Once again, we have two parallels – repeated. A slack hand is contrasted with diligence, and productiveness is contrasted with laziness. There is poverty contrasted with riches and wisdom contrasted with shame. Verse 5 builds on verse 4. Here we have another example of Hebrew parallel poetry – no rhyme but plenty of reason – reasoning.
There is a passing reference to fathers and sons here – “He that gathereth in summer is a wise son.” Christian dads should have at least two great hopes for their children – salvation and useful lives. I’m sure that we could add a great number of other things, but they would probably be lesser objectives. Solomon, a father, refers to diligence and usefulness many times in these proverbs. As a wise man himself and as lead of the Holy Spirit, I’m going to assume that these verses are important. And I’m going to use them as the two divisions of tonight’s devotional.
Solomon wants his children to be useful members of society.
We have already read his words in chapter 6 – “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest. How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man.”
Throughout the Proverbs we have these proverbs. “The hand of the diligent shall bear rule: but the slothful shall be under tribute.” “The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat.” “Slothfulness casteth into a deep sleep; and an idle soul shall suffer hunger.” “The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing.” “Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty; open thine eyes, and thou shalt be satisfied with bread.” “I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down. Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction. Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth; and thy want as an armed man.”
I am going to do my best to skip over these proverbs as we come to them later on, but I’m not going to make any promises. They are obviously important.
I don’t know what you think, but when I hear of a man who inherited a profitable business, and he builds into something even greater, I admire him. Some, like the children of Solomon, born into wealth, have a tendency squander that inheritance. But if they have also inherited a bit of wisdom, and use that wisdom to push the family into further greatness, it is a joy to see. Solomon wanted that for his children. And besides, with that many wives and children, each of those kids might not inherit that much cash anyway, so diligence was as necessary for them as it is for our children.
“He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand.” This is not referring to a weakened hand due to a physical deformity. This is a slack hand caused by a slack and lazy heart. The word “lazy” is not found in the Bible, but laziness is – not the word “laziness” – but the principle. Notice that the lazy man “becometh poor” – Solomon might have said “remaineth poor” but he didn’t. So might we assume there was some wealth at first, but the lazy child simply wasted it?
Solomon does hint at BECOMING wealthy. “The hand of the diligent maketh rich.” It does not matter what the job might be, when it is done with energy and accuracy, good things result. I knew a man while I was at college who washed dishes during the night in a 24-hour restaurant. Often there weren’t many dishes to wash, so he began washing walls to stay busy. Then he began maintaining some of the equipment; he began doing things outside his job description. It wasn’t long before he was invited to assist the short-order cook and the early morning baker, learning new skills and eventually getting a higher wage. As he diligently kept his hands busy, he was made “rich” – so to speak.
I shouldn’t have to belabor these obvious precepts. They are so logical and practical that we should all immediately understand them. So why is it that Solomon spends so much time on them? Why do they have to be repeated and repeated? Because logical and obvious precepts don’t always agree with our native wickedness and laziness.
Summer is the time of harvest. Remember that most of Solomon’s society was agrarian – farmers and herdsmen. Tending cattle may be a year-round job, but farmers tend their fields on a seasonal basis. Judy feeds the wild birds in her back yard because there isn’t much for them to gather at this time of year. And metaphorically, people have seasons of plenty, and they have seasons of poverty. When the plenty is available, then we need to be ready, willing and available to reap. But “he that sleepeth in harvest is a son that causeth shame.”
I began this evening by pointing out that Christians fathers have two hopes for their children. Like Solomon they do not want them on welfare, spending their government checks on lottery tickets. He wants them to plant in the spring and harvest in the fall. He wants them to share what they have earned with others; not trying to take from others to spend on themselves – even when that other person is father himself.
The other hope and prayer of Christian father is that his child will be saved and become spiritually-minded
I found it interesting as I pursued this subject of diligence and laziness into the New Testament that the nature of the diligence changed. Solomon’s words seem to be primarily secular. With some exceptions, most of the Apostles refer to SPIRITUAL diligence, or at least they blend the two. Romans 12 – “Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.” How can we distribute to the necessity of others, if we haven’t first been diligent in business ourselves?
In Hebrews 6 we have words paralleling Solomon’s but on a higher level – on a spiritual plane. “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection…” “Beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” How many Christians are diligent in their business affairs, but slothful in things spiritual? “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord…”
II Peter 1 – “Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord… And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.”
Our spiritual lives – our spiritual LIFE is guaranteed by the eternal God. But the effects and the proof of that life is another area over which we have some control. Can the children of God live in spiritual poverty? Of course. Many do. Is it the intention of the Lord that we live in spiritual dearth? Absolutely not. Didn’t Christ say that we had access, through Him, to “life more abundant”? If we lack the joy and prosperity of the Christian life, it is in some way related to our own “slack hand” and “sleepiness in harvest.” “The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.” “…. knowing the time…it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.”