The Deadly Sin of Sloth
In today’s Gospel we hear the famous Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) in which JESUS urges us to be ready for the Master’s return. He Himself is that Master, and that return will be either at the moment of our death or at His Second Coming.
In the parable, the talents are not distributed equally. One servant received five talents, another received two, and the other just one, each according to their ability. The Master returned after a long time. The first two had doubled their investment and were rewarded, whereas the third who had done nothing and hid it in the ground was punished and “thrown out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.” He hadn’t done anything immoral but his sins were those of omission rather than commission. So it is possible to lose our souls by doing nothing. He had been lazy or slothful and had not used the talents he had been given.
Sloth or laziness is one of the Seven Deadly Sins. It does not refer to legitimate recreation or rest. We all need time for ourselves to relax and chill out, especially if we’ve been working hard. But when we think only of ourselves and our own comfort and become unwilling to do anything for anybody else, and when we neglect our spiritual duties, this can cause us serious damage. St Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) speaks of sloth as “sorrow for spiritual good” and as “a sadness arising from the fact that the good is difficult.” In other words, we can have an aversion to improving our spiritual lives because it involves too much effort. It involves the setting aside of worldly or carnal pleasures, some of which may even be sinful. We all hear the devil whispering in our ear that God accepts me and loves me just as I am and so I don’t have to bother improving myself. If we give in to these thoughts it causes our spiritual life to deteriorate and we begin to fall into more serious sins. Neither do we want to be so ‘busy’ in life that we neglect spiritual things. God does love us, but He wants us to become holy, and that requires effort on our part. St Jane Frances de Chantal (1572-1641) said, “Hell is full of the talented, but Heaven of the energetic.” In other words, we will be judged not on how many talents we had, but on how we used the ones we were given, and whether we used them towards a supernatural end.
So what talents has God given you? How are you using them? Do you cultivate the gifts God has given you? If you have monetary gifts, do you help those in need? Almsgiving is an essential part of the spiritual life. Could you be a volunteer for a worthy organisation? Could you sing in the choir? Could you help clean the church? Is there a sick person you could visit or do shopping for? Do you pray and make sacrifices for the souls in Purgatory? The majority of the saints didn’t become holy overnight. For most it was the result of a life of humble sacrifices and loving actions. Even insignificant actions done out of love of God have supernatural value. St Thérèse of Lisieux famously said, “To pick up a pin for love can convert a soul.”
Fr Paul Gillham, IC