Apathy is defined as the lack of emotion, lack of interest, listless condition or indifference. Some of the synonyms of the word are impassiveness, indifference, lethargy, unconcern. Many Christians are apathetic toward spiritual things such as the church, study of the word of God, hearing the gospel, prayer, heaven and hell, etc.
Apathy is an attitude of indifference and unconcern toward spiritual things. It generally ignores spiritual matters in order to place a greater emphasis on material things.
What Is Wrong With Apathy?
Apathy destroys a church. “By much slothfulness the building decays; and through idleness of the hands the house drops through” (Eccl. 10:18). Again, Solomon wrote, “He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster” (Prov. 18:9). We recognize that a man does not have to tear down a house to destroy it; all that he has to do is just fail to repair the things which need repairing and soon the house will collapse. We recognize that a man does not have to burn a field to destroy its crop; all that he must do is to fail to plow it, weed it, and fertilize it to produce the same effect. The wise man’s inspired comments regarding slothfulness are easily verified by observation.
What we recognize as true in the physical realm is also true with reference to the church. When brethren become apathetic and allow the work of the Lord to go undone, the church will be destroyed.
Here are some things which occur when apathy sets in which destroys the church: (1) neglecting the services (this discourages the weak members and causes them to also neglect the services, compounding the problem); (2) failing to visit those who visit our services, the sick and the discouraged, and (3) neglecting home Bible studies. The result of this negligence is that few home Bible studies are conducted and fewer are converted; the weak become weaker until they eventually just completely apostatize. As the stronger members die, brethren move away, and the children of half-converted Christians decide not to be faithful to the Lord, the church in a given area dies.
The Lord warned brethren about destroying the church, the temple of God; Paul wrote, “Know you not that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple you are” (1 Cor. 3:16-17). Apathy results in destruction of the Lord’s church and is wrong for that reason.
When apathy afflicts a congregation, spiritual needs are unmet. Each of us recognizes that the gospel is God’s saving power (Rom. 1:16); one cannot be converted without being taught the gospel of Christ (Mk. 16:15-16). This is the only means which God uses to draw men to Him (Jn. 6:44-45). However, when apathy sets in, the work of taking the gospel to the lost people of the world almost comes to a halt. How many home Bible studies have been conducted by the members of the church where you worship in the last month? Six months? A Year? Is there any wonder that there are so few conversions? Who can doubt that apathy is afflicting us?
The weak need special attention (1 Thess. 5:14 – support the weak; comfort the feebleminded). Those who are caught up in sin need spiritually minded men to take the time to work to restore them (Gal. 6:1; Jas. 5:19-20). However, when apathy sets in, this need goes unmet. Frequently what happens is that the congregation neglects the needs of these members until they completely quit attending; then, the congregation withdraws (or is it “washes its hands” of the matter?) from them for forsaking the assembly. Surely we can see why apathy is sinful!
Apathy afflicts members, the quality of worship is destroyed! Members day-dream during the lesson, if they do not altogether fall asleep. Notes are passed, fingernails are clipped, and whispering occurs. These things destroy the quality and acceptability of our worship; they are the fruits of apathy.
Apathy puts God second. Spiritual indifference occurs because something has taken priority over God in one’s life. The seed of the kingdom is choked out by the care of this world and the deceitfulness of riches (Matt. 13:22). Something other than God has first priority in the life of that person who is apathetic.
God will not take second place in one’s life! Christ commanded, “But seek you first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness . . .” (Matt. 6:33). Again, He stated, “He that loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that takes not his cross, and follows after me, is not worthy of me” (Matt. 10:37-38). (Be sure to study Lk. 14:15-35 for other Scriptures pertaining to putting something else above one’s service to God.)
If God will not even allow one to put his father, mother, son or daughter before Him in reference to priorities, He certainly will not tolerate a man putting a football, baseball, or some other kind of event before Him. Neither will He tolerate being placed second to anything on TV, shopping, dining out, etc. Apathy is sinful because it manifests that one’s priorities have been misplaced.
Apathy condemns the soul. The letters to the seven churches of Asia manifests this. (One cannot help but notice that three of the seven churches of Asia were instructed regarding something pertaining to the problem of apathy. This sin is not new.) Here are the comments made by the Lord concerning this problem: (Rev. 2:4-5 f; Rev. 3:1-3).
John wrote, “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot: I would you were cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth (Rev. 3:16-17).
We simply must accept the conclusion that an apathetic attitude toward Christ and toward service in His kingdom will condemn one’s soul to hell. Therefore, that is what is wrong with apathy – it will destroy one’s soul in hell.