?Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands brings wealth? (10:4)
Recently, I listened to a talk in church to a group of Generation Y people. The speaker was a young man in his late 20?s and the title was ?living a balanced life?. Looking at the speaker, dressed in shorts, thongs, and a T-shirt, and at the audience, I sat back and assumed this would be an argument for the Aussie laid-back lifestyle, involving a minimum of work and effort and a maximum of relaxing on the beach. Wrong! To my surprise this was an excellent biblical exposition about the virtue of hard work and its value in the sight of God.
Proverbs has a lot to say about the value of work by contrasting the attitude of the wise, who work hard, save prudently and give generously, with the lazy. God intends us to work and to support those who for reasons of age, sickness, disability or lack of opportunity cannot work to support themselves. The Bible commends hard work (see for example Ruth chapter 2) and condemns laziness (e.g. 1 and 2 Thessalonians) and not least in the book of Proverbs.
Proverbs uses very direct, confronting language when attacking laziness:
?Go to the ant you sluggard, consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest? (6:6). ?The hard work of ants is contrasted with the sluggard who is always wanting a little lie down, never stirring to make an effort and comes with the warning ?poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man?.
Proverbs is very pragmatic. It says in effect, ?If you won?t work, you will go hungry?. ?A sluggard does not plough in season; so at harvest time he looks but finds nothing? (20:4).
There is the challenge to the lazy one: ?How long will you lie there, you sluggard? …A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest? (6:9?10). We might picture someone sprawled out on the couch, wasting hours flicking through the cable network channels, or surfing the net, or tweeting about anything, but helping no-one and producing nothing.
There is mockery of the sluggard?s attitude where he makes up ridiculous excuses to avoid work: ??The sluggard says, ?There is a lion outside!? or, ?I will be murdered in the streets!? (22:13).
Yes, we need a work life balance. God?s plan from the very beginning was for us to rest from work one day in seven. Yes, we need time for worship, for studying God?s Word and prayer, for building relationships, for eating properly and exercising, for using our creative gifts and enjoying God?s creation. But we are also to honour God in and through our work and to heed the wisdom of Proverbs and the words of the Apostle Paul:
?Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters? (Colossians 3:23).