April 25, 2010

On Idleness and the Apostolic Love for Labor

By St. Nikolai Velimirovich


The devil quickly finds work for idle hands and an angel quickly finds work for diligent hands. In this world of constant movement and constant change, whether he wants to or not, man must always be busy, be it either with good works or evil works. The idle man, actually is not lazy. He is a diligent worker of the devil. An idle body and an idle soul is the most suitable field for the devil's plowing and sowing. St. Anthony the Great said: "The body needs to be subdued and immersed in prolonged labors." St. Ephraim the Syrian teaches: "Teach yourself to work, so that you will not have to learn to beg." All of the other Holy Fathers, without exception, speak about the necessity of work for the salvation of the soul of man. The apostles and all the saints give to us an example of continuous and concentrated spiritual and physical labor. That the idle man, by his idleness, does not extend his life on earth but shortens it, is clearly shown by the longevity of many saints, the greatest laborers among the laborers in the world.

HOMILY: About the Apostles' Love for Labors

"Nor did we eat food received free from everyone. On the contrary, in toil and drudgery, night and day we worked so as not to burden any of you" (2 Thessalonians 3:8).

First fulfill then teach. All the apostles and all of the saints of God adhered to this rule. Thus, the Apostle Paul, even before he spoke the command: "If anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat" (2 Thessalonians 3:10), declares for himself and for his assistants in preaching that they did not eat anyone's bread for free, rather by effort and labor earned their bread. "Night and day we worked!" Behold the true laborers! Behold the honey-bearing bees of Christ! Daily and nightly toil: where is their time for sin? Daily and nightly toil: where is their room for sin? Daily and nightly toil: where can the devil weave his nest of passions? Daily and nightly toil: where is their cause for scandal?

In certain Egyptian and Palestinian monasteries, there lived about ten thousand monks. They all lived off the labor of their hands: from weaving beehives, baskets, door mats and from other types of handiwork. Daily and nightly toil and daily and nightly prayer. When a monk sold his beehives in town for a higher price than the price which the abbot designated, for that, the monk experienced punishment. For the ascetics it was not a matter of enrichment but only for the most essential nourishment and the simplest clothing. In this, the ascetics were and are the true followers of the great apostle.

O, my brethren, let us flee from slothfulness [idleness] as from a cave of wild beasts. If by some chance we fall into a cave of wild beasts, let us quickly flee from it, before the wild beasts totally seal off the entrance. The cave is the dwelling place where the slothful man seeks rest. The wild beasts are evil spirits who, in such a dwelling place, feel more at home there than near their king in Hades.

O Lord, Who are wonderful in all the works of Your creation, awaken us from slothfulness and encourage us to nightly and daily labor by Your encouraging Holy Spirit. Amen.

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