When we look at the book of Proverbs, it’s instructive that it addresses the peril of laziness more than the virtue of work. The problem of being lazy comes up more than the benefits of working hard. The hand of the diligent is far more profitable than the lazy. Wisdom literature is a corpus of information meant to teach the naive and simple, primarily because the mocker and the fool won’t listen. It’s self-evident that you wouldn’t need to discuss how important work is. Instead, you need to talk to the sluggard, the lazy person, the indolent person, and the person unwilling to work.
Verses Mentioned in This Sermon
Proverbs 6:6 Go to the ant, O sluggard, Observe her ways and be wise.
Proverbs 6:9 How long will you lie down, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep?
Proverbs 10:4-5 Poor is he who works with a negligent hand, But the hand of the diligent makes rich. He who gathers in summer is a son who acts wisely, But he who sleeps in harvest is a son who acts shamefully.
Proverbs 13:4 The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, But the soul of the diligent is made fat.
Proverbs 15:19 The way of the lazy is a hedge of thorns, But the oath of the upright is a highway.
Proverbs 19:15 Laziness casts into a deep sleep, And an idle man will suffer hunger.
Proverbs 24:30 I passed by the field of the sluggard And by the vineyard of the man lacking sense, And behold, it was completely overgrown with thistles; Its surface was covered with nettles, And its stone wall was broken down.
1 Samuel 2:7 The Lord makes poor and rich; He brings low, He also exalts.
Proverbs 23:4 Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, Cease from your consideration of it.
2 Thessalonians 3:7-10 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you; not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example… if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.
The Warning of Laziness (Proverbs 6:6-11)
Sluggard is used 14 times in Proverbs, but only in Proverbs. The same applies to the word poverty, used 11 times only in Proverbs. Why? We’re talking to the naive and the simple who need to understand something. You’re talking to people willing to learn, not the mocker.
Sluggard is a complex term. It’s not just your teenager who sleeps until noon, but the idea of a sluggard is an undisciplined person who lacks initiative and, more technically, a moral failure. This person is a fraud and deceptive. The sluggard is a bane to society. As to the social aspect of the vice of laziness, a lazy person is a repugnant creature.
The sluggard can learn a lot from the ants. From creation and all it contains, the Lord has fixed an order, even down to a minuscule ant. Beyond their “clean up” role, they serve many ecological functions. But here, from the wisdom of God, they teach a lesson in labor, in work, in preparation for the time when it will be harder to stockpile. The sluggard lies down, sleeps, slumbers, and rests… resulting in poverty. The obvious point is that the ant is inherently wise. God created this tiny insect to function for the greater good and its own protection. The ant is efficient and diligent, defends its colony and property, and is anything but lazy.
The Hand of The Diligent Makes Rich (Proverbs 10:4-5)
An unwillingness to work will lead to poverty, period. However, diligence will make you rich. God blessed people in the Old Testament. He blessed Abraham. He blessed people who were faithful with several things. If you grew vineyards, your crops would be bountiful. If you had kids, you’d have a lot of kids. In antiquity, having a lot of children equated to wealth.
American wealth is bigger, better, newer, more. For the believer in Jesus Christ, American wealth needs to be parsed very carefully. We are always stewards, never owners. You give to the Lord first. Then you live on what you have. And over time, it works, even when the economy goes up and down. So, if you’re a good steward, it will work in God’s great kindness and He will care for you. Wealth is achieved by diligence, but conversely, it’s not a vice.
The Importance and Dignity of Work
The New Testament bears out similar teaching in 2 Thessalonians 3:7-10. Paul consistently uses himself as an example. His life, and that of his disciples, were not undisciplined; they paid their way, labored, and even worked day and night when needed. Paul was trained as a tent maker, rightly thinking of leather working and likely working with weaving goat hair, a trade associated with his home region of Cilicia.
He did not act entitled. He didn’t come in and say, “I’m the apostle, and I’m planting churches based on Christ’s commission, and you need to pay my way.” And interestingly, he writes about churches caring for their elders with double pay. Because, in those days, that was a full-time job. If anyone is not willing to work, they shouldn’t eat. You don’t bludgeon your children with this, but it is a lesson for you. Fathers have more power for good and influence in your children’s lives than you understand. And if you’re letting your wife do it all by herself, shame on you. Help her.
Lessons of The Text
“The reward of work is not the end of work, but the work itself.” – Joseph Easley.
How much you’re willing to work changes as a believer in Christ. So, whatever you do, do it as unto the Lord. That should be more dignifying than anything. You’re working for Him. He cares about what we do. So whether you’re a teacher, a doctor, or a CEO, whatever you do, you open that computer in the morning and say it’s unto the Lord—every breath.
Catch up on the rest of the Proverbs series here.
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