How long will you slumber, O sluggard? When will you rise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleepâ€”so shall your poverty come on you like a prowler, and your need like an armed man.â€”Prov 6:9-11
I remember reading this proverb for the first time almost ten years ago in my religious education class. I didn't truly understand what it meant but I memorized it anyway because we would be tested on it the next lesson. At that time, I was about ten years old, and I certainly could not see the connection between getting some rest and becoming poor.
Now, reading the words in this old, familiar proverb, a new understanding has dawned. The sleep mentioned here refers not only to a physical rest, but a deep, spiritual hibernation into which some of our languished souls have fallen. Many of us long-time Christians have settled into comfortable cycles of bedtime prayers, reading our one chapter of the Bible a day, and attending services. We do this because we believe that in doing so, we fulfill our duties as Christians. We self-righteously give ourselves a pat on the back, saying to ourselves that we are doing more than most.
There may be the little difficulties we encounter in our everyday lives, but life is generally comfortable. But somehow, in this comfort, we have lost sight of what is to come, and more importantly, of our responsibilities in the present. The Lord is telling us through this proverb to wake up from our world-induced sleep, so that Satan will not rob us of our eternal inheritance.
Fulfilling What Has Been Entrusted to Us
It is not to say that prayer, reading the Bible, and attending services are not important. In fact, these are the building blocks of our faith. Yet some of us comfortable Christians have forgotten the commission that the Lord has entrusted to us, the true church of the last days. Jesus has said, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven" (Mt 7:21). What is the will of the Father in heaven? The Father, manifested in the flesh as Jesus Christ, has given us a two-pronged commission to fulfill: to preach the good news to all creation and to pastor His sheep.
God has entrusted us, the true church, the precious gospel of truth. We are the gatekeepers of eternal life. Jesus Christ has said, "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven" (Mt 16:19). What then shall we do with this awesome power? Shall we abuse it by sitting idly while souls are walking straight down the path to hell? We will indeed be called to account for these souls.
"To the person who has been given much, more will be demanded, from the person who has been given little, less will be demanded." We have been entrusted with much, but along with this responsibility come much work. Let us not hide this responsibility in the ground and pretend that it does not exist. Otherwise, we might be in danger of becoming the lazy servant the Lord spoke about in the parable of the talents (see Mt 25:14-32).
Just as that lazy servant stood condemned by preserving his one talent in the ground, preserving our own faith is not enough. When we stand before the Lord on Judgment Day, we may be able to dig up our own life, which we have preserved in the ground, but even that will be taken from us. The Lord has said, "For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away" (Mt 25:29). Therefore, instead of regarding this great commission with levity and ease, we should handle the responsibility with fear and trembling.
Never an Empty Hand
The other part of the commission is to "feed the sheep." We can no longer afford to have brothers and sisters who are spiritually weak and sick. Each one of us is a part in the body of Christ. Shall the body of Christ be weak and sick? The strong must help the weakâ€”and carry them to Jesus if they must, as did the four men with the paralytic. Then, after learning to stand on their spiritual legs, they will be able to contribute their talent to gain more talents. No one should be found with empty hands before the Lord on the Day of Judgment.
Let us not be satisfied with our one talent hidden in the ground. Otherwise, we will condemn ourselves to the darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, because we took a little time to "slumber, and fold our hands to rest." Let us not be comfortable, but instead be anxious for the souls of this world who have not yet tasted the grace and mercy of God. Nor should we keep from them the gospel of salvation, for they might never experience the goodness of God otherwise. Let us not rest, for we might become poor. And a terrifying poverty it will be, for it will be the poverty of not having an eternal home, a heavenly Father, and even life itself.
Therefore, let us do with all our might whatever our hands find to do. When the Lord comes to collect His talents, let us with a clear conscience and good faith offer to Him the other talents we have gained. Then He will say to us, "Well done, good and faithful servants! ...Enter into the joy of your Lord!" (Mt 25:23)