We've heard it, but is it true and is it Biblical? Find out if you should never put off for tomorrow what you can do today.
Last week we began a short series entitled “#Really?”.
The concept behind the series is pretty simple: We’re taking a closer look at some of the random “Proverbs” and slogans we find in our culture, and asking the question “#REALLY?”… Is this statement actually true?
This is a series focused on developing a Biblical worldview, which, you might imagine, is based on what the Bible says about things. While some of these phrases may be “churchy-sounding”, we want to go to scripture to evaluate whether or not something is true, and not just presume it is, based on our own best guess.
So, with that in mind, here’s the topic we’re looking at this week:
“Never put off for tomorrow what you can do today.”
This week’s statement is: “Never put off for tomorrow what you can do today.”
I’ll tell you right up front, I didn’t originally plan to have us look at this one. However, it was mentioned to me during the week as one we should cover, and I liked the idea.
ASK: So, on the face of it, what do you think? #REALLY? How many of you think this is true and Biblical? How many think it’s false and just some person’s opinion?
ASK: Well, again, our first question for evaluation is, “Is it in the Bible?” [No, the phrase doesn’t appear in the Bible].
So, where does it come from?... I’ve seen both Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson credited with the phrase, but honestly, I’m not sure.
I do know that Mark Twain didn’t like it… He had a different slogan to use in response: “Never put off for tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.”
ASK: Hey, I’m just curious, but how many of you are a little more comfortable with that one? [Yeah, me too…]
In both statements, we’re addressing the same topic: procrastination: the habit of leaving things undone until crunch time and then [hopefully!] completing them using the pressure of the situation as a motivator.
Our first slogan encourages us to get stuff done early, to NOT procrastinate.
The revised version flips this around on its head, and encourages us, very much, to procrastinate…
But which one has more Biblical support? Let’s begin in the book of Proverbs. There are tons of verses in this book alone which apply to our topic, but I’ll only share a few.
Proverbs 12:11 (ESV) - Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.
Proverbs 13:4 (ESV) - The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.
Proverbs 18:9 (ESV) - Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys.
In the first two of these examples, we see two types of people pictured. Those who work hard are blessed (both materially with “bread” and spiritually). Those who are sluggards (or lazy) and follow worthless pursuits are looked down upon. In fact, they are called “a brother to whim who destroys.”
ASK: Who is that referring to? [Satan]
God takes laziness seriously, even if we don’t. He doesn’t just see it as unwise… he sees it as evil. And that should give those of us who are prone to procrastination something to think about.
So, lets talk about this practically for a few minutes…
ASK: What kinds of things do we like to procrastinate on? [Work, Education, Home Improvements, Conversations and Relationships, Health, etc.]
So, why do we do this?
I think there are a number of immediate reasons why we procrastinate (fear, desire for instant gratification, avoidance of uncomfortable situations), but at the end of the day, there’s at least one constant behind them all: we figure we can deal with things later.
We just sort of assume that the, issue or goal will still be there TOMORROW and eventually we’ll get to it. The problem is, that may not be true!
Proverbs 27:1 (ESV) - Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.
James 4:14 (ESV) - yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.
This is the great truth we often ignore: We’re not promised tomorrow.
So often we live like we have an unlimited number of days to use up on this planet. That we’re always going to be here, and we’ll always have a chance to deal with things. But that’s simply not true. If something is important, we need to take care of it, because we might not have a chance to do so later.
This is ESPECIALLY true when we consider the spiritual nature of our calling in Christ.
Last week we looked at Ephesians 2:1-10, and realized that God saves those who CANNOT save themselves. That’s the hope of the Gospel! We’re saved by GRACE, through faith in Jesus.
And, verse 10 tells us WHY:
Ephesians 2:10 (ESV) - we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you have work to do. Good works, which God has prepared for us, His people. Great Commission works, sharing the hope and peace of Christ with other people. Grace-filled works, which impact lives for eternity.
These works cannot wait. We can’t be slack in our service to Christ. We can’t presume that we’ll have another chance to share the hope we have in Jesus.
And that is why, just a few chapters later, Paul gives this charge to the church in Ephesus, and to us by extension:
Ephesians 5:15–17 (ESV) - Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
What great advice this is!
The days are evil, which means there will always be more needs than we can handle ourselves. There will always be new trials and crisis situations, and they can threaten to derail our efforts at living for God in our families, our work, and our ministry.
In spite of this, we’ve been called to good works. We need to be wise enough to see the needs in front of us, and to make the best use of the time God has blessed us with, carefully stewarding our time, our skills, and our resources all for God’s glory.
We began this morning with the statement: “Never put off for tomorrow what you can do today.”
ASK: What do you think now, is this #REALLY? Biblical, or not?
I’m going to say, without reservation, this is a Biblically-compatible statement.
And by extension, Mark Twain’s humorous version is, well, not.
But you know, I suspect that some of us have – at times – turned procrastination from a bad habit into a chaotic art form.
I know I have. I won’t go into too much detail on it, but you might want to ask Diana about the multiple times during college that I did an entire semester’s worth of work over a weekend. Or the time I did every project for an art class overnight the day before the end of the semester.
Looking back, that was dumb. It was also amazing that God allowed me to complete that work and pass… I don’t recommend that approach to life!
So, as we close this morning, here’s your challenge… You’ve got roughly 12 hours left today. I suspect that everyone here has something, at least one thing, they are putting off.
Take the time you have today, and redeem it for God’s glory, and your joy. Maybe you need to:
Whatever it is, if you’ve been putting it off, and you CAN do something about it today to bring Glory to God, then take some real steps TODAY to do it.
And keep in mind that you don’t have finish everything all at once. Sometimes we over-estimate what we can do in a day, but under estimate what we can do in a week, a month, or a year. The trick to not procrastinating is to not be overwhelmed but to trust in Christ as you take one step at a time.