The Case For Diligence
Topic: Wisdom Passage: Proverbs 13:14–14, Proverbs 6:6–11
Everybody says they like practical Bible teaching….I hope everybody still feels that way after this message. Because we are going to talk very practically about work and laziness!
In the book of Proverbs God calls us to the wisdom of work and warns us against the foolishness of laziness. We are to be diligent workers... NOT sluggards.
When we talk about work and laziness we are NOT talking only about having a job – you know, someplace you go and put in your 8 hours. These Proverbs are teaching us a manner or life, a way of approaching EVERYTHING we do. Of course one application, might be to go get a job. And certainly it does apply to HOW we do work at work, and how we do our work at home. It applies to our projects, our relationships and responsibilities in church, our walk with God, ANYTHING God sets before us that needs to get done!
Laziness in Proverbs is avoiding work. Simply NOT doing the thing that needs to be done! The word is also translated slothfulness, or sluggishness. And the lazy person is called the sluggard, or slow moving person.
Proverbs 20:4 says, “The sluggard does not plow in the autumn, he will seek at harvest and have nothing.” He is like a farmer who never gets around to plowing and planting crops, so he ends up with no food. He doesn’t do the work needed to prepare for the future.
Laziness in proverbs is contrasted with righteousness! 15:19 “The way of a sluggard is like a hedge of thorns. But the path of the upright is like a level highway.” Laziness is a sinful tendency to overcome, to rule over! Work is upright, good!
When Sabrina was a young girl, she came to Grama’s house on Thursdays with the other grandkids. One day Cindy said, “Let’s all go outside and do some yard work. Sabrina got this serious frown on her face and said, Grama, “Did you say ‘hard work?!”. Like that would be really terrible.
But actually we should see work as something good, it is a gift of God. We reflect God’s image when we work! In the beginning God took nothing and made the heavens and the earth out of it. He “worked” for 6 days then rested. God entrusted the earth to Adam to tend and cultivate it, to rule over it, to keep things in order, and well ran. We inherited that responsibility, because are made in the image of God. Work is being like God; it is being godly!
So when Christ saved you and put His Spirit inside of you, He began to transform you into a wholehearted worker! Col. 3:23 “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.” This was such an important lessons for Christians that Paul said, “we worked day and night”... “in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example.” 2 Thes. 3:9 NASB Some new believers there were NOT working and as part of Paul’s discipleship program, he taught them to be workers!
One of the most important things dads and moms have to do is to teach their children how to be workers! How to work gladly! And without mumbling!!
***Instead of being sluggish or lazy, God calls us to be diligent. That word means steady, determined work. It is highly commended in Proverbs! 21:5 “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance.” Proverbs 12:27 NASB “A lazy man does not roast his prey, But the precious possession of a man is diligence.”
Diligence means just doing plain old work! Doing a job. Getting things done. Putting forth effort! For example, the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31 She “works with willing hands”. “She rises while it is still night”. “She makes linen garments”. “With the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.” “She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.”
Diligence keeps an eye on the future. Instead of being like the sluggard who won’t even plow or plant his field. The diligent person works to be ready for what is coming. It applies to studying for a test, working to save up for a future need. It applies to working now to lay up eternal treasure in heaven. Jesus said, “We must work while it is day, for the night is coming when no man can work.”
Diligence is the way we approach everything in life, including our life in the Spirit. Peter said “Be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.” 2 Peter 3:14. Paul said, “Epaphrus always labors earnestly for you in his prayers.”. In Romans 16 Paul greeted women who “worked hard in the Lord”. He called many brothers “fellow workers”. Many who do work hard in school, sports or business have never considered working for God and his people. When the Holy Spirit comes upon us, he gives us an appetite and energy for the Lord’s work!
Being diligent doesn’t mean we have to be busy all the time. Or that we are to be workaholics, who can’t come home or don’t know how to relax. Adequate sleep and rest are good gifts of God to be enjoyed. But the sluggard in Proverbs indulges in sleep, and loves ease and pleasure to the point of failing to get up and get things done that need to be done!
