Proverbs 26: 13 – “There’s a lion in the road; a fierce lion roaming the streets!”
You won’t find the phrase “Knock, Knock…Who’s there?” in the Bible. Chickens are mentioned in the Book, but there doesn’t seem to be any interest in the reasons for their travels. Light bulbs were not yet invented. This doesn’t mean there are no jokes in the Bible.
The sluggard saying, “There’s a lion in the streets!” is funny even a few thousand years after it was written. Sure, the joke might have been told differently in another age. In the era of Carson’s Tonight Show it might have been:
“This guy is so lazy…”
“How lazy was he?”
“He was so lazy, he wouldn’t leave the house for fear of shark attacks! Not many Jaws II fans here tonight.”
Okay, maybe not comic gold, but still kinda funny.
Why do Biblical writers use this kind of material? Because some behaviors deserve mockery. Laziness is one of those behaviors.
“Sluggard” is a great word. Sure, we’re talking English here rather than the original Hebrew; but the image of a slug captures perfectly the slow motion ineptitude of a lazy person. The image of a sloth works pretty good as well. The image here in Proverbs is a guy so lazy that he won’t leave his house, perhaps won’t leave his bed, because of the lamest of excuses. “I can’t go out because… um…because there’s a lion in the street! Yeah, that’s the ticket!”
If Proverbs were written today, the lion might become zombies or an alien invasion. Perhaps, the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man in Ghostbuster proportions. Any lame excuse not to go to work or school or any other effort requiring location.
These days, one might get the impression sloth is no longer an issue. You ask people, “How ya doing?” and often the response is, “I’m so busy! Work, family, all my obligations, I just don’t have any time to spare!” To which we respond ,”Me too!”
Though, perhaps, there seems to be no time to spare, we still spare it. Why else would USA Today always be writing about people binge watching a season of Downton Abbey, The Walking Dead or Banshee over a weekend? Someone is taking the time to read those 50 Shades books. And beds are still very popular locations for stretches exceeding eight hours. Much time in our lives is still lost to sloth.
It is interesting that the writer of Proverbs uses a lion, because many sloths look to lions as immobile role models. A lion can sleep up to twenty hours a day. Is a lion a sloth? (Don’t say Yes or you’ll flunk your biology quiz.)
A lion may well sleep twenty hours in a day, but only after its taken care of its responsibilities. Its responsibilities pretty much consist of finding enough food to eat. If it can do that in four hours or less, its obligations are fulfilled. Most of our obligations are a little more expansive. We need to not just care for ourselves, but for others.
Rest is a valuable part of life, neglecting rest is a dangerous course in life. An analogy can be made to eating. An anorexic endangers his or her own life. A person who neglects proper rest does the same. But being a glutton is not healthy any more than being a sloth. We need that balance in life only God's Spirit can fully provide.