Picture this: you’re sitting at the kitchen table and need a paper towel from the roll on the counter. Rather than simply stand up and take the one step to reach it, you try to stretch from where you are. Why get up if you don’t have to? Only you can’t…quite…reach… So you scoot the chair back, tipping back precariously on the hind legs as you stretch. The tips of your fingers just reach the edge of the paper towel and you yank with a satisfied snapping motion. But instead of tearing off one sheet, the whole roll flies from the holder, bounces across the counter and streams onto the floor. Sigh. With no other options now, you are forced to stand up, pick up the roll, re-wind the loose paper towels, replace it on the rack, and tear off the one you need.
It is at this point that my father would remark, “The lazy man works the hardest.”
I was thinking of this the other day. Not because I was reaching for a paper towel (fortunately my table is now far enough from the counter that it is no longer tempting to try), but because it struck me just how amazingly lazy we as a society have become. And how some of these seeming conveniences lurk with unforeseen consequences. Take something simple. Like soap. Have you noticed the preponderance of foam soaps in public restrooms? Gone are the days when you had to scrub your skin raw with some hard yellow bar to make some bubbles. Instead, the soap comes at you already sudsy. All you have to do is rinse. And to rinse, all you have to do is hold your hand under a sensor. Provided it works, of course. You may instead find yourself walking from sink to sink with a handful of soap trying to find one that recognizes your predicament. (And after about the third sink, you start realizing just how convenient that old fashioned hand pump in the back forty really is. At least you can get water out of it!)
Here’s another one of my favorites: Google. How wonderful it is to be able to type in a search word and be presented with an organized list of related web pages to explore. Long gone are the days of card catalogs and book indexes. And now, (even better!) the moment you type the first letter into the search box, Google begins to guess what you want to know. Not only is it easy to find the answer, you don’t even have to know your question! Just show up, and Google will suggest one for you.
We live in a society that glorifies fast and easy, but sometimes fast and easy is not always the best way. Posted signs now warn us to count to 20 while washing our hands – apparently we’ve made hand washing so quick and easy we have to now reverse the trend. And if you rely too much on Google’s suggestions, you may spend half a day reading interesting but irrelevant facts about artichokes when what you really needed to know was how to prepare for your trip to Argentina. Like stretching to grab that paper towel, sometimes being lazy can lead us into a complicated web that winds up being more work than if we had just put forth a little more effort to begin with. The Bible has another way of saying this. “The way of the sluggard is blocked with thorns,” Solomon wrote in his proverbs.
Have you ever been out hiking and trampled through a “shortcut” that has been overgrown with thorns? If so, then you know taking the easy route is not always the easiest route. Like soap, and Google, and reaching for a paper towel. Sometimes it is better to put forth a little extra effort right from the beginning, because it is often the lazy man who ends up working the hardest.
The way of the sluggard is blocked with thorns, but the path of the upright is a highway. Proverbs 15:19