Negligence is an attitude and a way of behaviour where indifference and inactivity are displayed, as well as carelessness for all sorts of things. When someone neglects a thing, it means that he does not care for it or pay the necessary attention to it, and whatever is neglected is undernourished, inactivated and in the end is deadened. Necrosis, or anaesthesia, is the means used in medicine to ‘deaden ‘or induce anaesthesia so that doctors may be enabled to perform operations on a patient without the feeling of pain. In spiritual things ‘necrosis’ is applied in a beneficial way so that certain habits and ways that formed part of our life in the past may be mortified and inactivated (Colossians 3:5).
Everyone’s life is full of situations where we have neglected or omitted to do something important and then reaped the unpleasant consequences. Sometimes with pain, sometimes with a feeling of bitterness, other times with anger and wrath, and in many cases we cannot forgive ourselves for our indifference and negligence. But the harvest follows indiscriminately, because: “A man reaps what he sows” (Galatians 6:7), whether for good (in the spirit) or for bad (in the flesh). Sooner or later we all reap that which we have sown and without exception this is a great reality.
However, seen from the spiritual aspect, negligence has tremendous consequences which extend to and affect our future spiritual condition. The man of God must promptly, and with all attentiveness, take care of the spiritual things of God so that they continue to be nourished, exercised and strengthened. Exercise is part of our spiritual growth and perfection (Hebrews 5:11-14). Due to lack of attention and concentration on the things of God, the Christians to whom the Apostle wrote his epistle came to be slow in hearing with all the unpleasant consequences, some of which are recorded in the epistle.
In the original text of the New Testament, the word negligence is used in the form of a verb on three different occasions which relate to very significant realms of our spiritual life, and to things that we cannot overlook or neglect without great loss and cost to that life.
In a fourth instance the word is used for and refers to the act of God Himself. In this case it is with reference to the people of Israel who, because of their disobedience, did not continue in the Covenant which God had made with them, and so He ‘neglected’ them, with all the known and unpleasant results for those people. All the providences and means that would reform them were neglected by God (Hebrews 8:9). This sad development in the history of the people of Israel is something that ought to teach us and make us wise so that we do not fall after the same example of disobedience (Hebrews 4:11).
Negligence concerning the call to the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 22:1-14)
In the first case, negligence is related to the invitation of God to men and it is compared with the invitation to the wedding of the son of a king. It is a parable given by our Lord related to the kingdom of Heaven and the danger that certain guests may be excluded just because of negligence “.. behold I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come to the marriage. But they made light of it (neglected) and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise…” And when the king in wrath passes his sentence on them he says: “… the wedding banquet is ready, but they which were invited were not worthy…”
We see then that in this case negligence is the basic reason for the exclusion of those guests. Negligence, that made them consider the invitation of the king with contempt, was an insult to him personally. The result in the end was their exclusion because they had proved unworthy to enter in and enjoy the good things he offered them.
But from their actions it seems that they were not inactive people, but rather they seemed busy people, perhaps with very good results in their particular businesses. Perhaps they also kept all their social relationships and obligations very carefully. And the reason for their negligence was that they rather cared and concerned themselves with all these other things instead of with the invitation to the wedding banquet of the king.
“No one can serve two masters”, said the Lord, “either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Mammon” (i.e. the system of the organized life which organizes itself and acts without taking God into consideration) (Matthew 6:24).
Concerning this banquet, all things were ready. The only thing required was their response to the call to come and enjoy all that the king offered. Instead, they chose their way which meant that they had to work and labour by themselves. In the spiritual realm we could think of them as people of works and much activity but who reject and despise the grace and the gift of grace in Christ (Romans 5:15).
In a similar way, and just because of negligence or involvement in other things, many people despise and do not respond to the call of God which is open to all, so that they never enter the kingdom that He has prepared and invites them into.
In finishing the parable the Lord said that many are called but few are chosen; that is few prove themselves worthy for God by taking Him and His exhortations seriously and by faith seeking to serve Him with all their heart.
Negligence concerning salvation (Hebrews 2:1-4)
Salvation is not something that happened to us in the past and remained a static, historical event on certain day and time, but rather is a continuous relationship and communion with the Saviour. We were saved, we are being saved and we shall be saved is the revelation of the Scriptures. It is a vital, present experience which extends, and takes over and possesses us more and more (1 Peter 2:2). That is why the Bible exhorts us in an emphatic way to be diligent of our salvation (Philippians 2:12). We are in the world and in all the circumstances of the life we live we face all kinds of challenges, problems and temptations. We thank the Lord that He will not let us be tempted more than we are able to bear; but right there, in the midst of those adversities, the salvation that our Lord provided for us, by faith in Him, proves to be the means by which we overcome and go through, facing it all by His grace. Through all these, the faithful man of God grows in his salvation and develops from the state of babyhood to maturity and, perfected spiritually, lacking nothing. In him the wondrous grace of God is not frustrated or disdained but rather bears fruit and is praised (2 Corinthians 6:1).
We therefore who believe in Him should never despise and foolishly neglect this wondrous grace and gift that came to us and was confirmed by God in so many ways, but rather we should embrace it with all our strength and hold on it to the end with all our heart, otherwise how can we escape (Hebrews 2:3). Indifference and neglect brings us to weakness and sickness and we do not enjoy the fullness of our salvation.
