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.