He who pampers his slave from childhood will in the end find him to be a son. Proverbs 29:21
What is the proper way to treat a employee? As we have done for most of the proverbs dealing with slavery - we look at them through the prism of employee and employer relationships. There is much wisdom for people who are in business and who have employees if they will learn from these proverbs. What can we learn from today's proverb in this respect?
The warning here is that an employer should not "pamper" their employees - just as the man in this proverb is told not to pamper his servants. The word "pamper" here means what is means today - to treat someone in a way where they are not disciplined and made to work as they should. There should be expectations on those who work for an employer. When I worked at UPS we were expected to load a certain number of packages per hour. When our work output went below that number - we were going to have a visit from a supervisor or boss - who would make it plain to us that we needed to work harder. This was not employer abuse - it was an employer making sure that we knew that we were expected to produce a certain amount of work for the hourly pay that we received.
What is dangerous is when an employee or servant is allowed to be lazy and undisciplined at work without any kind of repercussions. This is pampering a worker. Allowing a worker to do shoddy work without rebuke is pampering them. Allowing a worker to be consistently late to work without rebuke is pampering the worker. Allowing a worker to abuse their fellow workers and supervisors without rebuke and punishment is pampering the worker. These things will hurt a business - or even cause it to fail. There needs to be an understanding of proper workplace behavior and proper workplace expectations. But our society is beginning to implode on itself because it rejects such things. People are getting to the point where they expect a paycheck - but do not think that they should work hard for it. Ours is a world where people feel they are entitled to a living - and a good one at that.
The Bible is clear on the fact that, "if a man won't work - don't let him eat." There are also verses that say to let someone get hungry - and they will be willing to work. The business world is rough - and if we are going to have a strong economy people need to know that HARD work is required. We act today as if the words "hard work" are curse words - when in fact that are blessed words. It is good for us to have to work hard.
When an employer does not have the proper expectations on his laborers, he will in the end wind up with sons rather than employees. What is meant by this is a certain kind of son - a spoiled one. He will wind up with people who do not want to work - but expect to be well paid and well cared for by their employer. One might call this the "spoiled brat" syndrome. You treat laborers a cerain way and before long they will not be workers - but rather spoiled brats who constantly complain about their wages, about their work load, about their work environment - and just about anything else they can think of to complain about. No matter what the employer does, it is not enough.
A good employer knows the balance between caring for his employees and calling them to work. He knows that he does need to be considerate and wise with things like workplace conditions and wages. He wants to bless his labor force - but he also wants them to work. There are Scripture passages that call the employer to be gracious and kind to his workers - but here he is warned of the dangers of having a plant filled with spoiled brats - rather than people who know how to work hard so that the business will be profitable. It is a delicate balance - but one that needs a serious swing toward a stronger work ethic in our day.
He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but he who walks wisely will be delivered. Proverbs 28:26
One of the phrases I hear all the time is that I need to trust my heart in order to make a right decision. I know that this is popular - and that it makes for a good wall plaque (you know, Laugh, Love, Trust Your Heart), but it is unwise counsel for us to follow from a Biblical worldview. This is because one of the pillars of a Biblical worldview is the fall of man and the subsequent damage that has done to our ability to reason wisely. Our hearts are not trustworthy - and any decision based on what is in them is going to be an unwise one most likely.
Before we move on I want to review the state of the human heart for us. Since we live in a worldview that says that we are basically good, it is wise for us to do such a review. Jeremiah 17:9 reminds us, "The heart is deceitful above all esle, and is desperately wicked, who can understand it? After the fall of man in the garden the world was plunged into sin. By Genesis 6:5 we read the following summation of the human race. "Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." David helps us understand our hearts when he writes in Psalm 51:5, "Behold I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me." Our condition - and the state of our hearts - is that of being sinful and rebellious toward God. Just one last Scripture to bring this truth home. Romans 3:10-12 has a very damning endictment toward the human race. We read the following there. ". . . as it is written, There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understand, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one." It doesn't get any worse than this for us - and this is simply a biblical conclusion to what Paul had been teaching for three chapters in Romans. So, to trust our hearts - without conversion - without the Holy Spirit to guide and teach us - without Scripture - is very foolish.
