Character Traits of the Spiritual Life: Diligence

Character Traits of the Spiritual Life:


Richard Hollerman

Diligence has been defined as “accepting each task as a special assignment from the Lord and using all my energies to do it quickly and skillfully.”[i][i]  It is related to the term industry, meaning “energetic, devoted activity at any work or task.”[ii][ii]

Several of the Greek words of interest would be the noun, spoude, meaning “earnestness, zeal” or sometimes “the haste accompanying this.”  The verb spoudazo signifies “to hasten to do a thing, to exert oneself, endeavor, give diligence.”  Eletao may be defined as “to care for, attend carefully.” The adjective spoudaios signifies “in haste” and therefore “diligent, earnest, zealous.”[iii][iii]  The Hebrew and Greek terms translated diligence “communicate such concepts as rising early; searching out with painstaking effort; being earnest, eager, and determined; working swiftly, skillfully, and efficiently; and pursuing a task promptly and energetically.”[iv][iv]

From what we’ve seen above, would you say that you are a diligent person?  Do you do your work diligently?  We might ask a number of revealing questions to determine whether you have the virtue of diligence:[v][v]

  • Do you complete an assigned task quickly and enthusiastically, or do you reluctantly fit it into your schedule?
  • Do you plan ahead on a job to do it the quickest and most efficient way?
  • Do you redeem valuable minutes by moving quickly on the job, or do you walk slowly?
  • Do you look forward to going on to a new job or to resting after a job?
  • Do you complete chores so thoroughly that your parents consider you a diligent worker?
  • Do you do a job to first please the Lord and then your employer?
  • Do you go the extra mile, working wholeheartedly to complete each job?
  • Do you use every minute of company time to make your employer successful?

One of the sins repeatedly condemned in Proverbs is that of slothfulness or laziness.  “Laziness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle man will suffer hunger” (Proverbs 19:15).  Solomon charges us: “Go to the ant, O sluggard, observe her ways and be wise. . . . How long will you lie down, O sluggard?  When will you arise from your sleep?” (6:6, 9).

The Christian is to be far different from this attitude of laziness, sluggishness, and indifference.  “Diligence is doing a task with the motivation of love and an attitude of joy.”[vi][vi]  Paul urges us to not be “lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord” (Romans 12:11).  We are to be diligent and fervent in our service to the Lord.  Each task is to be one with this view in mind.  The apostle says that the one who “leads” is to do so “with diligence” (v. 8).  He admonishes the believers in Corinth to actively bless the poor and needy  by saying, “Just as you abound in everything, in faith and utterance and knowledge and in all earnestness and in the love we inspired in you, see that you abound in this gracious work also” (2 Corinthians 8:7). The term “earnestness” here is spoude, which can be rendered “diligence.”

Paul says, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men” (Colossians 3:23).  Do we work with this kind of enthusiasm?  Peter says that we are to be actively “applying all diligence” in adding virtues to our life, then he urges us to “be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing” us (2 Peter 1:5, 10).  This is a warning not to have an apathetic, careless, indifferent attitude toward spiritual progress, but to be actively involved in this pursuit.  Even common activities call for diligence.  Paul urges Timothy, “Make every effort to come to me soon” (2 Timothy 4:9; cf. v. 21).  “Make every effort” here is diligence—Timothy was to be diligent in coming to Paul in his last imprisonment.

How does the principle of diligence affect your life?  Paul admonishes us, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).  Are you and I “diligent” in our pursuit of knowledge of the Word of God?  The Hebrew writer commands us: “Let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience” (4:11).  He wants us to “make every effort” to be prepared to meet the Lord and to avoid falling into sin and apostasy.  The same emphasis is found at 2 Peter 3:14.  After warning his readers of Christ’s coming in judgment, Peter says, “Since you look for these things [the new heavens and the new earth], be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless.”  Preparation for Christ’s glorious return and the destruction of the world calls for earnestness, diligence, and every effort.  Does this characterize our life?  Thomas Brooks wrote, “The lazy Christian hath his mouth full of complaints, when the active Christian hath his heart full of comforts.”[vii][vii]  Let us be active Christians!


[i][i] The Power of True Success, p. 71.

[ii][ii] Random House Webster’s College Dictionary.

[iii][iii] W. E. Vine, Expository Dictionary.

[iv][iv] The Power of True Success, p. 71.

[v][v] Ibid.

[vi][vi] The Power of True Success, p. 72.

[vii][vii] The Power of True Success, p. 72.


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