The book of Proverbs has a lot to say about “work.” Now, I can hear the groans out there. I know sometimes work really does feel like a four-letter word. Work can be stressful, painful, and tiresome. But work can also be fulfilling and enjoyable. Not to mention it is usually necessary to provide for your family.
God ordained work way back in the Garden of Eden. Before the fall – before Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit – God put man in the garden to “work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15). Work is part of our God-given purpose. Like everything else in life, sin has warped it and made it more difficult at times, but God’s plan for us still includes work. And God’s plan is perfect!
Proverbs helps us understand how God wants us to view and approach work. Proverbs equates diligence and hard work with wisdom and godliness. In contrast, the book describes the lazy person as foolish and lacking in wisdom.
Since Proverbs repeatedly contrasts the hard worker with the lazy, let’s do that here. From what I found in God’s wisdom book, I’ve summarized a description, warnings, and results for both below.
Description of the diligent, godly worker:
- Thoughtfully plans ahead and saves for the future
- Wise in financial dealings; does not co-sign loans for friends
- Honors God with His work and money
- Helps the poor
- Takes initiative
- Generous with her money
- Trusts in God, not in her money
Warnings for the godly worker:
- Don’t be stingy; help the poor or you will lose everything
- Don’t try to take shortcuts or engage in “get rich quick” schemes; this leads to poverty
- Don’t trust in wealth. It is fleeting
- Riches won’t help on the Day of Judgment
Results of hard work:
- Will be a leader
- Prosperity from God
- Security for the future
- Bring honor to God
- Enjoy a good reputation
Description of the lazy fool:
- Idles away her time
- Greedy and stingy
- All talk, no work
- Schemes ways to “get rich quick”
- Rests and sleeps too much
- Fails to consider the future
- Full of excuses
Warnings for the lazy:
- Don’t work only when someone is watching you
- Don’t be greedy. You are setting a trap for yourself.
- Hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.
Results of laziness:
- She will cause pain to employer
- She will go hungry
- She will live in poverty
- She will bring shame on herself
As I read through Proverbs looking for God’s wisdom about work, two related passages really impacted me. They help us put hard work in the right perspective. Yes, we are to work hard, earn money to care for our family, and plan for the future. But, we must keep money and our relationship with God in their proper places.
The name of the LORD is a strong fortress; the godly run to him and are safe. The rich think of their wealth as an impregnable defense; they imagine it is a high wall of safety. Proverbs 18:10-11, NLT
Work hard to provide for yourself and your family, help those in need, and bring honor to God. But be careful not to trust in your wealth. It can be gone in a moment. Trust in God. He is your strong tower of defense.
Realizing this truth, the wise Agur recorded a prayer that I’d like to offer as our prayer today:
Give me neither poverty or riches! Give me just enough to satisfy my needs. For if I grow rich I may deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name. Proverbs 30:8b-9, NLT
May we do all our work as to the Lord, be secure in our future, but depend completely on Him.
Let’s talk: Are there characteristics of “laziness” that you struggle with? What “wise worker” characteristics do you need to ask God to grow in you?