The one who does this is called a fool. He is a fool because he walks and thinks with utter self-dependence. He lives apart from input, counsel or wisdom from others - and most importantly independent from God and His Word. As always, the fool here only wants to air what is in his own heart and in his own mind, thinking, and reasoning. He will consistently make decisions that are silly, stupid, and foolish. These kinds of decisions will actually cause great harm if they are followed fully.
Solomon warns us that it is the one who walks wisely that will be delivered from the harm that comes from foolish thinking. If you are wondering what we would need to be delivered from - here are a few examples.
- Samson trusted in his own heart - and rejected God's counsel on moral purity and sexual sin. In time his foolishness is truly astounding. Each night after a sexual romp with Delilah, she would probe him for information on where his strength was - and each night he would lie to her. He would not get that whatever he told her would happen to him - and he would be awakened by her to find men ready to harm him. Did that deter Samson and bring him to repentance? No - he continued to trust his heart and his romantic (more like lust-starved) feelings. In the end - he was NOT delivered - and it cost him his eyes and a radically different hairdo - which, by the way, cost him his strength.
- Saul trusted in his own heart - and therefore let his jealousy run rampant. He distrusted David, thinking that he wanted to overthrow him and take his kingdom. That jealousy so warped his mind that he killed 70 priests and put to death an entire village because he believed a lie. In the end, he was not delivered. He trusted his own heart - which eventually led him to inquire of a witch what to do in battle. That was the last straw for God - who allowed Saul to die in battle the next day.
- David trusted in his own heart - which was led astray by his loins when he saw Bathsheba naked as she bathed on a rooftop. His own heart decided to hatch several lame plans to cover his tracks when his adultery led to her pregnancy. The ultimate foolishness was having ordered Joab to act foolishly in battle so that Bathsheba's husband, Uriah, would be killed in battle. David was not delivered from the destruction his adultery would bring to his family. Two sons were killed, a daughter and 10 concubines were raped, and a two costly rebellions killed thousands as a result.
- Peter trusted his own heart - that he truly did love Jesus more than all the other disciples. That kind of foolish arrogance led him to follow Jesus - but only at a distance. Jesus warned him that denials - three to be exact - would come from him before others. But Peter knew better than the Christ - he trusted his own heart and strength to stand. He was not delivered as he heard a cock crow after his third denial. He was restored later by God's grace - but he never forgot what trusting his own heart cost him.
Hopefully these four examples will help seal the deal for us in believing this Proverb. I know that I have far more than four exmaples of what trusting in my own heart has cost me. It is a foolish thing to do and one that always ends with a disaster. Walking wisely means walking in dependence on The Lord. Walking wisely means first coming to salvation by God's grace. Then it means walking in continued daily fellowship with God as we read His Word and desire the work of His Spirit within us. May God bless you and help you to walk wisely - and never do something so foolish as trust your own heart.
A faithful man will abound with blessings, but he who makes haste to be rich will not go unpunished. Proverbs 28:20
Get rich quick schemes usually come with some form of sin involved in it. The quick riches come at the expense of others. The lottery is such a scheme - everyone is buying a chance to strike it rich - and only one does. All the others waste their money. The lottery is for those who are bad at mathmatics or who are wanting to get rich so that they can quit working. Either way - their riches come with a burden of sin. That is what today's proverb counsels against.
Let's look at the last half of this proverb first. The one who makes "haste" to be rich is going to face punishment in the end. It is never wise to be hasty in decisions or in following schemes that others hatch to make you rich. The corporate world is filled with those who learn to become rich on the backs of other's misfortune. Companies are bought and gutted for the purpose of making the investor rich - and people in the Stock Market are always talking of plans whereby you get rich quickly. The problem is that in every case - someone has to pay a price for your quick wealth. The phrase at the end of this proverb that reads, "will not go unpunished" is a Hebrew phrase that also means, "will not be innocent." The idea is that some form of sin is entered into that leaves them guilty - and eventually will lead to them being punished. Just know that every scheme that makes someone rich hastily - will leave them with an aspect of guilt in the end.
God is not against people becoming rich. God promised riches to the patriarchs and to Israel if they would follow Him with all their heart. He also warned them that when they became rich they would have a tendency to forget God and trust in their riches. God is against those who make haste to be rich - and cut corners morally to do so.
