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Procrastination: The 8th Deadly Sin

By Richard Zowie

NOTE: This column originally appeared in Saworship.com in 2006.

Anger. Envy. Gluttony. Greed. Lust. Pride. Sloth.

You might recognize these as the Seven Deadly Sins. One prominent magazine ran a full feature of various celebrities and how they deal with a particular deadly sin (actress/writer Carrie Fisher with anger, celebrity weatherman Willard Scott with gluttony and Major League Baseball Hall of Famer and then-New York Yankee Dave Winfield with pride). There was even a movie, Seven, in which detectives played by Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt try to track down a killer whose victims and their murders are based on the deadly sins.

The Seven Deadly Sins are a traditional list of sins, but not an actual list from the Bible. However, the Bible does tell us to control our anger, have no pride, keep sexual desire within the bounds of marriage and exercise moderation. And, of course, as much as many of us love to eat (myself at the very front of the line), temperance is one thing certainly that should be practiced in the dining room.

Much can be gained by avoiding the seven deadly sins. But I think there’s another very critical sin that we should try to avoid. The eighth deadly sin, if you will.

Procrastination.

This, of course, is putting off for tomorrow the things you should be doing today. Tomorrow, of course, never seems to come. Things that we know are the right thing to do get delayed through things like fear, laziness, or complacency. For example, there was a creator of a popular children’s show who was known to work through illnesses, including a nasty fever that he thought would go away. It didn’t and instead turned into an infection. By the time he sought medical help, it was far too late.

I am also reminded of a famous musician, known for his artistic skills, who used his skills to design a guitar strap. His colleagues encouraged him to get it licensed, telling him that the design would sell very well and earn him lots of money. He kept procrastinating, unfortunately, and by the time he finally got around to trying to get it licensed, he was too late.

For non-Christians, Satan works feverishly to make them procrastinate. One story I heard tells of Satan asking his minions about the best way to keep people from making a decision of Christ. Idea after idea was rejected until Satan came across one he loved: no hurry.

In other words, procrastination.

Here are some ways a person procrastinates salvation. Often, tragically, this pattern leads to a one-way trip to a Christless eternity:

Having fun – Satan would love to make the unsaved believe that the Christian life, and heaven itself, is a state of boredom. Christians, he might reason, never get to have fun. They don’t watch television, don’t drink and never engage in anything pleasureful. For married couples, sex is strictly for procreation. And heaven? It’s a boring place where Christians yawn, float in the clouds and play harps.

Before you make a decision to lead a boring life, why not have fun first and sew your wild oats? Satan might ask. Besides, you’re young. You’ve got plenty of time later to become a Christian!

The evangelist David Benoit, who heads up Glory Ministries and preaches about rock music and the occult, tells this story: a young man came up to him once and talked about salvation. He said, “I know that I need to become a Christian, but becoming a Christian means I’d have to quit having sex with my girlfriend. To tell you the truth, I’d rather die and go to hell than stop having sex with her.”

And so that person has their fun and one of two things happen. They either put off a decision for Christ for so long that their hearts become permanently calloused toward the Holy Spirit, making a salvation decision virtually impossible or they die prematurely.

Avoiding embarrassment – Some people put off getting saved because they don’t like getting up in front of church and admitting they’re lost. They put it off for weeks, then months, then years, and then, before they know it, it’s too late.

Perhaps there’s a young boy or girl who is coerced to repeat words that don’t make much sense to them. They fall victim to a well-intentioned Christian who, in an effort to get them saved, has them pray the Sinner’s Prayer even if they don’t grasp it. These kids then are presented to the church as “saved.” Unfortunately they haven’t matured enough yet to understand the condition of their souls and their need for salvation so they will go to heaven. Once they become older and understand what salvation is about, then they are ready to consider the claims of God and be held accountable for their decision. But by then, the haunting memories of being embarrassed as children might make it tougher for them to admit that they were prematurely rushed into a decision.

I am reminded of two young men. I grew up in church with Don, who, after years of seeming to be a wonderful Christian, came forward during an invitation and became saved. “For years, I’ve been living a lie,” Don told us. He had gone forward in a service when he was five, not to become a Christian but because a girl he liked had gone forward also. A Christian worker then asked Don pray to receive Jesus. Don cried in front of the church, not because he was now saved but because he was embarrassed and wasn’t really sure what he had done.

Years later, Don explained, he realized he was lost but was far too embarrassed and bitter to admit it or take care of it. So, for years he pretended to be a Christian, knowing that he’d spend an eternity in hell if he didn’t get saved. Thankfully, he finally got his soul taken care of.

I also knew a man at Pensacola Christian College. “Jerry” led Bible clubs and probably led many kids to the Lord; he was also a prayer leader in the dorms and seemed like a very godly young man. But his senior year at PCC, he came forward and got saved. The next summer, when I was working at PCC to make money for the next semester’s tuition, I met Andrew and asked him about this. His story was similar to Don’s. Jerry told me he had known for years that he was lost. Performing Christian service at PCC was his way of trying to appease the Holy Spirit when it really tried to work on him. And, thank God, Andrew, like Don, finally heeded to the Holy Spirit and became a Christian before it was eternally too late.

