Diligence and Laziness

Today’s devotional reading focuses on the differences between diligence and laziness. Several Proverbs enjoin us in diligence in our work lives. Two of the representative passages are:

 

Proverbs 12:27

A lazy man doesn’t roast his game,

but to a diligent man, his wealth is precious.

 

Proverbs 13:11

Wealth obtained by fraud will dwindle,

but whoever earns it through labor will multiply it.

 

Work is a gift from God, given to us for several reasons. When we work well we glorify God. When we work well we provide for our families, and, according to Scripture, our neighbors. When we work wisely we pattern ourselves after our God who created all things in 6 days and rested on the seventh (Genesis 2:1-2). Gaining wealth (our income, savings, and assets) is not un-biblical. In fact, God gives us those abilities so that we can then do everything else with it listed above.

 

Our greed and anxiety turn our work into a vice. We may gain wealth, and then refuse to be generous, or to be attentive to God’s commands for giving and the support of his kingdom. In these cases we misuse the gift of work and the fruit it gives us.

 

On the other hand, laziness is an abuse of the time and talents God gives us. Two of the passages for today are:

 

Proverbs 26:14-16

14 A door turns on its hinges,

and a slacker, on his bed.

15 The slacker buries his hand in the bowl;

he is too weary to bring it to his mouth.

16 In his own eyes, a slacker is wiser

than seven men who can answer sensibly.

 

Proverbs 15:19

A slacker’s way is like a thorny hedge,

but the path of the upright is a highway.

 

What vivid imagery! A slacker (one of the reoccurring characters in Proverbs) is given a bowl of food but lacks the sense to raise his hand to his mouth. Some people are given jobs and lack the sense to even show up, much less strive to do well. In their book, The Gospel at Work, Traeger and Gilbert warn us against two extremes in terms of the Christian avoiding both the “idolatry of work” and “idleness at work”.

 

The follower of Jesus Christ can view their work as a gift, given by God to accomplish all kinds of amazing things for creation, family and friends, and the kingdom of God. As a result, we can learn to honor our work while honoring worship and Sabbath as well.

The Way of Wisdom

SolomonThe book of Proverbs is different. It reads differently than any other book in the Old or New Testament. Its content is unique. Its style is unfamiliar. Its structure seems random (or non-existent). But despite its unique character, there is a quality about the book that draws us to it. It contains a level of practicality for life that is refreshing, though sometimes obscure. Its short, memorable sayings are useful reminders of God’s desire for how we ought to receive his instruction and move well through life’s circumstances.

Proverb’s appeal, however, goes beyond its stylistic and thematic nature. It can be helpful to consider the character development of a few different actors we encounter throughout the book. As we read, we should ask ourselves, “Which character am I?”

The Wise

The person who is most highly praised throughout the book is the one who listens to the words of wisdom and enacts them in the right situations. Wisdom is more than simply knowing the right information; it is knowing how and when to employ information and experiential knowledge in the situations we may encounter in life. Wisdom in Proverbs especially relates to the ethical dimension of our lives and how we follow God by doing what is right, just, and fair. The opening verses of Proverbs reveal that true wisdom only comes from a proper relationship of reverence and worship of God. If a person diligently pursues the wisdom that comes from God, he or she will be equipped and empowered to “navigate life well” (as Tremper Longman defines wisdom in How to Read Proverbs). It is a worthwhile pursuit!

Proverbs 1:2-7

 For learning wisdom and discipline;

for understanding insightful sayings;

 for receiving prudent instruction

in righteousness, justice, and integrity;

 for teaching shrewdness to the inexperienced,

knowledge and discretion to a young man—

 let a wise person listen and increase learning,

and let a discerning person obtain guidance—

 for understanding a proverb or a parable,

the words of the wise, and their riddles.

  The fear of the LORD

is the beginning of knowledge;

fools despise wisdom and discipline.

The Fool

The foolish person, on the other hand, is completely opposed to everything that wisdom stands for — verse 7 above says they “despise wisdom and discipline.” The fool is often connected with wickedness, as every ethical quality of wisdom is discarded for its opposite. They are often antagonistic to true Godly wisdom, and this category reaches its climax when they stand up as a “mocker” to decry the way of the wise and admonish a wicked society. 

Proverbs 14:7-8   

Stay away from a foolish person;

you will gain no knowledge from his speech.

The sensible person’s wisdom is to consider his way,

but the stupidity of fools deceives them.

The Simple 

While the wise and the fool are more or less set in their ways, the simple (or “gullible”) are still in process. They are young, naïve, and impressionable. They are easily swayed this way and that, and their natural inclination is often to follow the way of the fool. 

Proverbs 1:22

“How long will you who are simple love your simple ways?

How long will mockers delight in mockery 

and fools hate knowledge? 

Proverbs 8:5

You who are simple, gain prudence;

you who are foolish, set your hearts on it.

Proverbs 14:15   

The inexperienced one believes anything,

but the sensible one watches his steps.

The book of Proverbs is valuable for anyone who desires to grow in God’s wisdom, but if there is one group of people the book is especially relevant for, it is the young and simple who are sitting on the edge between wisdom and foolishness. The first nine chapters of the book are structured differently than the last 20+ chapters. It reads as instruction from a father to his son (who is simple — young, naïve, impressionable, moldable). The father presents a path before his son to follow and recognizes that along the path, his son will face considerable opposition and significant choices. The father’s responsibility is to teach his son to choose the way of wisdom and to avoid the allure of folly. 

