11.Not slothful in business, etc. This precept is given to us, not only because a Christian life ought to be an active life; but because it often becomes us to overlook our own benefit, and to spend our labors in behalf of our brethren. In a word, we ought in many things to forget ourselves; for except we be in earnest, and diligently strive to shake off all sloth, we shall never be rightly prepared for the service of Christ. (392)
By adding fervent in spirit, he shows how we are to attain the former; for our flesh, like the ass, is always torpid, and has therefore need of goals; and it is only the fervency of the Spirit that can correct our slothfulness. Hence diligence in doing good requires that zeal which the Spirit of God kindles in our hearts. Why then, some one may say, does Paul exhort us to cultivate this fervency? To this I answer, — that though it be the gift of God, it is yet a duty enjoined the faithful to shake off sloth, and to cherish the flame kindled by heaven, as it for the most part happens, that the Spirit is suppressed and extinguished through our fault.
To the same purpose is the third particular, serving the time: for as the course of our life is short, the opportunity of doing good soon passes away; it hence becomes us to show more alacrity in the performance of our duty. So Paul bids us in another place to redeem the time, because the days are evil. The meaning may also be, that we ought to know how to accommodate ourselves to the time, which is a matter of great importance. But Paul seems to me to set in opposition to idleness what he commands as to the serving of time. But as κυρίῳ , the Lord, is read in many old copies, though it may seem at first sight foreign to this passage, I yet dare not wholly to reject this reading. And if it be approved, Paul, I have no doubt, meant to refer the duties to be performed towards brethren, and whatever served to cherish love, to a service done to God, that he might add greater encouragement to the faithful. (393)