Because the New Testament was originally written in Greek, a simple study of a Greek word can sometimes give us a greater enlightenment of certain passages of Scripture. A Greek dictionary such as found in a Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance or An Expositional Dictionary of New Testament Words by W. E. Vine is often sufficient without having to learn the Greek language. And it is amazing how the Holy Spirit will get involved in your study and bring forth revelations to your heart when you are sincerely seeking truth. After all, He is the revealer of truth. Howbeit when He, the Spirit of Truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come. John 16:13.
The Greek word of interest in this study is argos. Strong’s Concordance gives the definition “inactive, i.e. unemployed.” It is descriptive of one who is idle because he is unemployed. It is derived from two root words, a, which is negative, and ergon, which means “to work,” in the sense of being employed. Argos is used eight times in the New Testament. The King James Bible translates it as “idle” six times, as “slow” once, and as “barren” once.
Argos appears in only five passages of Scripture, so we can look at each one without making the study too long. If we understand that “being at work or employed” in a spiritual sense as being under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and involved in His work of the Kingdom, and “idle” as not being employed by the Lord, then we will find the Scriptures involving the word argos very enlightening.
Matthew 20:1-7 For the Kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an
householder, which went out early in the morning to hire laborers into his
2 And when he had agreed with the laborers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.
3 And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle (argos) in the marketplace.
4 And said unto them; Go also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way.
5 Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise.
6 And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle (argos), and said unto them, Why stand here all the day idle (argos)?
7 They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He said unto them, Go also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall you receive.
The word argos is used three times in this account of the hiring of the laborers to work in the vineyard. The ones idle are the ones not yet hired. Once they are hired they are no longer idle. From that point on they are under the householder’s authority. Their work is done according to his direction and guidance.
Jesus gave this parable as an illustration of His Kingdom. He said, For the Kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is a householder, which went out early in the morning to hire laborers into his vineyard. We understand, then, that the householder represents the Lord; the vineyard, His Kingdom; and the laborers, those who are working in His Kingdom.
There are a number of Kingdom truths presented in this parable. Our only concern for now, though, is with the idle who became laborers in the Kingdom of the Lord. The main point of interest is the difference between being idle and being laborers. The laborers are under the authority of the Lord. They are working under His Lordship. The idle, on the other hand, are not working under His Lordship. That does not mean, though, that only the laborers represent Christians and the idle do not. Many Christians are idle, not laboring in the vineyard of the Lord. In that sense they are not under His Lordship
I Timothy 5:11-13 But the younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax
wanton against Christ, they will marry;
12 Having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith.
13 And withal they learn to be idle (argos), wandering about from house to house; and not only idle (argos), but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not.
The apostle Paul, in this passage, is not only speaking of young widows but also those whom young widows would represent spiritually. In the natural a widow is one who has been cut off from his/her spouse; they are no longer one. Spiritually, anyone who is no longer one with Christ (under his Lordship, having been employed by Him), have begun to wax wanton against Christ (verse 11), because they have cast off their first faith (verse 12), is a spiritual widow.
Paul says of these spiritual widows that they learn to be idle (argos) (verse 13). Paul has the same understanding of spiritual idleness as was presented by Jesus in the parable of the vineyard laborers (Matthew 20:1-7). To be spiritually idle is to not be employed by the Lord (not under His authority and Lordship), and therefore not involved in the work of His Kingdom.
It is a tragedy that so many young Christians today are learning to be spiritually idle. How do they learn this idleness? They learn it from their role models in the church. And, more often than not, they learn it from their pastors, the one that should be teaching them how to be laborers in the Kingdom of God. Kingdom work involves, first of all, learning how to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth. Secondly, it involves learning how to minister to the Christ in one another; and, thirdly, it involves learning how to minister to those outside the church.
Titus 1:9-12 Holding fast the faithful word as he
(a bishop) has been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to
exhort and to convince the gainsayers.
10 For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision:
11 Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake.
12 One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are always liars, evil beasts, slow (argos) bellies (gaster).
The apostle Paul in this epistle to Titus is giving him instructions concerning his ministry in Crete. Titus is instructed to set in elders (verse 5), so Paul gives him guidelines for the characteristics of an elder (verses 6-9). Then he alerts Titus to some of the common negative traits among the Cretian Christians, saying, that even one of their own prophets had characterized them as being liars, evil beasts, and slow bellies (verse 12).
