“He who has a slack hand becomes poor, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. He who gathers in summer is a wise son; he who sleeps in harvest is a son who causes shame” (Proverbs 10:4-5).
When Adam and Eve sinned, God told Adam, “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return (Genesis 3:19)." Ever since then, man has worked and sweated for his bread. How do I feel about having to work? How do I view my job and the labor I do for my employer?
For many, “work” is a dirty word. They hate the idea of having to work. As the opening verses above indicate, such an attitude leads to poverty and shame. Proverbs is filled with warnings about having the wrong attitude towards work. For example, the wise man warns us about loving sleep instead of wanting to work: “Do not love sleep, lest you come to poverty; open your eyes, and you will be satisfied with bread” (Proverbs 20:13). Again we are warned about loving pleasure instead of valuing a good day of work: “He who loves pleasure will be a poor man; He who loves wine and oil will not be rich” (Proverbs 21:17). It is comical how Proverbs describes the lazy man who doesn’t want to work: “The lazy man says, ‘There is a lion in the road! A fierce lion is in the streets!’ As a door turns on its hinges, so does the lazy man on his bed. The lazy man buries his hand in the bowl; it wearies him to bring it back to his mouth. The lazy man is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly” (Proverbs 26:13-16). Do you know anyone like this?
On the other hand, Proverbs speaks much about how one should view labor and work. Over and over again we are encouraged to be diligent: “Be diligent to know the state of your flocks, and attend to your herds” (Proverbs 27:23). This is because such an attitude and ambition brings much the blessings of plenty and wealth: “The soul of a lazy man desires, and has nothing; But the soul of the diligent shall be made rich” (Proverbs 13:4). “The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, but those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty” (Proverbs 21:5). This does not mean one should trust in riches. Wealth is a tool that can be used to do much good as well as providing for our families. In addition, material prosperity prevents one from having to be slave to those to whom he is indebted: “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7).
While encouraging diligence, God does warn against being unscrupulous in an effort to get rich: “Better is the poor who walks in his integrity than one perverse in his ways, though he be rich” (Proverbs 28:6). In addition, the wise man also warns against becoming a “workaholic” in an effort to get rich: “Do not overwork to be rich; because of your own understanding, cease! Will you set your eyes on that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away like an eagle toward heaven” (Proverbs 23:4-5).
Today, I will strive to have the right attitude towards my work. I will guard against laziness because it brings trouble and poverty. I will endeavor to put in an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay and thus honor God and provide for my family: “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” (Proverbs 6:6-11).
“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” (Colossians 3:23).