Sleeping is sin

But only if you overdo it.

Sleep – the bane and antidote of my life. In stark contrast to Ben Care’s recent London Institute of Contemporary Christianity (LICC) email called Sleepless in Suburbia, the lack of sleep is not much a problem for me as the indulgence of it.

Ben’s article explains how fatigue and exhaustion in our culture is causing problems in our lives – even affecting discipleship in the church. He talked about the importance of finding rest in Jesus, who said in Matthew 11:28 ‘‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest”.

Our caffeine-addicted society has made tiredness both a ‘source of shame, indicating our inability to cope; but also a badge of honour, signifying the importance of the work in which we are engaged,’ he wrote.

The fact is that sleep and rest are important to the human body. ‘Chief nourisher in life’s feast’, Shakespeare called it. Even God did it, not because He was tired, but because ‘the creation of the heavens and the earth and everything in them was completed’ on the seventh day (Gen 2:1). Jesus was sleeping in the boat when his panic-stricken disciples woke him up because a storm was threatening to capsize the boat. (Matt 8:23)

Many a times at university, I never woke up for anything. It became a form of escapism from doing anything at all.

But often the issue with sleep, as with any other good thing God has created, is the excessiveness of it. Many a times at university, I never woke up for anything. Not only was it a form of indulgence, it soon became a form of escapism from doing anything at all. If there was a lecture I wanted to miss, I would take a nap. A confrontation I couldn’t handle with a friend? I went to bed.

Sleeping has long been a favourite activity of mine, a badge of honour almost, having boasted endlessly about how I once slept for 18 hours consecutively. My ability to sleep is unrivalled, and I have always retained this sense of pride at how easily I can fall asleep from buses to classes.

But what I didn’t take heart for a long time was how damaging oversleeping is to the body and mind. The old Malay proverb taught to us in primary school ‘badan cergas, minda cerdas’ (‘active body, healthy mind’) failed to take any root.

The body, mind and spirit are totally interlinked. Staying alert is crucial as a Christian because Paul warns: “Be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clear-headed.” (1 Thes 5:6)

The need to sleep has to be differentiated from the desire for and luxury of it.

Sleeping in excess is symbolic of numbing down, slowing down, idleness, laziness and foolishness – the antithesis to the warrior God created me to be. The need to sleep has to be differentiated from the desire for and luxury of it.

A wake-up call came from Richard Anniss, the leader of King’s Church, who taught that bad habits are actually sin. This spoke straight into my spirit, and I knew immediately that I had to stop making excuses for not turning up at meetings because “I couldn’t wake up.”

The famous Proverb goes: “A little extra sleep, a little more slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit; scarcity will attack you like an armed robber. (Pro 24:33-34)

I work towards the days of productiveness, efficiency and hard work that will mean I have worked my body, mind and spirit well, when the prize of a good night’s sleep awaits me. While God is doing amazing things in this generation, I had better not sleep through His purposes.

Ecclesiastes 5:12 (NLT): People who work hard sleep well, whether they eat little or much. But the rich seldom get a good night’s sleep.

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