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A literary technique often used to help one grasp the similarities and differences between two things is comparing and contrasting. And when the two subjects are polar opposites, usually what is discovered, quite emphatically, is the large variance.
Such is the case in Romans 12:11, where Paul uses two words to paint a picture of the serving believer: “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.” See it? “Slothful” vs “fervent.” I imagine your mind is already contrasting the two, and probably with images.
Simply put, slothful means lazy and slow; sluggish and hard to get started. Can’t you just picture the animal noted for its slowness of movement, the sloth that spends most of its life literally hanging around upside down in the trees of tropical rainforests?
Fervent, on the other hand, means to be boiling with intensity. In the language of the New Testament, it could be translated “to be hot.” Just think about the kettle whistling away as it sits on your stove’s eye, indicating it’s ready to serve up some boiling, hot water.
Paul’s point is quite clear: Christ’s followers are to serve like the kettle, not the sloth. Admittedly, he didn’t use metaphors from the jungle or the kitchen. But he did use the words slothful and fervent, words that communicate exactly what those metaphors portray.
As you extrapolate those words and pictures, what comes to mind? Other words that land on the runway of my mental airport are eagerness, willingness, enthusiasm, passion, and earnestness. Those are the traits we’re to display as selfless, “fervent” servants in God’s faith family.
On the other end of the spectrum are words like idle, indolent, apathetic, and lethargic. Those are all terms that are close cousins to “slothful,” terms that should never describe the manner in which we help one another in the church. Frankly, it’s hard put any of those words in front of the word ‘help.’ Can you really provide ‘apathetic help?’ Or ‘idle help?’ Can you actually give ‘lethargic help?’ I don’t think so. When you think about it, it’s humorous, and we have to admit that kind of help is actually more of a hindrance.
As your compare and contrast both the words of Romans 12:11 and their accompanying images, ask the Lord to supernaturally create within you a fiery heart for serving him. Commit to living with a selfless quickness to meet the needs of others. Reject complacency and apathy, and invest in a lifestyle of zealousness for the cause of Christ.
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