As you read through Proverbs, ask yourself which group you belong to, but do not stop at its application for your own life and how you can navigate it with wisdom. Move your gaze to those who are in your care and influence, and consider how you can pass along wise instruction to those who have the chance to turn away from foolishness and embrace God’s wisdom. 

What God Hates

Proverbs 6:16 says, “The Lord hates six things; in fact, seven are detestable to Him”. Here the author uses a device known as a “numerical ladder” in which the point is to show that this is not an exhaustive list. In essence, he is saying, “Here are six things God hates, no, I could keep going, here’s a seventh thing, and this list could continue on!”

Hate is a strong word. In fact, most of us have been taught to avoid using the word. Does God really hate certain things? Look closely at this list, and the other verses in your devotion (Pr 10:29, 11:1, 17:15, 21:27, 28:9), and you will see that God hates actions and attitudes that do not line up with his character. In our main text, Proverbs 6:16-19, we are given a list of seven things God hates. The purpose of a list like this (and other statements about what God hates) is to help us understand the character and nature of God, especially in those areas where we often get it wrong. To aid us in understanding what this list communicates to us about God, it can be helpful to consider the converse of each point.

Things God Hates Things God Loves
arrogant ambition humility
deceptive speech truthful speech
killing innocent people preservation of life
hearts that plot evil pure thoughts
enthusiastic involvement in activities that harm others eagerness to do good things
false witness honest witness
dissension peaceful harmony

If we want to be like God, we must learn both to love what he loves and hate what he hates. To love peaceful harmony is not enough. I will use the analogy of an Olympic athlete to illustrate my point. To become an Olympic champion, it is not enough to simply do all the things that Olympic champions do. I could swim every day, eat healthy food, and generally repeat all the behaviors I see champion swimmers do, but that will not make me like them. I can eat as much healthy food as I should, but if I supplement it with milkshakes and donuts, I am not gaining the full benefits of a healthy diet. Doing what champion swimmers do is not enough, I must also stay away from the things champion swimmers stay away from.

Proverbs could have simply said, “Here is what God loves, do this!” Instead, we learn more about the character of God and the expectations of righteousness, along with the condition of our hearts, when it puts it this way: “Here is what the human heart naturally wants to do, but if you want to be like God, you must resist these behaviors and attitudes!” We are encouraged to destroy the areas in our own hearts where we desire things contrary to who God is, to hate what he hates.

My prayer for you today is that God would reveal the areas in your heart where you love what you should hate, and that you would ask him to transform your heart to more closely align with his.

Seven Hatreds of GodThe Seven Hatreds of God – W.W. Thompson

On Starting a Devotional

ProverbsHRT_WEB_0002_2_1024x1024We have all done it – started something new like a devotional series with every intention of making a habit of it, and then found ourselves quickly failing at what we started. We had good intentions, but simply did not make it very far.

This happens often enough for all of us, but I think there are some things we can keep in mind as we begin that can help us stick through to the end. And more than that, I can help make a short-term devotional into a greater habit of reading and absorbing the Word of God.

To help us all, here are some things to keep in mind as we begin.

Vision

I need to have a personal vision of the value of the devotional before I begin if it is going to stick. We can tell you it will be good for you (and it will), but until you have worked through your own reasons and “owned” them, it will be harder to complete a one-month devotional. If you can recall the last big project you successfully completed, you will be able to detail the reasons why that was important enough for you to go through the effort/expense/time/sacrifice to get it done.

It may be worthwhile to begin by listing your own reasons for why doing this devotional will be profitable. Your reasons will probably overlap with the ones we talk about as a church, but if they are yours, they will help the project stick. Maybe you have been out of the habit of Scripture reading for a while and need a kick-start. Maybe your reading has been dry of late and you need some fresh material. Maybe you sense a need to be in a better relationship with Christ for the sake of your family or work. Whatever it is, make it your own and build a vision for WHY this is important.

Intention

You may find reasons why a devotional project is important, but without sufficient motivation to engage in the process those reasons will wither and die on the vine. To make the vision a reality, we need sufficient intention to act.

Can we suggest some form of partnership or accountability? For a devotional series like this one, accountability doesn’t need to be intrusive, but one that is simple and effective enough for you to engage. If you read the text on the Bible app, it will keep track of the consecutive days you have opened and used the app and encourage you to keep it up. Maybe that is all you need. Maybe you need to post a quick reflection on social media every day you read and use that to encourage yourself to be accountable to your friends who read what you write.

Be creative about how you build intentionality into this devotional and it will go a long way toward helping you complete it.

Means

Now that you have a clear vision and a way of reinforcing your intention, it is time to implement how you will reach your vision. For instance, if you want to learn a foreign language you might download a language learning app on your phone or take a class at a local school. You won’t reach your vision by magic; you will need a tool.

The devotional is your tool. Recall your vision for this process, and then begin to see the devotional as how you will reach that goal. This devotional might be the first rung on the ladder, or it might be the “big win” for you. Either way, we hope you can make use of this tool with us as we work through it together!