Idle



The Scriptures criticize the idle man when the situation demands effort and work, and the busy man who speaks but utters only “idle words,” that is, meaningless and senseless words. Idleness is a failure to respond to a situation calling for action, and a busy loquaciousness that speaks to no purpose.

The Scriptures call for purposeful work and also for purposeful rest: “six days shalt thou labor...but the seventh day is a sabbath,” i.e., day of rest. The Biblically enjoined sabbath rest is not to be confused with idleness. The Biblical rest (sabbath) comes after labor, and implies not an idleness that does nothing, but an enjoyment of what has by labor been accomplished. If the laborer is worthy of his hire, he is also free to enjoy his hire, and such enjoyment of the product of his labor is not idleness. In Biblical thought, work as mere busyness is not virtuous. The opposite of idleness is not activity, but such purposeful activity as achieves its purpose and can thereupon be entered into and enjoyed. The “busybody” is, therefore, a person who is very active but to no good purpose, and the idle man is the unproductive man, who does nothing and comes to a time of need.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)