The Seven Deadly Vices:

7. Sloth versus Courage

by Don Schwager


"..so that you may not be sluggish (slothful), but imitators of those

who through faith and patience inherit the promises" (Hebrews 6:12).



Sloth is sorrow for spiritual good. The Greek word for sloth, acedia, means "not caring" or "apathy". Sloth is a kind of spiritual laziness or boredom in regard to the things of God. It is a lack of spirit in opposing the heavy pull and pressure of earthly things and rising to the level of the divine. It is indifference towards spiritual responsibilities and a listlessness in doing good. It almost always brings with it a large dose of self-pity. It drives out joy of the human heart.

Sloth is commonly expressed in the phrase: "It's too much trouble to be good." Sloth is an oppressive sorrow which so weighs on a person's mind that he lacks any zeal or motivation for things spiritual. Sloth can easily lead to the neglect of prayer and worship, disregard for works of mercy or the spirit of sacrifice, or an exaggerated seeking of personal ease and comfort. A spiritually slothful person may be quite active and non-lazy in unspiritual matters. A slothful person may be engaged in frenetic work during the day (even a workaholic) and in mindless time-wasting activity in his or her free time (i.e. mindless TV or video viewing). The slothful person will neglect his or her own spiritual welfare because he is afraid of the effort necessary in pursuing the will of God and thus obtaining his own true happiness. Implicit in sloth is the unwillingness to exert oneself in the performance of duty because of the sacrifice and effort required. It is preeminently a sin of omission and neglect; we neglect what we ought to do.

"We are always of good courage" (2 Cor. 5:6)

The virtue of fortitude, or courage, enables us to overcome difficulty in the pursuit of good. Fortitude gives a person the strength to endure pain and even death, when they cannot be avoided. Fortitude gives a person power to face danger and overcome it, when it can be overcome. Fortitude curbs the power of fear, anger, and daring. Without fortitude a person either would not have tried at all, or he would have tried badly and so failed.

Example from the scripture: The Book of Proverbs admonishes the sluggard (Proverbs 6:6; 27:14, etc.) who is too lazy to work or to do good. Jesus illustrates his parables with stories of slothful people. In the parable of the talents Jesus tells the story of a wicked and slothful servant who did not obey his master; he refused to invest his master's money (see Matthew 25:26ff). The story has a spiritual lesson: The Lord rewards diligence and faithfulness. He praises the wise and faithful servants who invest their time and resources in the kindgom of God. They do not allow spiritual sluggishness or sloth to hold them back from doing the will of God, even in the midst of trials and testing.