Evagrius was the first to number and list the deadly passions about 1,600 years ago. When he spoke of sloth, he defined it as "the noonday demon." He wasn't talking about laziness but about disinterest, distraction, dalliance with anything else but our primary duty of the moment. He used the term "acedia" which means "not caring." The picture he drew was of a monk in his cell around noon who should be praying, but engages in day dreams staring at birds zig zagging across fluffy clouds. He sticks his head out of his cave and hopes that a fellow monk might drop in for some stale bread and warm water. The monk becomes restless and even agitated by his surroundings. He looks down the long hallway of his future and concludes that he should be somewhere else, doing something else.
He has been bitten by the noonday demon of acedia - not caring, not caring for the time and place that God has him in.
Preaching on laziness would be easy. Idleness is readily recognized and we see value in "getting er done!" But this acedia stuff is different. It has so infused our society that we have trouble seeing it as a problem. We are a culture of escapist. We entertain ourselves lest we fall into boredom. We buy lottery tickets not just from greed but as day dreams - the freedom to go somewhere and do something else. We are sure that life would be better in another place or time. If we had a different job, a new spouse, exciting surroundings or exotic retirement, then our restlessness would go away. We jump to the future with our grandiose schemes or find comfort in the past with our nostalgia. The place that is giving us problems is here. The time that we resist is now. And our resistance is blended with anger. We are mad at what is and longing for something, anything that is not what is in front of us now.
Of course, all anyone can touch, is the here and now. The only time that God gives me to live in, is this moment. If I can't live well in this moment, I have no other moment in which to live. And yes, to avoid what God has for me here and now, is a form of laziness. It is a distraction that leads us away from fulfillment and down blind alleys of adventure. In her book Acedia and Me, Kathleen Norris reminds us that acedia is a thief. It plunders my "now" with the enticement of anything else. So I must guard myself with the diligence of one day at a time. I should focus my discipline on doing what is at hand. I ought to cultivate contentment with what is and live in the hope that there is grace enough in the here and now. I will find rich delight in the present. That's better than winning a Scrabble game.