Note then, first of all, that a slothful man is the opposite of a righteous man. In the text they are set in opposition. “The way of the slothful man” is placed in contrast, not with the way of the diligent man, but with “the way of the righteous “; as if to show that the slothful man is the very opposite of being a righteous man. A sluggard is not a righteous man, and he cannot be, he misses a main part of rightness. It is very seldom that a sluggard is honest: he owes at least more labor to the world than he pays. He is guilty of sins of omission, for he fails in obedience to one of the laws laid upon manhood since the fall: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.” He aspires to eat his bread without earning it: he would, if he could, eat bread for nought, or eat the bread for which others toil, and this verges upon coveting and stealing, and generally leads up to one or both of these sins. The sluggard evades the common law of society; and equally does he offend against the rule which our apostle promulgated in the church: “If any would not work, neither should he eat.” The sluggard is not righteous, for he does not render to God according to the strength lent to him, nor to man according to the work assigned him. A slothful man is a soldier who would let others fight the battle of life while he lies under the baggage-wagon asleep, until rations are served out. He is a husbandman who only husbands his own strength, and would eat the grapes while others trim the vines. He would, if possible, be carried on his bed into the kingdom of heaven; he is much too great a lover of ease to go on pilgrimage over rough and weary ways. If the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence from others, it will never suffer violence from him. He is too idle to be importunate, too slothful to be earnest.
He cannot be a righteous man, for slothfulness leads to the neglect of duty in many ways, and very soon it leads to lying about those neglects of duty, and no liar can have a portion in heaven. Idleness is selfishness, and this is not consistent with the love of our neighbor, nor with any high degree of virtue. Every good thing withers in the drought of idleness. In fact, all kinds of vices are comprehended in the one vice of sloth; and, if you tell me that a man is a sluggard, I have his whole character before me in the blackest of letters. His fallow fields are well adapted for evil seed; and, no doubt, Satan will raise a fine crop of weeds in every corner of his life. What this world would have been if we had all been gentlemen, with nothing to do, I cannot tell. The millions that have to work are largely kept out of mischief by their toil; and although crimes are abundant enough in our great city as it is, what would they have been if there had not been daily tasks to keep men from excessive indulgence in drink, and other forms of evil? Without labor the ale-houses would have been crammed every one of the twenty-four hours; folly would have held unbroken carnival, and licentiousness would have burst all bounds. Amongst the sanitary and salutary regulations of the moral universe there is none much better than this — that men must work. He who does not work is not a righteous man, for he is out of accord with that which makes for righteousness. In some form or other, with either brain or hand, either by working or enduring, we share the common labors of the race appointed them of heaven; and if we are not doing so, we are not righteous. I call to your remembrance the remarkable words of the Savior, “Thou wicked and slothful servant.” Those two adjectives are nearly related — “wicked and slothful.” Might not our Lord have said “slothful” alone? He might, but he knew how much of wickedness goes with sloth, and is inherent in it; and, therefore, he branded it with the condemning word.
Charles H. Spurgeon, Spurgeon’s Sermons: Volume 33, “The Hedge of Thorns and the Plain Way”, sermon no. 1948.