Don’t Take off Your Shoes until Bedtime [Biblical Wisdom]
I’ve been thinking recently about how reticent I am to do something I don’t have to do. If it’s not urgent, it can wait, and if it can wait, it can wait for-ev-er (pronounced this way).
Often, though, the issue is not actual urgency. It’s personal laziness. The issue is that it’s too hard right now to do the thing I actually need to do, which is what my wife asked me to do weeks ago, which is the thing that’s been on my list of things to do for so long now, whether my wife asked me to do it or not. The problem is this thing I need to do is a thing I don’t want to do.
The Wisdom of the Wise
We should probably quote Scripture at this point. Here’s Proverbs 6:6-9:
Go to the ant, O sluggard
consider her ways, and be wise
officer, or ruler
She prepares her bread in summer
and gathers her food in harvest.
How long will you lie there, O sluggard?
When will you rise from sleep?
That should be exhortation enough. The passage encourages us to consider the salubrious effects of self-initiated labor. I don’t need someone to tell me what to do (in contrast to T. H. White’s take on ant behavior); I can foresee what needs be done and make the necessary effort to do it. I can plan, initiate, and perform.
The passage goes on, however, to describe the attitude of apathy and laziness. The sluggard may convince themselves that their behavior is no big thing, but there are serious consequences to their actions. The ant behaves logically, and in accordance with nature; apathy and laziness, by contrast, is illogical and unnatural:
Just a little rest, that’s all, and suddenly the whole day has slipped by. Anyone who has wasted the day away arguing with the internet knows this malady. Anyone who has decided that the work is not worth the reward—that the sacrifice is greater than the gain—understands the temptation. Apathy results in laziness, and laziness results in a flippant use of one’s time (which in the modern world usually manifests itself in some virtual reality).
As is often the case, though, there is a positive side to this biblical wisdom. Apathy breeds destruction, to be sure, but industry has its own reward. So it’s not just “don’t be lazy.” Wisdom also tells us about the advantages of industry:
Four things on earth are small,
But they are exceedingly wise:
The ants are a people not strong,
yet they provide their food in the summer (Prov. 30:24-25).
The ants are small, but they have initiative. The ants are small, but they take action. The ants are small, but they have all they need: they have food, both in summer and in winter, because they know the patterns of the seasons, and gather ahead of time, thereby lacking nothing.
Keeping Your Shoes On
So how do shoes fit in? Like most people, I get home at 5 (or 6 or 7). Like most people, when I get home (at 5 or 6 or 7) I pop off my shoes and am ready to relax. And, like most people, at 5 (or 6 or 7) there’s still work to be done. Mouths to feed. Garbage to take out. Dishes to clean (do we even have time for devotions)? Most importantly: there are people around me who have real problems, and apparently they want to talk to me about them.
If you take your shoes off, it’s just that much harder to get the remaining work done. More inertia is now required. I have put myself, mentally at least, in the state of rest, not readiness.
If you Take your Shoes Off
The point of all this is that if you take your shoes off, physically or metaphorically, you aren’t ready to handle the problems life throws at you. Rest is good—we will get to that later in this series on wisdom—but the goodness of rest doesn’t outweigh the need for readiness. Rest is good and to be pursued; but always ready (1 Pet. 3:15).
Which brings me to the personal situation that occasioned this post. I have my shoes off (literally, not metaphorically); it’s 9pm, the garbage is WAY full (like even-if-I-pushed-hard-with-my-hand-it-wouldn’t-appear-to-be-not-full-full), and it’s super-below freezing outside (I miss you Texas). What do I do?
The answer is obvious. It all depends on whether or not I have my shoes on. If my shoes are still on, I do it. If they’re off, it’s too much trouble and I wait until tomorrow. It’s such an easy decision I don’t even notice it.
The Bible tells us to be always ready to do good.
When do you take off your shoes?