Pilgrim's Conflict with Sloth

Poems by Dr. Piper seem to speak directly to me. He packs each poem with truth on every line. Listen to him read in the video below and read along with the text I've provided. Take your time in reading and listening. Reread. Relisten. Meditate. Apply.

Pilgrim's Conflict with Sloth

My name is Pilgrim. Yesterday 

At dusk I met along my way

An enemy. His name was Sloth.

He tried to lure me, like a moth,

Exhausted, to his idle flames.

As always, he used other names:

Relief and Respite and Repose

And Rest, and Leisure. These he knows

Are worthy seasons in this age—

Worthy names to make a sage 

Out of a scoundrel.

                             “Look,” he said

To me, affecting praise, “you've led

Your church for thirty years. And I 

Am glad that you at last comply

With my advice. I'm willing still

To help you rest, though my goodwill,

I must admit, has withered from

All your unwillingness to come

When I've invited you before.”

But I replied, “I still deplore

Your ways and your deceitful snares.

What makes you think that all my cares

Would suddenly transform your mirth 

And your amusements, as if worth

Were made of ease and emptiness?

My urgent prayers do not express

Compliance with your old advice.

No more today does it entice 

Than it has ever done.”  

                                      “Then why,”

Said Sloth, “do you retire? Should I

Not hear this as a knocking at

My door? Come now. My welcome mat

Is out. Are you not standing there?”

“No,” I replied, “I’m not. And where

I stand you cannot comprehend.

I do not aim with you to spend

A single hour, though I confess

You are a subtle cheat, and dress

Your house with promises your name

Can never keep—Sloth! To my shame,

I visited your rooms enough

To know—you are not Rest. You bluff

Your way into the lives of drained

And weary men, with pity feigned,

And promise life—as if the soul

Of man were made to sit and roll

The dice until some happy pair

Make him a champ or millionaire.

You cannot understand my aims.

I do not live for wealth or games.”

Sloth felt the sting and said, “I know

Your kind, a workaholic. O,

Sleep not, play not, throw to the wind

God’s gift of leisure days. Rescind

The work of Christ who bought your rest.

O, yes, I know your kind: invest,

Invest, invest. And never take

Your dividends on earth. You make

Your way to heaven by your work,

Your precious work. O, do not shirk

A moment from your service of

This holy god, your life, your love.”

“Perhaps,” I said, “had I not heard

This censuring before, conferred

From better lips than yours, I would

Just thank you for the warning. Good

And useful outcomes flow from such

Rebukes, when love is in the touch.

But you have never loved. Along

With wrath and greed and pride and strong

Desires for sex and food and eminence,

You seven deadly sins dispense

Destruction everywhere, and then

You cover treachery again,

And smile as you condemn the heart

That wars to quench your flaming dart.

You cannot grasp in part or whole

The glory of a Christian soul

At work and rest.”

                              The sun had set.

And sloth said, “Night comes, Pilgrim, let

Me now keep your book while you sleep.

Will not your tireless Jesus keep

Your going out and coming in?

Come, Pilgrim, rest, it is not sin

To sleep.”

                     “That’s true,” I said, “but it

Is sin to sleep for Sloth. I will not sit

Or lie while you are near, but stand

And take this book in my right hand,

And in my mouth, until you are

No longer in my way, nor bar

My path of industry in this

Next season of my life. You miss

The mark, Old Sloth. You do not know

What Jesus bought.”

                                  “O yes, I’ll show

You,” Sloth replied, “Come unto me

All you who labor now and see

The rest that I have bought for you—

That’s what he bought.”

                                 “Quotes that are true,”

I said, “do not make truth. Old sins,

Like heretics, build vice on spins

From true, half-cited texts. How gives

The Lord this rest? As my God lives,

I’ll tell you, Sloth: he gives his rest

Under a yoke—his sweet bequest,

Blood-bought, and suited to the back

Of every weary saint. The knack

Of all our plowing: Jesus makes

The weighty burden light, and takes

The yoke-beams in his hand, and lifts

And carries us. Our works are gifts.

And Jesus is the giver. Grace

Bought and powers every pace,

And every enterprise. Sloth, we

Were made, and made again, to be

Co-makers with the Maker of

The world—to see the world above

And then to make the world below

More beautiful, to learn, to know,

And then to make, to shape, adorn,

Compose, produce, and turn a thorn

Into an etching tool—to write, to say

What never has been said that way,

To sing, to draw, to paint, to build,

To stitch and weave until we’ve filled

The world with truth. For this God spoke,

And Jesus died. This is our yoke.

Our happy yoke. You will not take

My work. Sloth, we were made to make.”

“So, Pilgrim,” Sloth replied, “you’ll earn

Your heaven with your arts? Go learn

Your Bible better. Saved by grace,

Not works, the book is clear. Go chase

Your heaven, laboring. That’s not my taste.”


The rest of the text can be here found on DesiringGod.org.

©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Used by Permission.

PoetryTimothy Buck