“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21

One of the benefits of the season of Lent, as we prepare to honor Jesus’ crucifixion on Good Friday and celebrate his resurrection on Easter, is that we can give more attention to weeding out capital vices such as gluttony, anger, lust, sloth, greed, envy, and pride from our lives. At the same time, we can be more attentive to the planting and cultivating of Godly virtues such as temperance, forgiveness, self-control, diligence, generosity, kindness, and humility.

However, please don’t hear me saying that the Christian life is only about good works and diligent labor and the sweat of your brow. Those things are a part of our faithful living but only in response to the saving reality of the grace of God. In light of this, I want to invite us to reflect on a healthy spiritual tension.

In my life there are two competing impulses that I face on a continual basis, creating an internal tension that I have labeled the “impulse to escape” versus the “drive to engage.” On one side of the equation is my desire to engage life, to be productive and effective in my work, to resolve conflicts and issues in relationships, to be creative and resourceful in responding to challenges, to lead with courage, to be an attentive husband and father, and to be proactive in pursuing my all-around growth and development. We might call this “doing mode.”

On the other side is my desire to cease from continuous striving for accomplishment, to quit obsessing about pleasing others, to enjoy rest and recreation, to disengage from the constant demands of responsibility, and to simply “be” in a world of doing. We could call this “being mode.”

My observation is that the longer I stay in either of these modes to the neglect of the other, the less healthy I become. For example, when I get into a “doing mode,” I can thrive for a while on the thrill of getting lots done. Eventually though, I become less productive, more irritable, less compassionate, more brittle. But if I stay in “being mode” too long, I find myself growing restless and yearning to fulfill a purpose greater than just caring for my own needs. I have to guard against growing apathetic about anything beyond my own little bubble of concerns and interests.

Between the extremes of compulsive workaholism and lethargic apathy is where I want to live my life. I find in the ministry of Jesus a model of both “doing” and “being,” of active engagement with the hurts of the world and purposeful withdrawal in pursuit of renewal. As you reflect this week about the capital vice of sloth and the lively virtue of diligence, may God help you discern whether you are more in need of “doing” or “being.”

Andy Wall
Author: Andy Wall