I am taking liberty to address three proverbs from Proverbs 12 that do not follow in succession in the chapter, but nevertheless address a the same theme—the failed character of the slothful, indolent, lazy man (Proverbs 12:11, 24, 27). As you have learned from prior devotions, Solomon has some plainspoken principles for us in the matter of labor and its reward.
Proverbs 12:11 – “He that tilleth [farmer = long, hard labor] his land shall be satisfied [full; have enough] with bread [food; fruit of his labor]: but he that followeth [pursues] vain [worthless; meaningless; following foolish, sinful pleasures] persons is void [lacking; destitute; wanting] of understanding [lit. heart; mind; i.e. lacks good sense].”
A hardworking man enjoys the fruit of his labor. Like the farmer in today’s parable, he comes to the end of a workday and reflects on the satisfaction of his labor. He has little time for the pursuit of pleasures and finds his contentment in the reward of his work. The disgruntled poor, many of who do not bear the yoke of labor, often comes to his state because of a pattern of indolence. He follows, according to Solomon, vain individuals who lack the heart for work and pursue pleasures that are time-consuming and empty. [If you doubt this conclusion, consider how many consider themselves poor, but have funds to own televisions, computer games, cell phones and waste multiple hours a day entertaining themselves].
Solomon contrast the character of the diligent worker with the slothful in Proverbs 12:24.
Proverbs 12:24 – “The hand [power; rule] of the diligent [determined; sharp; decisive] shall bear rule [govern; reign; rule over; have dominion]: but the slothful [slack; idle; deceitful] shall be under tribute [taskmasters; forced labor; serving a superior].”
Liberal, socialist-minded politicians have spent the past few decades inflaming an attitude of entitlement in our culture that is tearing at the fabric of our national character. A spirit of industry and self-reliance built America. A man knew the reward of hard work was recognition and promotion and it was not unusual for an employee to begin pushing a broom in a company and work his way to the top.
Rather than promotion, the slothful man finds himself stuck on a tier of servitude. He may chafe with the lack of reward and advancement; however, he has only himself to blame! He is the epitome of the “Occupy Wall Street” crowd who demand an equality they have not earned and resent the success of those who, through the sweat of their brows, enjoy the fruit of their labor.
I ask your indulgence as I proffer a personal commentary: The news that nearly 50% of Americans are on some form of government assistance/subsidy does not bode well for our nation’s future. Granted, many of those drawing government checks are retirees and some legitimately on disability who have “paid into the system” and by law and rights are drawing their monthly Social Security checks. A few are unemployed and continue to look for work in an economy that is nothing short of dismal.
How did we get here? My opinion is for a half century we have elected politicians that have cultivated a growing dependence on government and America is hurtling headlong into a socialist state with 109 million in 2011 feeding at the welfare trough. A January 22, 2014 report suggests the actual unemployment rate in the United States is as high as 37.2% (this is before government hacks massage the numbers) and households receiving “food stamps” total over 115 million (now known as SNAP – Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). Food stamps alone cost the American economy nearly $80 billion in 2013.
I am for assisting my fellow man going through hard times and helping him get back on his feet. I am not for sustaining a culture that rewards indolence and punishes the industrious! Sadly, we have become that nation and, if we do not guard our own hearts, the slothfulness of our culture will take hold in our lives, family and churches.
My closing proverb for today is Proverbs 12:27.
Proverbs 12:27 – “The slothful man [slack; idle; deceitful] roasteth not that which he took in hunting [too lazy to dress and prepare for dinner what he killed in the hunt]: but the substance [reward] of a diligent man is precious [valuable].”
You ask, “What does it mean?” Some people are so slothful that, like a hunter who is too lazy to dress and prepare the meat he took from his hunt, they ignore opportunity when it knocks on their door.
I often wonder what Christians do with their time and talents when they find themselves unemployed and looking for work. What do retirees do with their time, energy and abilities when they find themselves healthy and no longer working? A few look for opportunities to serve others and be a blessing to the church. Sadly, they are too few.
My friend, you are either slothful or diligent in your work!