10 Warnings in the Bible about Complacency

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Comfortable with his progression and his enormous lead over his opponent, the hare thought he’d rest for a while. Relaxing peacefully by a tree, he drifted off to sleep. He figured he had nothing to worry about. You know how the story goes. His slow and steady contender, the tortoise, who didn’t initially seem to be a threat, overtook him and won the race.

In this well-known fable, the hare is the epitome of complacency, defined by Merriam-Webster as “self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies.” The Bible gives us several warnings against this type of thinking.

Here are 10 ways God’s word shows us how to avoid becoming stagnant in our walks.

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    1. Invest Your Spiritual Gifts

    The saying “use it or lose it” is portrayed perfectly in Matthew 25:14-30. When a master returns from a long journey and sees what his servants have done with the talents he left them, he’s very unhappy with the servant who didn’t grow his gift. He’s so bothered by his laziness that he takes away the gift and gives it to someone else who will use it wisely.

    Sometimes busyness, fear, or procrastination will cause us to set aside gifts God has given us, leaving them unused and undeveloped. This is a form of complacency—when we become so comfortable with having a gift that we take it for granted and do nothing with it.

    Whatever talents, gifts, or skills God has given us are meant to be an investment into His kingdom. We get to express our gratitude by using them to further His agenda in the earth.

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    2. Seek God’s Will before Good Works

    There are so many remarkable causes in the world and ways we can make a real difference. This is great, as long as we’re seeking God’s will in how we pursue good works. Matthew 7:21-23 makes it clear that not everything done in the name of the Lord is actually done with the heart of the Lord.

    Part of the passage reads, “Many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, drive out demons in your name, and do many miracles in your name?’ Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you.’"

    God wants our works to flow from knowing Him. If we do the right things for the wrong reasons, it’s only a superficial act of kindness. But when seek His will, He can show us to bring change as He does, selflessly and with a pure heart.

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    3. Beware of a False Sense of Security

    In Isaiah 32:9-20, God gave a strong warning to those who were complacent and unaware of His sovereignty. Too often, in the midst of our comfortable lives, we forget who’s really in charge, the One who has all power in His hands.

    God doesn’t want us putting our trust in our income or abilities. Those are things that He gives and can take away. So our hope must be in Him alone, not the earthly things that make us feel safe.

    When we remember that God’s love for us outweighs our ability to protect ourselves, we can trust Him even in uncertain times.

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    4. Remember Your First Love

    Revelation 2:1-7 shows people who appear to have it all together—good works, patient endurance and a stand against evil. However, their work is fueled by a lesser love than they once had.

    “I know your works,” the passage says, “but you have abandoned the love you had at first.” Sometimes we can be so driven to do what’s right that we forget the compassion which originally compelled us to do it. God wants us to keep our love for Him and others at the forefront of our minds when we pursue righteousness.

    He’s not impressed by how much we can do. He’d rather for us to do a few things in abundant love than to do many things that, while great, do not reflect His love.

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    5. Value Spiritual Growth over Worldly Growth

    Luke 9:24-25 tells us the importance of choosing Christ above all else. Verse 25 asks, “For what does it benefit someone if he gains the whole world, and yet loses or forfeits himself?”

    The successes of this life, as nice as they are, have to come second to Jesus if we want to spend eternity with Him. We can’t become so mesmerized by the world’s possibilities that we prioritize them above living for Christ.

    This type of complacency can often go unnoticed, as ambition for earthly gains can blind us from seeing any apathy we may have in our spiritual lives.

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    6. Know God’s Word on a Deeper Level

    As believers in a world desperate for hope, we can’t afford to only know bits and pieces of God’s word. In order to be the light, we have to be equipped to shine.

    God loves us as we are but also calls us to deeper levels of study. In Deuteronomy 11:18, He tells us how much our knowledge of Him should saturate our lives. It says, “Imprint these words of mine on your hearts and minds, bind them as a sign on your hands, and let them be a symbol on your foreheads.” 

    God is looking for people who will go beyond just having a familiarity with His word. He’s given us the grace to know it, believe it and embody it.

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    7. Examine Your Faith

    Every so often we need to do as Paul instructed the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 13:5. “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith. Examine yourselves. Or do you yourselves not recognize that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless you fail the test.” 

    Even while being professing believers, we can’t assume we’re always in the right. We should continuously search our own hearts to make sure we’re operating from a place of faith, love and godliness.

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    8. Preparation Can Save Your Life

    The story of the ten virgins in Matthew 25:1-13 teaches us that we shouldn’t settle for having “just enough.” For them it was oil for their lamps. For us it’s our connection to Jesus. It’s wonderful to know Him just enough to pray during hard times, or just enough to recall a scripture when we need encouragement. But don’t be satisfied with that alone.

    David shows an example of true relationship with God in 1 Samuel 30:6. He was incredibly distressed, and there were talks of stoning him! The verse says, “But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.” Instead of bowing to fear and becoming hysterical, David went into prayer mode to seek God for his next move. This saved his life.

    If we stay filled up on the things of God, we’ll never find ourselves running low and unable to lean on Him when we need Him most.

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    9. Don’t Downplay Giving

    Jesus Himself identifies with those who are in real need. In Matthew 25:40 He says, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” 

    Our giving is more than just a good deed. When we help those in need, we are serving Christ. But we become complacent in our giving when we limit it to our comfort zones or to the charities we deem as worthy of our gifts. Remembering that the gift is actually going to God can help us to give freely and even be radical with our generosity at times.

    If you’re already giving and helping, that’s awesome! Ask God to show you additional needs you can help meet. When we’re blessed, we should be a blessing to others, especially to “the least of these.”

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    10. Beware of Your Spiritual Enemy

    1 Peter 5:8 says to “be sober-minded, be alert. Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour.” While we don’t need to walk around in fear of the enemy, we should be mindful of his mission and his methods. Genesis 3 and Matthew 4 give us a clear picture of how he aims to deceive us.

    Perhaps one of the biggest dangers of complacency is not accepting the truth of Ephesians 6:12. "Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens.” 

    There is a spirit realm. There are unseen forces that hope to see us turn away from God. But when we are aware of this, we can grow in Christ and be victorious.

    How to Avoid Complacency

    A list of warnings from the Bible can feel daunting, but God doesn’t ask us to do anything without empowering us for the task. He gave us the Holy Spirit and walks patiently with us.

    Staying in His word helps us to recognize our shortcomings. If we find ourselves struggling in any of these areas, Hebrews 4:16 says we can “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” God is willing and able to help us uncover and eradicate all complacencies in our lives.

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    Jasmine Williams Headshot SizedJasmine Williams, founder of Built To Be, is an agent of change with a passion for Jesus and a love for family. As a wife, mom of four, homeschooler and seminary student, she knows the challenges and rewards of living purposefully for God even through life’s busy seasons. 

    Jasmine is pursuing her M.A. in Biblical Studies and seeks to inspire parents to embrace their homes as places of ministry, where they welcome God’s presence and raise children to be disciples of Christ. Visit her website, builttobe.com, and connect with her on Facebook for more encouragement.