Most often, the real reason behind an effortless “simplicity” is sloth. People are willing expend enormous effort to make money or play games. I once attended a fantasy baseball draft in which the young men knew personal details of the lives of minor league players. Such knowledge took enormous effort.
However, when it comes to the Gospel and the things of God, many Christians throw up their hands and call all such things ‘dead works’ or ‘dead orthodoxy’ or ‘legalism’ or some other name – as if effort in understanding God were a sin; some dreadful falling from grace.
Of course it is possible to expend fruitless effort in the understanding of the Bible. Of course mere study does not lead to salvation or godliness. Of course the Gospel can be understood by a child and believed on for salvation without a knowledge of Greek or ancient history. But none of that is to excuse sloth or neglect of the things of God.
We all spend effort and attention somewhere. If it is not on the things of God, then where is it spent? Consider the description of Psalm 1:
Psalm 1 (ESV)
1 Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
3 He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
4 The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.
The Psalmist speaks of deliberate consuming effort. Reward is promised to the one who expends the effort. Notice that the reward is promised to effort – it is not based upon intellectual gifts. The reward does not go to the one with the highest IQ. The reward flows from the deliberate searching of the Scriptures. No one is excused from this effort.
For some, the deliberate study will be a blessing to the entire church – someone like Augustine or Chrysostom or Calvin or Edwards will be able to see and teach things which most could never find in a lifetime of searching. For others, the searching will not result in books and sermons but in a more godly life and the practical blessing of those around them, in love and good deeds.
The Psalmist also implies that the one who is not diligently pursuing the study of God is diligent in some other venue. If you are not diligent in the study of God, then where are you setting your attention?
Sloth is a sin, and the sluggard is deadly to the Church.