Is there comfort in procrastination?
Published 7:32 pm Friday, February 10, 2006
Procrastination is the act where we put off doing something burdensome or unpleasant until a future time. We will procrastinate even when the activity we put off would be to our immediate benefit.
The definition of procrastination has the thought of “belonging to the morrow.”
Every task is comprised of planning and execution. Both require discipline. Most of us have found it is more pleasurable to look forward to a task than doing it.
There is a good illustration of what we would call senseless procrastination in the life of the Pharaoh who ruled Egypt in the days of Moses. The Old Testament book of Exodus, chapter eight, gives us the details.
God was in the process of delivering the nation of Israel from Egyptian slavery. In this process God desired to show His mighty power (Exodus 7:3-4). God planned ten disastrous plagues for the people of Egypt. Every time a plague would occur, and Pharaoh seemed to be ready to release Israel, God would harden Pharaoh's heart and cause him to keep the people longer (Exodus 7:22).
The first plague was all the water turning to blood. The river Nile and every other body of water in Egypt became blood. This was a horrible catastrophe, but Pharaoh said the people could not go.
The second plague was frogs. Frogs came out of the river and filled every house and were upon the people (Exodus 8:3-4). Pharaoh called Moses and Aaron and asked them to pray that God would take the frogs away (Exodus 8:8). Moses asked Pharaoh when he wanted him to pray and ask God to take the frogs away (Exodus 8:9). Pharaoh's answer to Moses seems strange to us. Pharaoh said, “Tomorrow” (Exodus 8:10). Pharaoh would spend one more night with the frogs.
Why would Pharaoh choose to procrastinate in such an important matter? It might be that Pharaoh knew he was powerless before God, but maybe the situation would take care of itself and he would not have to rely on the prayers of Moses and Aaron. It is possible that Pharaoh did not want to give up control of the situation. Or, it could be that Pharaoh had somehow become comfortable with the frogs.
We laugh at Pharaoh and wonder why he would do something so absurd, but every one of us knows things we should do and we are putting them off. Most tasks look bigger than they really are. We can be overwhelmed with all the details.
Another factor is that we have been disappointed when the performance of a task did not meet our expectations. To sum it up, we are convinced we are more comfortable looking forward to something than actually doing it.
Biblical proverbs, cultural lore, and literature all persuade us to do things when they need to be done. “A stitch in time saves nine” is a cultural saying that applies to almost every area of life. From Shakespeare's Julius Caesar we read, “There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood leads on to fortune.”
The Old Testament book of Proverbs contains many admonitions to seize the moment. Proverbs, chapter 12, verse 27, calls the procrastinator lazy: “The lazy man does not roast what he took in hunting, but diligence is man's precious possession.” In Proverbs, chapter 20, verse 13, we are told, “Do not love sleep, lest you come to poverty.” Proverbs 28:19 states, “He who tills his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows frivolity will have poverty enough.” And the most direct challenge to the procrastinator is in Proverbs, chapter 6, verse 6: “Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise.”
We watch others procrastinate and think it is wasteful, but obviously there is comfort in laying aside a difficult or troublesome task until tomorrow.
Will we be like Pharaoh and spend one more night with the frogs, or will we clear them out?