Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross
It sounds contradictory to refer to someone as hardworking and lazy, so clarification is necessary. There is a word found eleven times in the New Testament (in the NASB), translated “eager” (once), “be diligent” (four times), and “make every effort” (six times). It conveys the idea of being conscientious in discharging an obligation (BDAG) and to do something with intense effort and motivation (L-N). That is a great description of “hardworking.” Its opposite, in biblical terms, is a word translated “careless,” “idle,” “useless,” and “lazy” (cf. Mat. 12:36; 1 Tim. 5:13; Jas. 2:20; etc.).
There are a great many people who are diligent and industrious when it comes to their occupation, care of their home, physical exercise routine, organizational routines, and various rituals. But can their Bible study habits be described as “diligent” or “lazy”? When we honestly evaluate our relationship to Scripture, do we:
- Try to rely on things we may have learned or been told in the past?
- Limit our serious consideration of Scripture to times in the assembly (Bible classes and sermons)?
- Take a spouse’s, parent’s, friend’s, or preacher’s word on what a Bible verse or teaching means?
- Approach Bible reading as an obligation, hurried through and skimmed over without digging deeper to understand meaning or how it connects to the rest of the chapter or book?
- Fail to meditate, internalize, and make application?
- Make the sacrifice of time and mental energy to really get to the bottom of what the text is saying?
- Lack an appetite and interest for reading and studying the Bible?
Why is this such a serious matter? First, it is commanded. 2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (my emphasis). Do the descriptions above sound like a “diligent workman accurately handling”?
Second, it is divine communication. This is the way God communicates to us, telling us how to live. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is inspired by God (literally, “God-breathed,” NP) and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” Adequate here doesn’t mean just enough to get by, but instead means complete, capable, and proficient. Through Scripture, God is telling me how my life will be complete. I don’t want to be incomplete, incapable, and incompetent.
Finally, it is tied to our eternal destiny. Paul connects the word to the Day of Judgment. In 2 Timothy 4:1-8, Paul solemnly charges Timothy in the presence the Father and Son (1), who will judge everyone, to preach the word (2) to offset those who lack endurance for sound doctrine (3), to oppose those who teach only what people want to hear (3) and who substitute truth with myths (4). While the preacher has this most sobering responsibility to “reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction,” the individual can only be protected by being the kind of student called for in 2 Timothy 2:15.
No matter how old we are, how long we’ve been a Christian, or how poorly we’ve done at this in the past, we can change that starting today! There is time and opportunity! Begin the routine now. Get a notebook or open a document on your computer, and get to work on it! It will help you in this life and prepare you for the life to come. Resolve to be a hard-working student of the Bible!