A Proverbs Work Ethic

Have you ever noticed how many times verses in Proverbs talk about laziness?  If the book of the Bible composed of wise sayings has a lot to say about being industrious, maybe we should take note.  One thing I should point out before heading into this subject is that the author has a lot to learn in this area too.  In fact, part way though preparing to write this post, I thought maybe I’d just take a nap and work on it later!

Below I will be listing proverbs on laziness (combining references where they are essentially discussing the same thought).  Following the verse(s) will be a brief explanation of what I believe it is referring to and/or how it can be applied to our present day situation.

Proverbs 6:6-11 Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise,  which, having no captain, overseer or ruler,  provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest.  How long will you slumber, O sluggard? When will you rise from your sleep?   A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep–  So shall your poverty come on you like a prowler, and your need like an armed man.  (See also Prov. 30:25).   A couple points emerge from these verses in my mind.  First, I should have a game plan of my own to work on.  I shouldn’t use an excuse that I haven’t been directed as to a course of action because I should be self-motivated.  Also, the effects of not working can take a toll very quickly.  It doesn’t take long to drain a bank account!

Proverbs 10:5  He who gathers in summer is a wise son; he who sleeps in harvest is a son who causes shame.  We need to work while we can.  There may come a day when there will not be an opportunity to work or we won’t have the ability to do so.  Don’t put off to tomorrow what can be done today.  Old age is filled with regret for many of what could have been done, but the time is now lost.

Proverbs 12:24 The hand of the diligent will rule, but the lazy man will be put to forced labor.  We may be given the choice as to whether to work today, but some day that choice may no longer be ours and we may have to work hard to pay off debts.

Proverbs 12:27 The lazy man does not roast what he took in hunting, but diligence is man’s precious possession. (See also Prov 8:9) A lack of energy to do something with what I have on hand today may result in wasting the resources God has provided.

Proverbs 13:4 The soul of a lazy man desires, and has nothing; but the soul of the diligent shall be made rich.  Our dreams of the future are impacted by the choices we make today.

Proverbs 14:23 In all labor there is profit, but idle chatter leads only to poverty.  The saying is “Talk is cheap”.  Talking about doing something instead of doing it will not amount to anything.  Also, productive time can be wasted by talking – either in person, on the phone, or using online resources.

Proverbs 19:15  Laziness casts one into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger.  It’s amazing how quickly time can go by while engaged in idle endeavors.  We may have to sacrifice having a decent dinner because time was not spent in preparing it.  Choosing to engage in activities other than work can eventually lead to not having money to purchase food and other necessities.

Proverbs 19:24  A lazy man buries his hand in the bowl, and will not so much as bring it to his mouth again. (See also Prov 26:15)  Laziness leads to more laziness.  More time can be spent trying to evade work than doing it, even when it impacts us negatively in the end.

Proverbs 20:4 The lazy man will not plow because of winter; he will beg during harvest and have nothing.  (See also Prov 21:25)  Life has many decisions.  Sometimes we may not like doing a particular task, so it will be put off.  Procrastination can end up being costly.

Proverbs 22:13 The lazy man says, “There is a lion outside! I shall be slain in the streets!” (See also Prov 26:13)  When we want to really do something, nothing will stop us.  When we don’t want to do something, we will become very creative in our excuses.

Proverbs 24:30-34 I went by the field of the lazy man, and by the vineyard of the man devoid of understanding;  and there it was, all overgrown with thorns; its surface was covered with nettles; its stone wall was broken down.  When I saw it, I considered it well; I looked on it and received instruction:  A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest;  so shall your poverty come like a prowler, and your need like an armed man.  This analogy is easily seen in literal form every day.  Drive down the street and see a home or business that was abandoned months ago and notice the weeds that quickly take over.  It can also be seen with so many barns that have roofs that have fallen in.  A decision to not make the effort today will not be met with a truce from nature around us.  Weeds will continue to grow, termites will continue to gnaw, the dishes will pile up, and our children will go their own course.  It takes continual effort to even keep our lives in a static position, not to mention trying to make progress.

