... a guest by my sister and brother-in-law, and over the course of my weekend visit he asked me several times to do very trivial things, ...
It's a bit of a toss-up as to whether the guest is waited upon or does chores to earn their keep.
Other factors are do they always have you over to the rich part of town and stuff you with the finest food while reclining in luxury, while people don't visit you because you live in a small place with a lousy view - it's tough to balance what we don't know, nor how you expect it to be decided.
Is it your good fortune that he married your sister or is he just a useless idiot - why do you visit there if they are like that?
It depends on the customs of the location (I presume it's Israel), which can include many factors unknown to outsiders; since you haven't provided any information we'll presume that you want a generic and unbiased answer.
two issues that bothered me:
- His laziness. For the same price that I had to get up, he could have gotten up. It's not like it was right next to me and I could just toss it to him; I had to do the same "work" that he would've had to do.
Would it be exactly the "same" work - Example: You could grab the paper nearer to you and walk four steps while he would have had to walk around all the furniture and then walk back - 8 steps for you or 16 steps for him.
That doesn't mean that he shouldn't have gotten up and got it himself regardless, just wondering about the measuring and your desire to be so polite while he is rude and lazy (as you describe it).
Is he programmed to be like that and you are programmed to accept abuse in silence?
- The frequency. I can understand if this happened once, but this happened several times a night.
Agreed. Once is no big deal but a bad habit is not something you should support, especially if it affects you negatively. How often, over what, etc. - all things you need to gauge for yourself (and I won't be roped into playing 50 questions) - it really comes down to your ultimate question ...
I would have liked to say no, for the above two reasons, but I felt it might come across as rude, after all "it's just a newspaper, how hard can it be to bring it to him!"
It depends on how difficult it is for him to do it himself - do you ask him to do stuff, how about asking him to do it himself.
How could I have gracefully refused to do it, without coming across as rude?
Say you don't feel like getting up right now, you'll do it later ...
Explain that you like the way he does it (gets up and gets it himself) and you'd like to see it again.
Say you don't want to do his work, he's such a great guy that you don't want the neighbors to think he's lazy.
All of those are positive and some are complimentary ...
You can avoid all that by simply not visiting, explain to your sister why; she's likely to tell him.
The "better" (unwanted) advice is to be rude, make an incident out of it to guarantee he pays the price and doesn't repeat the behavior; why should your manhood be downtrodden, stand up for yourself.
Only you can measure it exactly, on the fly, and you'll have to live with the consequences - If you don't slave for him will he divorce your sister and send her back to live with you ... is that good or bad ...
What is your risk / reward - why do you accept that you must be the better person and not teach him some manners (yet we strangers must debate manners with you)? You don't have to be too polite.