Chances are your children think of the adorable, slow moving animal when they hear the word “sloth”. They have no idea that it also describes a character trait that isn’t pleasing to God. Thankfully, there are a lot of fun ways to teach your children about the biblical meaning of sloth and why being slothful should be something they avoid.
It’s important (before we begin) to differentiate between the sloth and godly, Sabbath type rest. Jesus rested regularly and encouraged his disciples to rest as well. He knew that to be healthy and effective in ministry, it is important to get regular, deep rest. Interestingly, most of us today equate idleness with rest. Secular studies have found that idle activities, like screen time, don’t provide the restorative type rest our bodies and souls really need. Instead, those activities are often addictive and can lead to a life of slothfulness.
There are a lot of great Bible verses about sloth like Ecclesiastes 10:18 and Proverbs 19:15. Most are very colorful and descriptive verses about what can happen when one lives a life of sloth or what it looks like to live the opposite life – like an ant (Proverbs 6:6-9). Chances are great though that your children will need some practical experiences (and guided reflection thereafter) to really grasp the need to avoid being like a sloth!
Here are some ideas to get you started.
- Have an ant farm or go watch the ants in your yard. I loved having an ant farm as a child. It seems like ants never stop working. They are fascinating to watch. Better yet, they are a real life example mentioned in scripture … a way your kids can see scripture come to life.
- Visit a farm, talk to the farmer about all of the work that goes into a successful farm and help out (if you’re allowed to do so). Not many jobs require more work than a small family farm. Just listening to farmers talk about their daily work is enough to exhaust you. Even better if it is a family friend who can put your kids to work for the day, so they can experience some of that hard work for themselves.
- Make treats for the school custodian and get him or her to tell your kids about all of their job responsibilities. As an adult, I have to believe being a school custodian may be second only to a hospital orderly for jobs that are both hard and regularly unpleasant. Yet, my experience has been that many school custodians are some of the nicest, kindest people in the school. What a wonderful person to teach your kids about having a great attitude while doing a difficult job that often goes unnoticed!
- Grow a garden or visit a you-pick-them farm or orchard and process the “fruit” for personal use and to share with others. My family had a ½ acre garden when I was growing up. It involved a lot of labor, but provided most of our food and food to share. The summer of the unbelievable corn crop and the work it took to process is still one of family legend! If you don’t have the space for your own garden, chances are you are only a couple of hours away from a farm or orchard where you can purchase a bushel or two of something and process it. Freezing is often the easiest if you don’t do it regularly and you can find step by step instructions online.
- Visit an assisted living facility or nursing home and ask the oldest residents about what it was like to do things like laundry or cooking dinner when they were little. We forget that even a few decades ago many people hung their clothes outdoors to dry or made most of their dinner from scratch – including things like bread. We complain about how busy we are, but they knew true work all day – every day!
- Participate in a “hard” service project. These are usually a favorite of youth groups, but you can do them as a family, too.
- Ask employers and managers about sloth versus hard work as an employee. They probably have plenty of interesting and funny stories to tell if they have managed people for awhile. It’s important for your children to really understand what an employer considers sloth versus hard work and how it impacts their reaction to and treatment of employees.
- Make sloth art. Have your children draw a large outline of a sloth (the animal!). Inside the sloth, have them write or draw what a person who is slothful is like. Outside the sloth, have them write or draw the characteristics of someone who is not slothful.
- Visit a zoo with a sloth. You can use Google to find out if your local zoo has a sloth. Spend some time watching the sloth and discussing the movement (or lack thereof). If you don’t have a local sloth, watch some sloth videos online. There’s nothing like watching a real sloth to help one’s understanding of slothfulness!
It’s important that after any activity you take some time to sit down with your children and discuss what happened during your activity. What did they learn about sloth? About hard work? Most importantly, what changes do they think God would want them to make so they have less sloth in their lives?