At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore (Ps. 16: 11)
He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster.Proverbs 18:9
Modern businessmen talk about opportunity cost, which is when you pay for the privilege of going right by foregoing whatever you would have gained by going left. We all have to make these sorts of decisions all the time—it is part of what it means to be finite. We don’t know what the future holds when we go right, and we certainly don’t know the contingent future of what would have happened if we had gone left. In other words, opportunity costs are difficult to calculate.
But there is another kind of opportunity cost, one far more severe, and therefore easier to see. On top of that, Scripture even tells us about it in blunt and unvarnished terms—as in this proverb. It is what we see when we choose to work hard instead of being slothful.
Now of course we cannot see the future perfectly here either. It is possible that the hard-working man will get hit by a bus on the way home, and his lazy bum of a co-worker will pop into a 7-11 to buy a winning lottery ticket. Worse things have happened.
But as Scripture notes, perhaps sardonically, that doesn’t usually happen. What usually happens is that the hard worker accumulates wealth, and with a pretty good idea of how it is all coming to pass, and poverty comes on the sluggard like a thief with a gun, and how this is all happening remains a grand mystery to the baffled victim.
Time is an essential resource on all labor, and a lazy worker is throwing it into the dumpster in the back alley. It has a financial cost for the business as much as if that worker were throwing away perfectly good lumber, metal, paper, or glass. The man who burns the wood that was going to be used to make the cabinets is a true brother to the one who burns the daylight that was going to be used to make the cabinets.
And so it is that many Christians need to learn repentance here. If they are going on a bathroom break at work, they would not dream of taking a ream of paper with them and throwing it in the trash bin on the way. That would be destruction of someone else’s property, that would be stealing, that would be wrong. But they think nothing of spending twenty minutes in the john, scrolling through items of interest on their phone.