain low body temperatures....[5]
The habits of sloths are very interesting:
Some sloths stay in the same tree for years. Their huge hooked claws and long arms allow them to spend most of their time hanging upside-down from trees. Since they have a slow metabolism, they need very little food.... Sloths also sleep upside-down for up to 18 hours at a time.[6]

Becoming slothful seems to be the opposite of exercising discernment! “Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.” (1 Thess. 5:6)

In these last days we are increasingly tempted to be slothful, i.e., dull of hearing the Word of God. Many things consume away our time and attention, including the ubiquitous personal technological devices we are becoming addicted to. Are you still walking with the Lord or with your portable devices? Are you still studying the Word of God with due diligence and application?

Below is a commentary about being “slothful.” It serves as a timely and perceptive admonition to us today.

Seeing ye are slothful,” “slow,” or “dull in hearing.” νωθρός. This word is nowhere used in the New Testament but here and chapter 6:12, where we render it “slothful,” …one that is not easily stirred or moved, heavy, slothful, inactive, dull,” as opposed to him that is diligent in his business; as Prov. 22:29…. 

…ἀκοή is used both for the “ear,” the “faculty of hearing,” the “act of hearing,” and “things heard.” Wherefore “slothful in hearing,” which the apostle declares the fault of these Hebrews, is a metaphorical expression. ‘You are,’ saith he, ‘in hearing of the word, like slothful persons, who do no work, accomplish no endeavours, attain no good end, because of their earthly, dull, inactive constitutions and inclinations.’ 

The conditions and qualities of such slothful persons Solomon paints to the life in Proverbs 12:27, 15:19, 18:9, 19:24, 21:25, 22:13, 24:30-34, and 26:13-15. He abounds in the reproof of it, as being one of the most pernicious vices that our nature is subject unto. 

And in the reproach that Christ will case upon unfaithful ministers at the last day, there is nothing greater than that they were “slothful,” Matt. 25:26: Thou wicked and slothful servant....

Unto such slothful persons, therefore, the apostle compares these Hebrews, not absolutely, but as to this one duty of hearing. The Gospel, as preached, he calls… “the Word of hearing” in Heb. 4:2; – the word that is communicated unto men by hearing, which they so receive, Rom. 10:17; which ought to be heard and diligently attended unto: So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.

This duty the Scripture is expressed by προσέχω, Acts 16:14; which is to “diligently to hearken and attend, so as to cleave unto the things heard.” 

A neglect hereof the apostle charges the Hebrews with. ‘You stir not up,’ saith he, ‘the faculties of your souls, your minds and understandings, to conceive aright and comprehend the things that are spoken unto you; you attend not unto them according to their importance and your concernment in them; you treasure not them up in your hearts, consciences, and memories, but let them slip out, and forget them:’ for the apostle intends all faults and negligences that concur unto unprofitable hearing. 

It is not a natural imbecility of mind that he blames in them; nor such a weakness of understanding as they might be obnoxious unto for want of improvement by education; nor a want [lack] of learning and subtilty to search unto things deep and difficult: for these, although they are all defects and hindrances in hearing, yet are they not crimes. 

But it is a moral negligence and inadvertency, a want [lack] of the discharge of their duty according to their ability in attending unto the means of their instruction, that he charges them with. 

The natural dullness of our minds in receiving spiritual things is, it may be included; but it is our depraved affections, casting us on a neglect of our duty, that is condemned. 

And there are sundry things wherein we are instructed; as, – 

To be continued....

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us....” (Hebrews 12:1)

1. John Owen, D.D. (1616-1683), Exposition of Hebrews, Vol. 4, Reprinted by Banner of Truth Trust, 1991, pp 548-549. Excerpted, edited and adapted for modern blog posting by updating grammar, word usage and punctuation.  Owens translates Hebrews 5:11 differently from the KJV based on his expertise in the original ancient languages. 
2. Definition of sloth adapted from
4. Ibid. Links and footnotes removed.
5. Ibid.