When I was a child, I was told that staying busy would keep me out of trouble. The saying “idle hands are the devil’s workshop” dates from at least the time of English poet Geoffrey Chaucer, who used a version of this proverb in 1386. It is consistent with the book of Proverbs, which warns of the dangers of laziness (see Prov. 10:4). Scripture has a great deal to say about the value of work and the danger of idleness, from warnings in the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes to exhortations in the New Testament letters to new churches (Eccl. 10:18; 2 Thess. 3:10).
As believers, idleness should not characterize our behavior or thinking. Laziness implies a lack of willpower and a resistance to hard work. It can also mean living without clear motivation. When we allow our minds and bodies to be idle, we are more vulnerable to temptation. I am certain the Devil is always willing to suggest ways we can spend our unfocused time.
The older I get, the more I am reluctant to waste time. I realize how precious each day is. I am aware of the pressing urgency to share the good news of the gospel and impact the world for Christ. Am I living to serve Him faithfully each and every day?
But avoiding idleness does not mean that we should become workaholics. From the earliest days of creation, God designed us both to work and to rest. He provided an example of this balance for us in His own work of creation. Genesis 2 tells us that “by the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done” (v. 2). God rested! Notice that this verse contains both the words work and rest to describe God’s activity. Verse 3 says that “God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all the work which God had created and made.”
God created us to work, wholeheartedly and with purpose. But we are also created to enjoy rest. Our lives easily get thrown off balance. We can be too busy, just as we can be too idle. Understanding God’s design for life means that our diligent work will be balanced with designated times of rest. We might need to turn off our phones and close our daily planner. We need time and space to meet with our Creator for blessed rest that satisfies the deepest longings of our soul.