The Spiritual Side of Sloth

In many faiths, sloth is more than just laziness--though couch potatoes are frowned upon, too.

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Sloth and idleness are forbidden in Christianity. "Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord," says Romans 12:11. "So that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises," according to Hebrews 6:12.

The Gospel of Matthew's parable of a man who entrusts his servants with money is often interpreted as a warning against sloth. A master gives each of his three servants a certain amount of money. Two return more than they were given, while one buries the money and returns only the original amount. The Master denounces the servant for not doing anything to increase his wealth: "You wicked, lazy slave,...at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest (Matthew 25:26-27 )."

Catholicism condemns spiritual sloth (

acedia

) as not wanting to work or exert oneself for spiritual goods. It is considered a sin because slothful people refuse to expend the energy necessary for leading a virtuous life. St. Thomas Aquinas defined sloth as "sluggishness of the mind which neglects to begin good."

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Orthodox Christians similarly view sloth as a spiritual idleness. This story from the Desert Fathers explains this view: "A beginning monk, who went to a certain elder to confess, posed, among others, this question: 'Why, Father, do I fall so often into sloth?'

"'You lack the faith which makes you see God everywhere; for this reason you can be careless and lazy about your salva-tion,' the discerning elder wisely explained."

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also condemns sloth. The Mormon Doctrine & Covenant states, " Set in order your houses; keep slothfulness and uncleanness far from you (90:18)."

Hinduism

Hindu philosophy urges Hindus to put effort into their lives. Human endeavor is seen as the opposite of sloth. Sloth is considered one of the five

vighnas

, troubles or obstacles. The Yogatattva Upanishad, one of the minor Upanishads, lists sloth among other obstacles, including grief, anger, greed, boastfulness, and bad company. Unless these obstacles are overcome, the text warns, a person may lead a life of despair.

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