Moreover, negligence, as the epistle warns us, can become the forerunner of and develop into worse conditions which may reach the point where the Son of God be trodden upon, the blood of the covenant be considered common, and the spirit of grace be insulted (Hebrews 10:29). This is a fearful development about which the letter very clearly forewarns us.
Negligence concerning our service to God and the Church (1 Timothy 4:14).
In this case negligence refers to the ministry and work into which the Lord calls us and for which he endows us with the gift, that is, the ability which we do not have naturally in ourselves but which He gives us. The apostle exhorts Timothy to concentrate on this with all his strength so that he may be active and fruitful to God and the Church.
In the Old Testament it is written: “Cursed be he that does the work of the Lord deceitfully (rendered ‘negligently’) and cursed be he that keeps back his sword from blood” (Jeremiah 48:10). When we have in mind that the worker of God represents Him to men and that he bears upon him the name and honour of the Lord, then we realize the strength of this statement and why the worker must study (i.e. to care with diligence) “to present himself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). This must possess the servant of God in such a way that with his concentrated attention and exertion in divine things, he aims for the approval and commendation of God. The man of God should not behave in a light way or handle the word of God unwisely and hastily.
The apostle Paul describes in his various letters how he behaved both within the churches and among outsiders. The way he handled the word of God was without deception or degradation but by conforming himself to the truth. He then declared the word unadulterated, straight and wholesome (2 Corinthians 4:1-2 and 4:5-13 as well as other places).
Study to show thyself approved unto God (2 Timothy 2:15)
Studiousness is the way of approach both to life as well as to our work towards God. Things that pertain to God are expedient and should not to be deferred but be attended to speedily. Since study is the basic need for anyone who would progress in any realm of life, how much more should this be the way for us to care for our eternal life and being.
The apostle Peter, in introducing his second letter, says concerning this diligence that we should give so that we may add whatever is necessary to reach the full knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ and not remain either inactive or fruitless in this. “Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue… for if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that you shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ”. If, he says, these are not found in a person, then he has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. The initial experience of his salvation is in danger because of negligence. “Therefore my brothers”, he says, “give diligence to make your calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:3-11). In this way we confirm our calling and election from God. This does not mean that we ourselves produce our salvation but, having begun with it, we may work it out and be diligent in it. It is one thing for someone to try with his own works and strength to save himself and a different thing, having been saved by the grace of God, to work for this salvation and increase it by obedience and in cooperation with the Holy Spirit. (Philippians 22:12). That is why Peter the apostle says that God gave us everything we need, so that, having escaped the corruption in which we lived before, we may become partakers through them, in the divine nature of God.
Moreover, working in these with all diligence and attention, our entrance into the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ will be rich and not just salvation by the skin of our teeth.
Persistence, order and systematic approach in prayer and the word of God (Psalm 1)
Together with studiousness, diligence presupposes order and a systematic approach to things. The inconsistency of one’s character indicates double mindedness and doubting. On the contrary, the man of God learns gradually to face the various conditions of life in the simplicity that is in Christ. With his eyes fixed on the Lord he allows not the world and its various pleasures to draw him into the current of uncontrollable care and trouble. He learns to stabilize himself, on the basis of the truth of God and not to be swung by the offers and challenges of this world. Walking closely with his Lord, he learns not to be tempted and drawn by these but rather to be satisfied and to rejoice and be productive in the truth and the grace of God.
For the practical outworking of this purpose we have the means of prayer and the study of the word of God. And when these are carefully approached in a systematic way, they come to proficiency and yield fruit. This is the conclusion that arises from the various stories of people in the Bible as well as the teaching of the Scriptures. (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
The first Psalm in the Old Testament contrasts the two major classes of people, the righteous and the unrighteous, their behaviour and way of life, as well as the end of each.
The significant characteristic of the life of the righteous is that the foundation upon which he is based is the law and the word of God. As the Lord himself responded to one of His temptations: “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
The Psalm gives us, by way of picture, a concise description of the diligence and concentrated attention of a person especially on the law and word of God. “Blessed is the man.. his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in His law meditates day and night”(Psalm 1:1-2). Concentrated on this, the faithful person resembles a tree that draws water constantly and yields its fruit in due season. The diligent facing of things causes us to be active and gives rise to the expectation of fruit bearing. In such an attitude of heart and exercise, difficult days and obstacles are faced. This steady and persistent attitude abides and it helps to overcome the evil, resistance and the opposition that are in the world.
“.. Does not wither. Whatever he does prospers”. There is no dry time and inactivity for such a person but by constant spiritual freshness that permeates him, and enriches him and brings forth fruit.
The tree is “planted”, i.e. it is not shifting around, but is concentrated and steadfast in one place and purpose: to bring forth fruit. The natural condition and order of fruit bearing is fulfilled. So it is with the man who systematically and with consequence abides faithful in practices that the Lord has laid down.
“The Lord knows the way of the righteous”. Step by step, steadily and faithfully the righteous fills his life. Every step that is taken before the Lord has a validity. Within this framework the exercise of prayer and the study of the word of God sooner or later will yield fruit.
Such a life is not empty, full of vanity that in the end will disappear with the blowing of the wind “like chaff which the wind drives away”, but is a fruitful, healthy life that yields from diligence and the concentration on the person, work and word of the Lord.