The author of Hebrews 5:11-14 warns his readers and hearers about them being “dull of hearing”. Not that their physical auditory apparatus is not working, but spiritually speaking they are hearing but not understanding (cf. Mark 4:12). In my experience it is a problem one sees in the preaching ministry, that those listening do not seem to pick up the thrust of what is being preached. There may be a problem with the preacher, and that is a concern I always have, but there is this other problem of the “dullness” of the hearer.
The greek word for “dull” is also translated in the ESV as “sluggish” in Hebrews 6:12 (or lazy in the NIV, slothful in the AV). This rendering fills out the meaning of this problem of dullness of hearing. It got me thinking about the “sluggard” verses of Proverbs. Examination of those shows some of the problems that arise, especially as it applies to the problem of hearing and applying God’s word amongst professing church members.
Sluggards are dreamers who don’t do anything
Proverbs 13:4 – The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.
I have met some people like this in my time. They are full of great ideas and big dreams, whether for serving the Lord in their family or church or career. But they never seem to get round to doing anything about it. They can’t keep focus long enough to be disciplined and diligent.
Sluggards always face problems of their own making
Proverbs 15:9 – The way of a sluggard is like a hedge of thorns, but the path of the upright is a level highway.
Some people seem to face a continual sequence of difficulties which could be avoided if they weren’t so lazy. For a sluggard so many matters in life become problems and can always fill you in on a personal tale of woe.
Sluggards are filled with fears and worries.
Proverbs 22:13 – The sluggard says, “There is a lion outside! I shall be killed in the streets!”
Sluggards are inside, safe and secure in their inactivity. Such people fear that the worst could happen to them if they stepped outside. So they don’t take the risk.
Sluggards don’t see things through to the end.
26:15 – The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; it wears him out to bring it back to his mouth.
I remember as a young Christian laughing at this the first time I read it. It is such a pathetic image of weariness in doing ordinary things. But some people are like this with the Christian life. The means of grace to believers are ordinary. But sluggards can’t be bothered fully participating.
Sluggards wonder what’s wrong with everyone else.
26:16 – The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly.
The lazy people cannot see just how dull of hearing and sluggish they are but instead think they are incredibly wise and clever. The effect of dullness is to cocoon such people in little self-made world of self-wisdom where “I” becomes everything. They have an answer for every weakness, every failure, every stupid act, every lazy non-act. To the sluggard it all seems so reasonable. The trouble is that all everyone else can see is foolishness.