Proverbs 26:14 As a door turns on its hinges, so does the lazy man on his bed.  When a choice is made over and over to do what appeals to us rather than what needs to be done, it starts to become a way of life.  Others around us may step in and do the work that we’re avoiding.  Soon not only do we not expect to do the work, but others don’t expect anything worthwhile from us.  We define our role in life – we are a hinge that others rotate around.  It takes a conscientious effort to change our course of action and our reputation.

Proverbs 31:10-31 This lengthy portion deserves a careful pouring over.  It is the classic example of a woman who is industrious in every aspect of life.  Some may say she is stifled by the frenzied pace of constantly caring for her family.  Yet, no where do we read that she is depressed, exhausted, or envious of less active women around her.  Instead she is held in high esteem by her husband, her children, and the community that she serves.  She may go to bed tired, but she sleeps knowing she has sacrificed her “me time” for the ultimate goals all of us should have – serving God and loving our neighbors.

We all have different realms of work.  Some of us having paying jobs, some of us have families to care for, some of us volunteer in our community, and some of us serve God by bringing the Good News to our communities and the world beyond.  Frequently our lives encompass many different aspects of work.  The challenge is to see if we using the abilities that God has provided us with to the best of our potential.  Have we made “You deserve a break today” our life motto?  Instead, consider replacing it with this one from Ephesians 5:15,16 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

The God of Impossible Situations (+ FREE course)

Hello.  If you recall, a couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog post on how God uses seemingly insignificant people to accomplish His plans.  I was glad to find that this truth resonated with a lot of people.  Hopefully your faith was uplifted to believe that He can use you too, no matter how small you may feel in this world.  But what if you aren’t as much worried about how you can be useful as much as you see obstacles around you that seem insurmountable?  Should we ever see something as impossible?  Let’s look at some examples from God’s Word and find out what we can learn.

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Chosen by God

“If only I was more persuasive.  I’m not important enough to be able to accomplish this.  I don’t know enough about the subject.  They’ll never listen.  I trip over my own words.  Maybe someone else would be better….”  Moses came up with every excuse in Exodus 4 to try to convince God that he wasn’t the right person for the work God had chosen him for – leading the Israelites out of Egypt.  The trouble, however, didn’t lie in Moses’ mouth; it was in his ears.  He was so caught up in his own insecurities that he totally missed what God had said.  God had introduced Himself as the I AM.  It had nothing to do with Moses.  All power rested in God alone.  Although an onlooker would later see Moses leading the people out of Egypt, he was just a human representative.  The true Deliverer was God and He would be heading the mass as they moved from captivity to freedom.  The real question wasn’t whether Moses was capable, but was God?

Time after time God has chosen the weak to carry out His purposes.  He has used those who, for one reason or another, would be overlooked by the mainstream of society.  When I was in junior high, I dreaded gym class.  It didn’t matter if the sport of the week was basketball, tennis, or gymnastics.  I stunk at them all!  I have never made a lay-up.  I was equally talented at hitting the net with my tennis ball and lobbing my ball over the neighbor’s fence.  My final gymnastics grade depended on me doing a two minute routine.  I couldn’t do a decent somersault, let alone anything that resembled a cartwheel.  I’m convinced that the only reason I passed was because the teacher couldn’t handle me being in her class another painful year.

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Breeding Worms (aka Wasteful Living)

I have a problem…I am wasteful. No big deal, right? I mean in the scope of sins we can commit, wasting must be near the bottom. But, it is there, over and over again, in the Bible.

The first thing that comes to mind is the story of the manna. In case you don’t recall the story in Exodus 16, here’s what happened: The Children of Israel had been delivered from their Egyptian task masters by a miraculous parting of the Red Sea (chapter 14). They were elated and they expressed their joy to God by composing a song about how great His deliverance was and how the Almighty would bring them into the Promised Land (chapter 15). Their satisfaction with their delivering Savior didn’t last long.  They hadn’t been on their journey very long before they angrily complained about being hungry. They went so far as to say that they should have never left their servitude because it was better back in Egypt. Instead of punishing these insolent people, God graciously provided special small, round pieces of bread, called manna. The people were to go out of their tents and gather it every morning. The one stipulation was that they were to take a specific amount. This guaranteed that they would have enough to eat, but not more than they could consume. Of course, some tested God. They took more than they needed and ended up leaving it overnight. In the morning, their wasteful bread attracted worms and it stank.

