Diagnosing the Problem of Dead Weight

By Nick England 
National Advisor
When doing my taxes recently, I came across a post on the message boards inquiring about a tax question. The young lady said the following. “Can I claim my boyfriend as a dependent? We live together and I pay for everything from food to rent.

The response that immediately followed came from another man who offered some very tactful advice regarding her question.

“You need a new boyfriend.”

These days the quintessential man is a lazy consumer who has little vision for his life and accumulates debt like our fathers did baseball cards. The sad side of this story is that the Church is not immune. Christian men are guilty of being dead weight nearly as much as their unbelieving counterparts. The easy way to handle men who are dead weight is to do nothing at all. However, by taking this approach, you are immediately guilty of the same apathy that frustrates you as a leader. 

What is dead weight?

When we talk about dead weight in reference to our men, the illustration of the old ball and chain comes to mind. It’s the idea that progress is to be had, but those who desire progress are shackled by those who are indifferent. Symbolically, dead weight is represented by something that is useful which now exists in disinterested opposition. At the heart of the issue, dead weight is apathy.

Where does apathy come from?
Apathy is sin in and of itself, but it is also born from sin. It is the vague product of an idol we worship. In his book “Church Planter,” Darrin Patrick talks about the way everyone worships surface idols and source idols. A surface idol is what others see on the outside. It could be materialism, self-image, dependency or work, among others. But there is a source idol that we worship, which each of us see on the inside. Our source idol reveals the disturbing truth about what we really care about. Comfort, power, approval and control would fall into the category of source idols. It is what Tim Keller ominously refers to as, “the sin beneath the sin.

If we flashback to Adam and Eve, we see them enjoying the Garden of Eden. Everything before them was beautiful, handcrafted by God and unadulterated by sin. Yet rebelliousness lingered in their hearts. God had clearly commanded them not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Yet the serpent, the agent of insurrection, lurked in the garden. The serpent pleaded with Eve to eat of the tree. He fed her lies and deceived her with fraudulent promises of counterfeit hope.

But where was Adam during this? The text is not clear, but what we do know is that he was not there to protect his bride while the serpent nourished the corruption in her heart. What we can deduce is that Adam was crippled by apathy and left elsewhere, a slave to his idolatry. Perhaps Adam worshipped approval and was afraid what his wife would say if he confronted her. Maybe she would no longer affirm and approve of him if he called her out in her sin.

Another possibility is that Adam worshipped comfort. He was content in his blissful ignorance and desired the status quo over a difficult conversation. Admittedly, sin is never easy to call out in another. In doing so we heed Christ’s words in removing the log in our own eye before the speck in our brother’s. But little did Adam know that the status quo would forever be broken because his idolatry left him to wallow in the comfort of his own approval. Thus, what bubbles to the surface from Adam’s comfort is apathy.

Every man must wrestle with his own apathy. The hideous reality of our sin is that our hearts are laced with apathy. Every man may be apathetic about something different, but, at his core, it is the same disease. However, to our benefit the story doesn’t end here.

“And you were dead in your trespasses and sin…But God being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved.” – Ephesians 2:1,4-5

We are no longer shackled to our sin. We were made free. And much of the good news comes in that we were not rescued from sin at our greatest moment, but at our worst. In the midst of our sin against a holy and righteous God, we were redeemed and adopted into His holy family. What becomes difficult now is that our sin and our brother’s sin makes it difficult to encourage and challenge them to live in the light of their redemption.

How do we kill apathy in ourselves?

To quote the great Puritan pastor, John Owen, “Be killing sin, or sin will be killing you.” Every morning we wake up, the battle for our affections is waged against us. We must wake up in a mindset of combat, ready to wage war against our temptations.

John Calvin talks about our hearts as “idol factories.” What he means by this is that we were meant to worship something. It is our nature to do so. However, when we worship anything instead of Jesus, it is sin. It seems fickle and immature, but the truth is that we worship creation over the Creator. Our affections were designed to be directed as worship towards God.

In our mission to kill apathy, we can turn to a number of resources: Twelve-step programs, self-help, attempting to “do better,” little post-it notes and so on. However, the guillotine for apathy is worship of Christ. We must sever our adulterous relationship with apathy and reclaim our love for Christ our Redeemer. This means that we must redirect our hearts from any petty distraction by worshiping our Savior with the passion we choose to sinfully direct elsewhere. To quote Matt Chandler, anything that stirs your affections for Christ, run to. That which robs your affections for Him, flee from.

How do we kill apathy in our chapter?

Now that we understand killing apathy within ourselves, what does it take to abolish it within the chapter? The answer is brotherhood and unity. You might ask, is it really that simple? Yes, it is. But this requires some heavy commitments.

The first commitment is that you live out Proverbs 27:17 – As iron sharpens iron so one man sharpens another. What this means is that you are being molded into something better. You are being refined into something greater. The end product is beautiful but only comes through the sanctification of friction. Imagine two pieces of iron rubbing against one another. There is heat, and it is abrasive. But the end product occurs because of the sanctification of brotherhood. The text does not refer to iron sharpening wood. We do not see a dense metal whittling a soft branch. We see two equals loving one another in the Gospel.

The second commitment is that in your brotherhood, you are unified. No matter how hot the friction gets, you are committed. Sanctification is always done in love, which means that logs and specks are removed from everyone’s eyes, and brothers embrace the unconditional love and accountability of their brother. One of Christ’s last prayers on earth was for unity. He contended for our unity, pleading with the Father that His children would be unified.

This should speak with premonitory volume to us because again, the serpent employs enmity. His chief weapon is most simply division. In the garden we enjoyed the bliss of constant intimacy with the Father. We basked in the blessing of unblemished amity with woman. And this was all ripped from us when we chose to drive the stake of discord between us and our Almighty Father.

But in the moment we did so, God promised to send His Son to die for our sins. Christ died to eradicate dead weight, apathy and our need for comfort and approval. These things no longer have bearing in our lives. Through Christ and the sanctification of our brotherhood, we are free from the sin that entangles us.

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