Laziness is the typical definition of sloth, a failing that may seem trivial in a culture of workaholics. However, sloth is far more destructive than merely physical or mental laziness. Sloth is rather spiritual laziness, a failure to pursue God's plan, "an inattention to those duties, those tasks, which God places before us for our own and others' sanctification," says Alan L. Anderson, a regional director of religious education, in an article for Catholic World Report.
Workaholics, by this definition, could "still be guilty of sloth." Anderson quotes Peter Kreeft, popular philosophy professor, author and speaker, who labels a workaholic as a "'fidget,' always busy doing and acquiring, yet never attentive to living the life given to us by God."
When we do not actively seek God in our lives, we instead fill it with meaninglessness. As Anderson says, "the chief characteristic of Modern Sloth is seeking frenetic distraction from the things of God." In a "frenzied quest for entertainment," we run from the "God-sized hole in our hearts" and fill it with meaningless entertainment, excessive amounts of work and "sex-as-amusement." Without pursuit of the spiritual, one turns to physical pleasures, as Thomas Aquinas said. The result is treating even the "most intimate of moments as a mere consumer product" and an "incredible dearth of real meaning."
The empty 'Life of Julia'
This is the life lived by "Julia," the unfortunate inspiration for Anderson's article. Julia was the fictional subject of an infographic published during President Obama's reelection campaign. It starkly depicts, says Anderson, "the emptiness, the sickness, the very slothfulness, which characterizes our post-modern culture." "The Life of Julia" walks through the milestones of her life, which "are centered on school, work, and business ad nauseum … the major emphasis is always, and solely, on how she can keep working."
There is no meaning evident in the highlights of Julia’s life. Even when she "decides" to have a child, "it's like she's choosing which Lean Cuisine to have for dinner," with "[n]o mention of a loving husband, or a real passion involved in such a momentous decision."
The problem with this lifestyle, with a life of sloth, is that "it steals from us our distinctive, unique character as children of God. It defines us by what we do, rather than who we are. It robs us of truly being."
Abundant life in Christ
Success, money, comfort. It's the American dream many relentlessly pursue. But really, we are incredibly blessed without it, as a friend reminded me the other day. God did not make us to "fidget." He made us to love and have life abundantly — in him. As Anderson says, "[t]he Good News is that we can aspire to a life far richer, far deeper, far more complex, far more abundant" than the life of sloth offered by the world.
A life of service to Christ and his Church is one of love, joy and fulfillment, while a life of service to the grindstone and pleasure-seeking "simply mark[s] time in a series of meaningless pursuits." What will your life be?