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When You Can’t Ask For Prayer

We were racing down the runway towards liftoff, but something wasn’t quite right.  I don’t know much about planes, but I’d never felt shaking like this on any other flight I’d been on.  It felt more like I was in a truck speeding down a pot-holed dirt road than in a modern jet on a smooth runway.  I found myself clutching the arm rests with my sweaty hands while I desperately tried to see past the plane wing that was blocking my view of the ground.  What was going on?  To my relief, we finally left both the ground and the shaking behind. I continued to hold my breath as we banked into a turn, but when we leveled off and seemed no worse for the vibrations, I started to ease into normal breathing and loosened my grip.  My respite was short-lived.  The pilot’s voice came over the PA system.  He acknowledged that the sensation we’d all felt was due to a malfunction.  The tread on one of the plane’s tires had been lost.  We would continue on to our intended destination where emergency crews would be waiting to assist our landing and the process of getting to our gate.

So many thoughts were going through my mind.  Shouldn’t we turn around?  I nixed that idea, as it would still involve landing on our problematic tire.  What would happen when we landed?  Would the pilot lose control and careen off the runway?  Would the friction cause a fire?  Maybe the plane would flip over.  I quickly counted the rows to the nearest exit and squeezed the hand of my son, who was sitting next to me.

The strange thing is that no one else around me seemed to have any concern.  There were no cries, no whispers. I couldn’t even identify a panicked glance.  Everyone continued on like it was a normal flight.  The attendants served drinks.  People watched movies.  Others read books.  Was I the only one that was worried?

I realized that my fears were not productive.  Each dire possibility that entered my mind just fueled my anxiety.  I couldn’t do anything anyway.  Or could I?  I decided that it would be more constructive to use my energy to pray.  I prayed that God would protect us.  I reminded myself that He had complete control over everything that was happening.  I didn’t claim to know His purposes, but I knew whatever way this story ended, His will was perfect.    I can’t say I prayed once and then left it with God.  I prayed, prayed again, and prayed some more.  Every time the fears would well up in my mind, I’d pray again.

I so wanted to call my parents to ask them to pray for us.  They’ve been such faithful prayer partners for years.  They’ve prayed for me in so many different instances and I knew they wouldn’t hesitate to pray intensely at this time.  I reasoned that, although I couldn’t call my dad and mom while in the air, maybe I could send off a quick email alert.  I’ve never tried to email anyone while I was flying.  I tried to figure out how to connect to wifi, but had no success.  I asked my son about using data, but he was sure it wouldn’t work.  I tried anyway.  It didn’t work.  I was so frustrated.  I needed people to pray, but there was no way to ask for them to do it.

What about you?  Have you had a situation that you desperately felt needed collective prayer, but were unable to ask for it?  Maybe, like me, you were some place that prevented contact with those who could have prayed for you.  Maybe you even now have a situation that is too personal to tell anyone about.  Whatever the reason for it, I think most of us have times when we feel very alone in our situation.

I’ve been thinking about Hannah in 1 Samuel.  There we read of at least two others that knew her deepest desire – to have a child.  The first was her husband, Elkanah.  He may have been praying that the Lord would open his wife’s womb, but we are not specifically told this.  He did go yearly to worship and offer sacrifices, but we don’t know if these actions were accompanied by prayer for his wife.  He seemed resigned to her plight.  The other person in the ‘know’ was Peninnah, Elkanah’s other wife.  It is doubtful that Hannah found a prayer partner in her, since this ‘other woman’ seemed intent on taunting her. The surprising thing is that Hannah didn’t even seem to ask the priest to pray for her when she went to the tabernacle to pray.  If she had, Eli wouldn’t have mistaken her silent prayers for drunkenness.  I think both Hannah’s lack of reliance on the priest and his reaction to her showed just how far the priests were at this time from fulfilling their God-given role of intercessor.

When we encounter a need in our life that we are not able to share around the prayer circles, what are we to do?  Do we despair because we are in this on our own?  I think the key is understanding we aren’t alone.  Over and over again in the Bible, God reminded people that they weren’t facing circumstances by themselves.  Do you think that these verses have an asterisk  that sets you apart from this promise?

