In his book, Living on the Ragged Edge, Charles Swindoll tells a funny story about his friend who taught high school just long enough to know he shouldn’t be teaching high school. One year, he was assigned to teach a rather dreary subject to an even drearier group of students. The teacher fumbled through his first lecture, but the students paid no attention. Finally, when he had reached his breaking point, he whirled around and began to write in large letters across the board: A-P-A-T-H-Y! He then underlined it twice.

One of the dull students up front frowned as he struggled to read the word. Unable to pronounce it, he tilted his head to one side as he started spelling it aloud, “A-P-A-T-H-Y.” He mispronounced it, “Aa-payth-ee,” then he leaned over and muttered to his buddy, “What in the world is ‘a-paythee’?” His friend yawned back with a sigh, “Who cares?”

“Who cares?” or sloth, is the last sin on our list, though some in the early church put it first for the same reason: The sin of sloth, or the virtue of courage, underscores every other sin and virtue, making them easier.

“There are times,” wrote Dorothy Sayers, “when one is tempted to say that the great sprawling, lethargic sin of Sloth is the oldest and the greatest of the sins and the parent of all the rest.” Why? If we are lazy, or if we shrink back from trouble, then every other sin will have a heyday. For a life without discipline will run to weeds as quickly as a garden; only a life is much harder to take back. If we are strong, courageous, and disciplined, we will fight through this life with valor, and every other sin will diminish while every other virtue will multiply. Simply put, those who are harder on themselves will find life a little easier. Those who are easy on themselves will find life insufferable.

Steve DeNeff, 7 Saving Graces: Living above the Deadly Sins (Indianapolis, IN: WPH, 2010), 143–144.

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