As usual Proverbs combines two opposite ways of life and spells out blessing for one and disaster for the other. 13:4 “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.” Steady work leads to satisfaction, needs being met, riches and honor. But laziness leads to lack, dissatisfaction, poverty, bringing shame to your parents, your life and things in your life falling apart.
*Let’s start with the painful consequences of laziness in Proverbs. These are to make you fear being lazy, and turn away from it!
-First: Laziness leads to poverty.
6:9-11 “How long will you lie there, O sluggard?
When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.”
Money just doesn’t roll in. Hard work is God’s appointed method to have your needs met. 2 points here: Laziness is like being robbed, it has the same effect! It makes you poor. And poverty will over-power you like an armed man.
-Second: Laziness let’s other people down. It makes their life harder; it irritates them. 10:26 – “Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to those who send him.” Anybody who has worked with a lazy co-worker will say amen to that verse. The person who doesn’t show up, or help, or follow through, or has to be asked over and over to do something, creates more work and pain for others. So the lazy person often loses friends and the respect of others.
-Third: Laziness brings shame to others. 10:5 “He who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame.” The context clearly means shame to your father and mother. It can also bring shame to a wife and family. My Aunt Ethel’s husband drank a lot and didn’t provide for his family. Even as a young boy I remember visiting Aunt Ethel’s home in Baraboo, WI and feeling her sense of embarrassment.
-Fourth: The lazy person destroy things. 18:9 “Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys.” Everything in life tends toward chaos and decay. Your garden, your house, your car... Simply by NOT working hard to keep things up, you destroy things.
24:30 “I passed by the field of a sluggard, by the vineyard of a man lacking sense, and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns; the ground was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down.”
Ecclesiastes 10:18 “Through laziness, the rafters sag; because of idle hands, the house leaks.” Can we have an excessive concern with things in this world? Yes! But on the other hand it does not honor God to NOT take care of stuff. Years ago we built a house for a man who lived next door to a Christian, on staff at a local church. This man gave me an earful about how this Christian did not take care of his stuff, his yard was full of junk and he was angry about it.
-Fifth: Laziness makes for a hard and painful life. 15:19 “The way of a sluggard is like a hedge of thorns. But the path of the upright is like a level highway.” One translation says the way of the lazy person is “filled with sorrows”. A simple observation shows you that. Avoiding work does not make your life easier!
-Sixth: Laziness leads to dissatisfaction: 13:4 “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.” The lazy person desires things but his desires are frustrated. His soul is dissatisfied, unhappy. Well known psychological fact that lack of work goes hand in hand with depression. Part of that comes from just NOT doing anything, and some comes from wants and needs piling up that are not fulfilled.
*The blessings of diligence:
-First: Wealth Proverbs 10:4 “the hand of the diligent makes rich.” God honors diligence! He prospers the diligent! Are there are verses in the Bible that warn of the dangers of riches? Yes! But the Bible also teaches that, when gained through honest hard work, money can be a great blessing from the Lord! Proverbs 10:22 “It is the blessing of the Lord that makes rich and he adds no sorrow to it”.
God may bless you financially through some unexpected way, but normally he blesses you through diligence. You don’t get rich by giving your money to a TV evangelist, or by naming and claiming a million dollars. God does respond to prayer and faith for our finances. But wealth from God normally comes through persistent, determined steady work.
-Second: Through diligence your needs are met. 12:11 “Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread.” That may sound like the same thing as wealth, but the emphasis here is NOT on wealth but on having what you need, having enough to eat, etc. Again, if you have a need, don’t immediately turn to something other than work to meet that need.
-Third blessing of diligence: Promotion 12:24 “The hand of the diligent will rule.” No matter where you work, if you work hard, show up every day, finish your responsibilities, you likely be promoted! Diligence also opens the door to God’s favor. Gen. 39 “The warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.” Joseph obviously took care of his responsibilities. And God promoted him. Diligence and promotion from God go hand in hand.