Avoiding church – It’s possible that Satan knows when a lost person is ripe to receive Christ. To keep that person from attending church, Satan will tell that person that church is a boring place with boring music and boring messages. He’ll try to convince the lost person that church is a place of hypocrites. Maybe the person’s mind will be filled with the Christians who have fallen from grace, such as Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart. How can these people, whose own lives are messes, tell you about how Jesus can clean up your own life? Satan might try to rationalize. Or maybe he’ll try to convince the person to hold off on church this week since there’s a good game on television, the weather’s ideal for fishing or golfing or there’s a chore around the house that has to be done. If this person feels that church is not important enough to attend, salvation can be put off for good.

And now, let’s talk to those who are Christians. Whether we’re saved or not, it seems so easy to endlessly shelf something, promising ourselves to do it “when we get around to it.” Before we know it, it’s far too late. I cringe to think of the countless people who will someday stand at the White Throne of Judgment. Some will, at that moment, possibly even drop to their knees to say the sinner’s prayer. Their prayer then might be answered by six words from Jesus: “I’m sorry, but it’s too late.”

In October I reached my silver anniversary as a Christian. How the years go by! Then, I was an eight year-old praying the sinner’s prayer in Alvin, Texas. Now, I’m a 33 year-old writing this column in Arbela Township, Michigan. Over those 25 years, I’ve seen what happens when I procrastinate. When I lived in San Antonio, I often worked many hours and often put off attending church until “next Sunday.” Years ago, I had a problem with an unprofessional coworker. Instead of coming out and confronting the worker with their unacceptable behavior, I chose to endlessly procrastinate and live in denial. By the time I was ready to do what was right, I had lost the job. With money, I have learned the perils of putting off balancing the checkbook and not being careful over expenditures. There are questions I would’ve loved to have asked my grandfathers about their lives but kept putting it off. Grandpa George died in 1992 and Grandpa Paul died in 1994, and now I’ll have to wait until heaven to ask them.

For those of us who are Christians, there are many ways in which we procrastinate:

Devotions – It’s easy to put off reading God’s Word. Some complain about being bored with passages like First Chronicles, others say they’re not a morning person and need the extra rest; still others don’t have time because of a lack of time management skills. Some complain that the Bible is too hard to understand-even if a concordance is readily available and even if they’re reading a modern version with handy footnotes and reference materials. Soon, it becomes more difficult to remember Bible verses or to refute the simple claims made by those who believe in false religions. One former pastor of mine urged us not to try to talk to Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons or atheists if we don’t know the Bible well. The more familiar you are with the Word of God, the less likely you are to be swayed by false doctrines or verses taken far out of context. Also you’ll be less likely of committing a terrible sin that can shatter your life and those of your family members.

Attending church – People often love to give reasons for avoiding church: you don’t have time, you don’t like driving in the rain, you have a project to finish in the yard, you don’t like the preaching or you don’t like to be around “hypocrites.” The hypocrite excuse is, to me, just that-an excuse. You don’t have to attend church to encounter hypocrites. They’re everywhere.

But yet, ironically, despite being able to tolerate hypocrites in other walks of life, some can’t handle it in a church setting. Folks, we live in a very imperfect world, one God never intended for us. The only perfect church we’ll have one day is the one Jesus sets up when we move on to New Jerusalem. People may wrong us in a church setting, but we-not they-are ultimately accountable to God for how we conduct ourselves as Christians. Attending church helps you to develop a deeper relationship with God and become an encourager to other Christians as well as other Christians becoming an encouragement to you. By not attending church, you are only cheating yourself. You’re also a terrible testimony to those who know you are a Christian or find out that you are a Christian.

Praying – Often it seems like we don’t really pray unless there is a catastrophe in our lives. Maybe it’s an auto repair that costs far more than we can afford. Maybe it’s a failed relationship or an illness. Sometimes it’s the loss of a job and the arduous task of getting a new one. Soon, after months of little more than quick prayers over meals (“dearlordblessthisfoodinjesus’nameamen”), we become ardent prayer warriors. And then, once the crisis passes, business slowly returns to normal. Praying, I have observed, helps us to become more in tune with God’s nature and His will. It also gives us a chance to talk with God and lift up those who have needs.

Witnessing – My style of witnessing is to live a life where the unsaved will get curious enough to ask what it is about me that’s so different. Once that question is asked, I then can tell them about Jesus. Perhaps some Christians feel more comfortable being point blank. Either way, the point is that when the Holy Spirit leads us to share out faith, now is the time to do it.

One pastor of mine told me how procrastination can turn tragic. When he was with this friend, he could feel the Holy Spirit prompting him to talk with him. Pastor kept putting it off, even though he knew his friend was probably lost. Later, his friend was killed when leaving a bar. Assuming his friend didn’t know the Lord, Pastor then was left to wonder if his friend’s eternal destination would’ve been different if he’d shared his faith with that friend.

Here’s the sad thing. A Christian at the end of their life will be filled with the heartache of all the wasted chances to live for the Lord, share their faith and make a difference in someone’s life. A lost person will have all eternity to remember all the countless times they had to become saved. And even if they live for 80 years and become a “been there, done that” person, all the fun they had will be a brief, almost unnoticeable flash in their minds compared to the fiery, unending agony of the lake of fire.

No matter how inviting it might seem, the eighth deadly sin of procrastination can lead to disaster. If you’re a Christian prone to putting things off, get involved in a church or find a godly Christian who’s willing to be an accountability partner. If you’re not a Christian and find yourself putting off a decision for the Lord, contact this publication immediately or e-mail me at mytwoshekels@gmail.com or simply post a comment on this blog.

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