Procrastination is “the act of willfully delaying the doing of something that should be done,” and in some people it is a habitual way of handling any task. While the word itself is not found in the Bible, we can find some principles to help guide us.
Sometimes, procrastination is the result of laziness, and the Bible has plenty to say about that. The Bible commends hard work and industry (Proverbs 12:24; 13:4) and warns against sloth and slackness (Proverbs 15:19; 18:9). One cure for procrastination is more diligence, regardless of the task. The Christian should be supremely motivated to be diligent in his work, since he is ultimately serving the Lord. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Colossians 3:23). If we put our hearts into our work, as this verse says to do, we will probably find it difficult to procrastinate too much.
The Bible says that when it comes to some things, we should never delay. Jesus taught that reconciling with an offended brother should be done immediately upon our remembrance of the situation (Matthew 5:23-24). He also said to “settle matters quickly” with our adversaries (verse 25). However distasteful it may be to pursue peace with an enemy, we must avoid stalling. Similarly, we are instructed, “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” (Ephesians 4:26). Dealing appropriately with our anger is a matter of great importance, and we must not put it off until tomorrow, which will give the devil “a foothold” (verse 27).
Christians must not procrastinate when it comes to sharing the gospel with the lost. There is no time to waste. Jesus likened evangelistic efforts to a man inviting people to a great banquet. As he sent out his servants with the invitations, he said, “Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame” (Luke 14:21). The most striking qualities of the invitation are its openness (anyone and everyone was invited) and its urgency (the call to the feast must go out “quickly”).
Some people, upon hearing the gospel and knowing their spiritual need, delay in making a response. This is the most dangerous type of procrastination. Life is short, and we do not know what will happen tomorrow (James 4:13-14). The Bible urges us to get right with God today. “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. As has just been said: ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion’” (Heb 3:12-13, 15). To procrastinate and put off getting right with God is to harden one’s own heart.
Jesus could return at any time; we do not know when (Luke 12:40). Our Lord illustrated the importance of being prepared for His coming in Matthew 25:1-13. In this parable, ten virgins await the arrival of the bridegroom and the commencement of the wedding feast. Five of the virgins were prepared for his arrival; five did not attempt to prepare until it was too late, and they were left behind. Jesus calls the unprepared virgins “foolish”; one reason they were unprepared may have been that they procrastinated.
So in the matter of our spiritual life, we dare not procrastinate. It is also unwise to delay healing a broken relationship or dealing with anger. And since our service to God motivates all we do, we have no reason to procrastinate. In short, procrastination is a bad habit that can have eternal effects.