The Greek word for “slow” in verse 12 is argos, which is literally “idle”; that is, not employed in the work of the Kingdom by the Lord. The Greek word for “bellies” in the same verse is gaster, Which means “belly” or more precisely “womb.” It is used in eight other places in the New Testament (Matthew 1:18, 23; 24:19; Mark 13:17; Luke 1:31; 21:23; I Thessalonians 5:3; Revelation 12:2). In each of those eight places it is referring to a woman with child. Those, then, that Paul describes as “slow bellies” are “idle wombs” or “idle in birthing.” Spiritually, this speaks of Christians in whom Christ is not being birthed and, needless to say, are not birthing Christ in anyone else.
True Kingdom ministry brings forth Christ in others; it is, so to speak, a birthing ministry. This is what Jesus meant when He said that the one who did the will of God was His mother. Then one said unto Him, Behold, Thy mother and Thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with Thee. But He answered and said unto him that told Him, Who is My mother? and who are My brethren? And He stretched forth His hand toward His disciples, and said, Behold My mother and My brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of My Father which is in heaven, the same is My brother, and sister, and mother. Matthew 12:47-50.
The apostle Paul experienced a birthing of Christ in himself. But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb (the Jewish religion), and called me by His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood. Galatians 1:15-16. When Paul preached Christ to others, he wasn’t just preaching about the Lord; he was imparting His life to them. The life of the Son of God was birthed in him so that he might bring Him to birth in others. Paul’s ministry to the Galatian Christians was an example of that ministry. My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you. Galatians 4:19.
Idle Christians, in the sense that we are speaking of in this message, are not always completely inactive. Many of them are very active in their churches doing seemingly good works. They may be deacons, play a musical instrument, sing in the choir, teach a Sunday School class, and even go out witnessing. Some are even pastoring churches. It isn’t that they never do any works, but that their works are barren; they do not bring forth Christ in others. Their ministry is unfruitful. The fruitful are partakers of the divine nature; the barren are not.
II Peter 1:4-8 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises:
that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the
corruption that is in the world through lust.
5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that you shall neither be barren (Greek: argos = idle) nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Greek word for “barren” is verse 8 is argos, referring to those Christians whose ministry is unfruitful because they are idle, not employed in the Kingdom; that is, they have not relinquished the rights to govern themselves, placing themselves under the authority and Lordship of Jesus Christ. The point Peter is making in these verses is that those who are partaking of the divine nature and are progressively taking on divine characteristics will never be barren (lit. “idle”) or unfruitful. Christ is being birthed in them, and their ministry of birthing Christ in others will also be fruitful.
Matthew 12:34-37 O generation of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak good
things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
35 A good man out of the good treasure of the heart brings forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.
36 But I say unto you, That every idle (Greek: argos) word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.
37 For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned.
The Lord Jesus gives us a very important principle concerning words in these verses. He says that the heart determines whether one’s speech is good or evil. If the heart is evil then the words spoken carry the evil of the heart. If the heart is good then the good treasure of the heart is carried by the words spoken. Words, like a freight train, are carriers. What you are in your heart rides on the words you speak. Another way of saying the same thing is that your spirit is intermingled with your speech. Your voice is not sound only; it is also spirit.
Jesus tells us that men will give account in the day of judgment for every idle word that they speak. Do you remember some of the idle conversations you’ve had in the past? Well, that is not what the Lord is talking about. The Greek word for “idle” is argos, which is the same word used for idle in the parable of the vineyard laborers (Matthew 20:1-7). Those that were idle had not been employed by the master of the vineyard. Spiritually interpreted, the idle are those Christians that are not working in the vineyard of the Kingdom, which means they are not under the authority and Lordship of Jesus Christ.
Idle words, then, are words that are not under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Therefore, they are words that do not carry His life. When a Christian is ordering his own life, he is not under the Lordship of Jesus and neither are his words. It doesn’t necessarily mean that he is committing sinful acts, but it does mean that his words do not proceed from a heart that is submissive to the Lordship of Christ, and that makes them idle. He may obedient to all the commandments in the same way the young, rich ruler was (Matthew 19:16-22). But, as you remember, the one thing he lacked was a submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. It is not how religious you are that puts the “good treasure” in your heart; it’s His life in you.
Christ in you is the hope of glory. Colossians 1:27. When Jesus Christ is the Lord of your heart, then your words are employed by Him; they are not idle words. Each of us is responsible for our words. It is not your subjection to church ordinances and doctrines, your pastor, the deacon/trustee board, or to your particular interpretation of Scripture that makes the difference. He must be the Lord of your heart! Then, and only then, will your words be employed by Him.
Copyright © 1998 by Henry DuBose