-Fourth: Satisfaction 13:4 The soul of the diligent is richly supplied. Work brings satisfaction and increased happiness! Part of the satisfaction comes from just working! We are meant to rule and take responsibility over God’s creation and our own lives. Our needs are met, our soul is satisfied through diligence.
*Symptoms of laziness to watch out for:
-First: Have trouble starting or finishing your work.
14:23 “In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.” The lazy person can talk about a project but can’t ever get started doing it.
12:27 “Whoever is slothful will not roast his game,” If he catches something to eat, he won’t make the effort to cook it. If he has food to eat he won’t make the effort to eat it. 19:24 “The sluggard buries his hand in the dish and will not even bring it back to his mouth.” These are exaggerations to illustrate the tendency of the lazy to start but not finish!
This doesn’t mean you can never quit anything. But beware of a pattern of not getting things done. A relative of mine and her husband built a home which came in components, and then they were to do the on-site work. The husband was all excited about the project at the beginning but then just dropped it. For years and years they lived in an unfinished mess. That resulted in a lot of marriage strife and I believe was a key factor in getting divorced.
-Second symptom: The lazy person is not disciplined in sleep or getting up in the morning. This is the most emphasized symptom of laziness in Proverbs! 26:14 “As a door turns on its hinges, so does a sluggard on his bed.” What a word picture! He wakes up, turns over and goes back to sleep, wakes up….” Of course we need to get enough sleep. But just like with everything, we need self-control in sleep.
You have to get out of bed to take care of your family, to get to school or work, to make it to church, to do your morning exercise, or to read your Bible. We have to wake up to pray! Jesus confronted his disciples for their lethargy in the garden. “Could you not watch and pray with me for one hour?”
20:13 Love not sleep, lest you come to poverty;
open your eyes, and you will have plenty of bread.
6:9 How long will you lie there, O sluggard?
When will you arise from your sleep?
19:15 Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep,
-Third symptom: The lazy person always has an excuse for not working, for not getting out of bed or not getting out of the house. 26:13 The sluggard says, “There is a lion in the road! There is a lion in the streets!” The lazy person exaggerates problems, and fears and always has a reason for staying home.
-Fourth symptom of the lazy: A kind of stubborn pride. 26:16 “The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly.” Often those whose lives are in shambles, are the least willing to receive counsel.
So we need to beware of any of these patterns creeping into our lives. The best time to fight the tendencies of laziness is now. Young..
So...How do we become a more diligent person?
First: Look at the illustrations in people and the animal kingdom! And learn! Proverbs 6:6 “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!” Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.” The lesson from the ant is to be diligent without having to be forced into it. Take initiative!
Watch a bird build a nest. Watch someone work hard and it’s beautiful. Watch a mother at work with her children!
-Second: Learn from watching the painful lives of sluggards. 24:30-34 “I passed by the field of a sluggard, by the vineyard of a man lacking sense, and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns; the ground was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down. Then I saw and considered it; I looked and received instruction.” You don’t have to feel proud or self-righteous, BUT you should learn to NOT be like people you see who don’t work.
-Believe in the future rewards of being diligent. 21:5 “the plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance.” God said that! We do work now, believing that God is right about work paying off.
This applies to all labor! But including our work in the kingdom! Paul said, “Therefore be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain!”
This motivation carries us through to the end of life. The American Dream says, work, build up your retirement, then pursue your own pleasures, consider yourself on one uninterrupted vacation for the rest of your life. But as one pastor asked, “what happens when God calls us go give an account for the last 20 years of our lives!”
For as long as we can, we keep abounding in the work of the Lord, because we know that produces eternal reward!”
The teaching before us this morning is certainly a warning and a strong exhortation. But it is also an encouragement, to know that diligence pleases God. God is not only pleased with things like Bible reading or singing, he is pleased when you work. Your work, ALL of it (doing dishes, getting up with the kids at night) can be done for the Lord, or as unto the Lord. There was an NBA player who said, “I don’t go out on the floor to work, I go there to worship.” I think he was a Muslim. But Christians are commanded to think like that. We work as unto the Lord. And God accepts our work as worship!