I spend most of my days in bed. Sometimes I don’t get dressed until the evening.

This is because I am ill with an autoimmune disease, so I have a pretty good excuse, but lying around all day certainly makes me look like a sloth (the deadly sin, if not the animal).

When I was first diagnosed with ME, I was advised to do graded exercise. The idea is that you do a certain amount of exercise per day, say 30 minutes, and you continue to do that same amount of exercise each day for a month. No less – and crucially – no more. On the days where you don’t feel up to it, you do the 30 minutes anyway. On the days where you feel you could do that and another hour easily – you do the 30 minutes only.

As it turns out, this was a bit of a disaster for me physically, and like others with ME who do graded exercise, I had a huge relapse from which I have not yet recovered. It isn’t something I’d recommend as a therapy for ME.

However, although I wouldn’t advise it as a physical therapy, the philosophy behind graded exercise is definitely something I’d recommend as a spiritual discipline.

It is one of the problems of our society that we don’t do moderation. We do all or nothing: we binge-drink, then detox; we gorge at Christmas and diet in Lent. We do excess, we do abstention, but we don’t do moderation. Our culture is characterised by mass unemployment on the one hand, and stress from chronic overwork on the other. These are not opposites – they are different sides of the same coin.

You may be thinking, I don’t have a problem with laziness, I work all the hours God sends. I am constantly productive. In my rare quiet moments I am reading the news on Twitter, engaging in heated theological debates, and watching cat videos. (Ok, the cat videos may not be your finest productive moment). But consider this: do you then collapse at weekends and holidays?

We can be productive or just busy in the world of work, but lazy in the home, or lazy with the things of God. We have to be. There are not enough hours in the day to do everything at 100 per cent. It is not physically possible.

The antidote to laziness is not to work harder. It’s easy to work a 70-hour-week and then get ill. Anyone can do it. Many are.

If you want to avoid the deadly sins of sloth and workaholism, there is a harder call.

Jesus had just three years to do his entire teaching ministry on earth. He did not open up a big arena and pack in the crowds and cram in the book signings. He walked. He talked. He ate. He slept. He prayed. He breathed in – he breathed out.

The answer to the deadly sin of sloth is the same answer to the deadly sin of workaholism: balance, rhythm, wholeness.

The Christian walk should not be characterised by careering and collapse, but work and rest. The Christian walk should not be boom and bust but fruitfulness and abiding.

Here’s my challenge: go at 50 mph, not at 90 or zero. Waste time walking and talking and eating and sleeping and praying. Work and rest. Breathe in. Breathe out.

Over to you:

– How would your life look different if you ordered it with more of this rhythm in mind?
– How hard would you find it to employ the ’30 minutes only, no more, no less’ philosophy?
– In which areas of your life do you go at 90 or zero mph? How easy would you find it to go at 50 mph?

This article is from our Seven deadly sins edition. You can read the other articles here


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