The Bible speaks abundantly regarding the wisdom of being diligent while showing a stark contrast of what befalls the lazy. Christ followers have the advantage of reaping great reward by applying the knowledge found in the Bible while the unbeliever chastens after himself, falling victim to poverty. During this essay, we will survey Solomon’s teachings regarding diligence and laziness while contrasting wisdom and folly.
One could amass a vast array of descriptors from studying the teachings of Hebrew wisdom regarding diligence; enriches, abundance, fat, power, busyness, being a mentor, etc. The topic can be found in most books of the Bible, but the mainstay in this study is the book of Proverbs.
Solomon, author of Proverbs, is well known of the wisdom gifted him by God upon requesting it. When speaking about diligence, Solomon frequently chose to contrast it with laziness through antithetical parallels.
From his teachings we learn that a diligent one will never go in want. King Solomon states that, “ . . . the person in diligence is richly supplied” (Pr. 13:4), “The plans of the diligent only lead to abundance . . .”(Pr. 21:5), “the hand of the diligent enriches.” (Pr. 10:4), “He who works his land will have plenty of food”. (Pr. 12:11) These teachings speak predominantly of things that seem to be obvious; however, they had to be recorded during the time or else Solomon wouldn’t have done so. His Kingdom was very profitable and as such, could have provided the type of environment that would afford the luxury of idleness to many.
Idleness is something that the diligent do not seem to be very indulgent of. Martha is seen in Luke 10:40 as being so dutiful and busy that she missed most of Jesus’ teaching that night in their house. Solomon tells us this about diligence, “She looks after the ways of her household, and the bread of idleness she will not eat.” This teaching would produce much if heeded. As followers of Christ, we are obligated to follow this teaching in our workplace, our Church, and our home.
Those who remain diligent while not “eating the bread of idleness” find themselves in positions of leadership and great influence. (Pr. 31:27) We are told in Pr. 12:24 that “The hand of the diligent ones will rule . . .” Jeroboam experienced this when he was found to be a diligent worker and a man of ability in I Kings 11. Because of this, he was appointed over laborers and eventually would be one of the Kings of Israel.
Solomon also teaches us much in the book of Proverbs about the results we can expect from being lazy. Some of the key words and phrases in the passages include poverty (6:6-11), shameful (10:5), repels the employer (10:26), craves without satisfaction (13:4), and lacks sense (12:11). Laziness is nonsense and is not a sought after attribute. Society naturally imputes shame on those that find themselves poverty stricken because of shameful choices; drugs, alcohol, not being proactive, not planning, not budgeting. We should always be thinking and planning verses throwing caution to the wind while reacting to whatever happens, both for ourselves and for our employer.
I have often heard the definition of wisdom being knowledge applied. We can memorize scripture, teach Sunday school classes, even preach from the pulpit; however, until we apply what we know to be truth, wisdom will never be accounted unto us. The inferred meaning of folly according to Hindson and Yates would be the exact opposite of Wisdom – having knowledge but not applying it. (2012, 265) For example, the sin of infidelity will lead to crushed relationships, children with deep insecurity issues, financial difficulties, and so on. We know this result to be true both through the word of God and through the proving grounds of common law in the U.S.; however, divorce rates are at an all time high in our nation while being on the rise.
Solomon teaches us what diligence will lead to, including things like having in abundance and being placed in positions of leadership. He also speaks of what one could expect to gain from being lazy, such as poverty and shame. One can gain abundant knowledge from reading these works but if one does not apply it, then it is just plain folly. Conversely, if one chooses to study and apply these works prayerfully, then this person gains wisdom.
In conclusion, Christ followers have the advantage of reaping great reward by applying the knowledge found in the Bible while the unbeliever chastens after himself, falling victim to poverty. One could benefit much from putting Solomon’s teachings into practice and as such, it is recommended to include these teachings in personal devotions regularly. God’s word was recorded not only for the propagation of the Kingdom, but also to provide guidance to His children for a blessed living.
Hindson, Ed, and Gary Yates, eds. The Essence of the Old Testament: a Survey. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2012.
The Lexham English Bible, LEB Fourth Ed., Bellingham, Washington: Logos Bible Software, 2012.