By Michael E. Brooks
“The hand of the diligent will rule, but the lazy man will be put to forced labor. . . . The lazy man does not roast what he took in hunting, but diligence is man’s precious possession. . . . The soul of a lazy man desires, and has nothing; but the soul of the diligent shall be made rich” (Proverbs 12:24, 27; 13:4 NKJV).
From reading Proverbs one might get the idea that Solomon was much in favor of hard work, and that he had little use for the lazy person. I think that would be a very accurate observation. Nor was Solomon alone in those attitudes.
Consider these New Testament statements: “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). “The hard working farmer must be first to partake of the crops” (2 Timothy 2:6). And especially, “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” (Colossians 3:23).
Human experience teaches that the harder one works, given a minimum competence and knowledge, the greater will be his or her reward. The difference between success and failure is more often the degree of effort expended than any innate talent or intelligence. This is true in the developed world; it is even truer in poverty stricken third world nations.
When every activity of life from cooking meals to traveling to market requires hard work, the lazy person does poorly. I marvel at the homes constructed deep in the Himalayas from stone and materials brought in from great distance. What makes these unusual is that the only means of transportation for these materials is on the back of the people.
“Do it heartily” is another way of saying “Put forth effort”, or in another rather common Biblical phrase “Give diligence” (Cf. 2 Timothy 2:15; 2 Peter 1:5).
Solomon favored the diligent man over the lazy one in every way. Christianity rewards those who are not afraid to work at their religion. Consider these areas where effort brings reward.
First there is study of God’s word. “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). It is rightly observed that this passage is not primarily concerned with study in the sense of sitting at one’s desk, reading.
Nevertheless, the effort required is directed in such a way that the result is a proper handling (thus knowledge and understanding) of God’s word. Similarly, walking worthy of Christ and pleasing him in every way involves “increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10). Let us not neglect doctrine and study (1 Timothy 4:13, 16).
Second, there is the acquisition and multiplication of spiritual characteristics. “Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge” (2 Peter 1:5). Peter’s admonition to grow in the spiritual traits of God begins with the recognition of the effort required for success.
We must work hard to overcome our carnal nature and to be transformed into a spiritual creature. Too often we hear the excuse, “I can’t help it; that’s just the way I am.” Christ came to change us and free us from our sinful nature (Romans 7:24-25). We must cooperate with him in this effort.
Finally, there is fruitfulness in good works (Colossians 1:10). Titus was commanded to “Remind them to . . . be ready for every good work” (Titus 3:1). We must “do good to all” as we have opportunity (Galatians 6:10). Christianity is a working religion. “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).
Let us remember Solomon’s wisdom. “Diligence is man’s prize possession.” Laziness may have a certain immediate appeal, but it pales beside the eternal reward given to the hard work of faithful followers of Christ.
By Michael E. Brooks