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While Men Slept: The Problem of Apathy

Have you ever noticed that it’s easier for problems or challenges to surface when we let our guard down? When we “fall asleep at the switch” as the old adage reminds us?

In the parable of the wheat and tares Jesus says, “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way.”

In Jesus’ day, after a field had been sown with wheat, a mischief-maker might sneak over and sow darnel (tares) over the original crop. Darnel looks almost identical to wheat, but it has no market value.

The success of the mischief-maker was the fact that men were asleep. They were not paying attention. Then, as the wheat grew and matured they looked around and said, “Hey, how did this happen?” Their sleeping, literally their apathy, led them to cluelessness and a possibility of destroyed crops or harvesting crops of no value.

It’s my strong feeling that the American church has fallen prey to the Enemy, the supreme mischief-maker, while men (and women) are lethargically sleeping. The church has become apathetic instead of heeding Peter’s words, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the Devil, as a roaring lion, walks about seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).”

Peter says, as he closes his letter, “Let me remind you, children, that you are in a war and that this is a very serious war with a very identifiable enemy.”

Friends, we are in a war. Many churches and good church-going people are being duped into apathy. They don’t see the reality of the Enemy and his encircling ways to take our minds and hearts away from what we know (the wheat).

How do we bring ourselves out of this attitude of apathy?

Peter says, “Be sober, be vigilant.” Just two words, but they come in staccato like rapid fire to grab our attention. He’s reminding us that we have to have a certain mindset about living the Christian life.

Yes, in verse seven Peter tells us, “Cast all of your care upon the Lord for He cares for us.” But before he gets here he reminds us that while we are not to worry, we are to watch. While it is true that we are to give our burdens to the Lord, that doesn’t mean that we switch our minds to “off” and we walk willy-nilly through the world oblivious to all that is going on around us. People don’t fall asleep when they are ordered to watch, be sober and be vigilant. Instead we are alert to the mischief-maker and his bag of tricks.

Being sober means we’re seeing life as it really is. It implies that we don’t allow ourselves to be fooled by the world. Instead you look at it and see full at its face and take it for what it really is. Are you willing to “be sober?”

Being vigilant means to be awake and to be watchful.  It indicates spiritual alertness.  It has for an emphasis one’s focus of attention, always looking, always watching. Are you willing to “be vigilant?”

If you said yes to both questions you will assure yourself of not falling into the apathy trap. You will be alert and awake to what is happening and take action to stop it.

If you answered “no,” then you need to wake up. Don’t let yourself be fooled and wake up one morning asking “what happened?” Take Peter’s advice seriously because the Enemy is lurking and desires to have you in a stupor, asleep and apathetic.


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