Fear thou not; for I am with thee:
be not dismayed; for I am thy God:
I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee;
yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.  Isaiah 49:10

Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.  Joshua 1:9

Yea, though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil:
for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.  Psalm 23:4

I sought the Lord, and he heard me,
and delivered me from all my fears.  Psalm 34:4

 

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying we shouldn’t ask others to pray for us and with us when we’re able to do this.  I strongly believe that God has allowed people to intervene on my behalf through prayer.  I’m sure that only Heaven will reveal the many times people have prayed and God has hearkened to their cry.  But I also don’t think that God is impotent in His own strength.  He doesn’t coldly wait to react only if a certain number of prayers reach Him.  He loves us and He is all powerful to orchestrate any plan that is in His will – all…by…Himself.

Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear:  Psalm 59:1

 

Dear friend, if you are in a place today where your burdens feel like they are borne by you alone, look up!  God knows all about your circumstances, even if no one else does.    He will carry your burdens for you, if you’ll only let Him.

Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.  Psalm 55:22

 

 

 

Pineapple Tidbits

Hey everyone,

We just returned from a lovely vacation to Maui.  It was our first time on this island and it definitely had the “WOW! factor” everyone had told us about.  What do you think of when you think of an island vacation?   I suspect most people would immediately dream of relaxing on a beach chair and soaking up some rays.  If that is your idea of an exotic holiday, I will warn you never to travel with us!  We don’t ever lay out on the beach for the following reasons:  (1) Other than our daughter, none of my family were born with an ability to produce a tan.  The rest of us start working on our sunburn on the walk from the car to the hotel.  We plaster sunscreen on every exposed inch of skin, wear hats and sunglasses – and still we burn.  I actually freckle and burn.  My only hope of ever returning from a trip with dark skin is if my many freckles coalesce together some day!  (2) We want to see the sights unique to the area we are traveling through.  I feel like it would be a shame if we returned from Maui and all we could say was “we saw the sun”.  Granted, sun can be in short supply in Michigan, but if I want to get burned, I can lay out on a chair in my backyard and look at the same sun.  (3) I hate sand!  A couple of times I took my children to the beach when they were younger because I felt like it was a motherly sort of thing to do.  It might have been fine, if we could have ignored the sunburn pain, but there still would have been the SAND.  Ugh!  It finds its way into everything.  We’d always come away with it lodged in our eyes, ears, mouth (that after-the-dentist feeling), hair, clothing, and towels.  I’m pretty sure the beaches around here were a little lower from the erosive effect our family’s presence had.  The sand would then continue to show up for the next week at our house.

So now that you’ve made a mental note never to join us and expect a relaxing vacation, let me tell you about one thing we did on Maui (while avoiding the beach scene) – we went on a tour of a pineapple plantation.  There I learned a number of things about pineapple and had a chance to eat pineapple right in the field.  I really enjoy fresh pineapple, but I’ve never had really fresh pineapple before.  It was so much sweeter than any I’ve ever eaten before.

Here are some of the things I learned about pineapple growing: Continue reading

Being an Agreeable Person

I’ve been musing over some Bible verses lately.  Although some are almost humorous, all are essentially convicting.  These verses address the question ‘What am I like to be around?’  Unless you are stranded on a deserted island, you likely interact with others on a daily basis.  You may or may not live with someone, but you come into contact with people at work, at the store, on the road, at church, and/or at school every day.  Let’s look at what the book of Proverbs says.

Proverbs 13:15 – A fool’s wrath is presently known: but a prudent man covereth shame.  When something angers me, I seethe and stew it over in my mind.  As I mull it over, I dwell on the injustice of the matter.  How dare they!  I nurture my victim status in my mind.  I formulate what I should say (or have said) to set the other person straight.  Modern therapists would tell you not to hold it in.  Venting your anger is much healthier.  I can tell you that once I let my anger emerge from my mouth, I initially feel good, but in the end hurting someone else doesn’t solve the problem and often I live to regret my words.  Time may heal the relationship, but you can never retrieve the words you release. Continue reading