The Lord wants us to be faithful. Work is NOT EVIL! There are so many who think work is some sort of evil activity that came with the fall of man into sin. Work was something God gave man in the garden before the fall. Therefore to do faithful work puts us in a position for God to bless us. That is why The Lord says here that the faithful man will abound with blessings. Those blessings may include financial riches - but for many it does not. The blessings abound in numerous areas. I am blessed with my work associates - and the friendships that have been built over the years. I am blessed with projects that we do together that bring a very real sense of accomplishment. I am blessed with less temptation because my hands and my mind is busy doing work. I am blessed with being able to see my children learn the value of a strong work ethic because they've watched their father do what he learned from his father. I am blessed with a good night's sleep because I am tired and ready to go to bed each evenring. For some there is a blessing of an expanding business where others can be blessed with employment. And there is the blessing of serving others in your work - and building more and more of a servant's heart. Regardless of whether the blessings are financial or through moral character building - there is such a blessing that is ours when we embrace faithful work. May God help us to once again embrace the value of lifelong faithful work - and shun the get rich quick schemes that always involve some aspect of guilt and sin.
When the grass disappears, the new growth is seen, And the herbs of the mountains are gathered in, The lambs will be for your clothing, And the goats will bring the price of a field, And there will be goats' milk enough for your food, For the food of your household, And sustenance for your maidens. Proverbs 27:25-27
These last three verses of Proverbs 27 are additional commentary on verses 23-24. Thus they deal with keeping watch or being aware of your flocks and herds. These verses are practical commentary on that activity. They are also very helpful to us who desire to build and maintain a godly work ethic in ours or any other society.
The first statement here seems like common sense to us. It speaks of the fact of the seasons and how one who tills the ground needs to be aware of them. When the grasss disappears, then the new growth is seen. There will be a time each year when the grass of the field dies in the fall and winter. The farmer is also reminded that during this time the herbs of the mountains need to be gathered into the barns. Again, this may seem like something that does not need to be said. The reason it is said is because, due to the fall, men are undisciplined and lazy. There is only a brief window of time that this can be done - and if not done at this time - the farmer will lose yield. If left undone for a long period of time - he will lose everything to decay, mildew, and decomposition.
This has something to say to us. We may not have grass oriented crops like hay, wheat, or barley. We may not have herbs on the mountains that should be gathered and put away for use in the next year. We do have responsibilities that fall to us though. Many of these things need to be done promptly. How many have received a late notice on a bill because we did not pay it "in season." Will this keep us out of heaven? No it won't, but for many it will mean anywhere from 20-50 dollars of lost wealth because we did not act "in season" to get something done that requires diligence in a certain time line.
More is said to us in verses 26-27, this time about principles of building and using wealth. Note that we are told that the lambs will be for our clothing. There is a reason to do all that the farmer does. He does not just grow grass. He diversifies into raising livestock. He has lambs that are for clothing. He has goats he milks not just for his own family to drink, but to sell so that he can buy a field with the profit. There is the wisdom of provision for oneself, and for the continued growth of wealth and provision for a family and a growing number of people who are dependent on your growing enterprises. Mentioned here are one's own household as well as one's maidens. Thus a wise man knows that the current level of wealth and provision today needs to be expanded as he expands his family and his business. What does this require? Hard work - and an attention to detail - at least an attention to doing things as they need to be done.
What is the wisdom for us today then, in light of these verses? The first wise thing we are to learn is that opportunity for blessings comes and goes. If we are not alert to the seasons of God's working, we will miss the blessing being unaware or lazy. Within the framework of His seasons, we need to act and work hard. The second piece of wisdom offered is this, our work blesses us for today - and for the future. The lifestyle lived from paycheck to paycheck is not a wise way to live. We work in such a way to bless us with today's provision - and to make wise choices for expansion of that provision as God blesses. The wise man lives in the moment and is thankful for what God has given him. There can be a danger of having greed enter our minds so that we make Nabalish choices to be selfish and self-centered. The rich farmer who thought his riches were only for his current enjoyment and pleasure found his soul in hell because he was not living for eternity. This, though, does not justify us in being foolish in expanding what we do for the sake of added family provision. There will be children and grandchildren. There will be expanded business opportunity that will bless additional employees. There will be changes in the market - changes in society - and changes even in the weather and providence. We should be wise enough to learn how to read such things and make adequate provision for them as God guides us.
Being godly and wise does not mean throwing our brains away. We can acquire business acumen and wisdom concerning how to be more productive. We can build a business while trusting and relying upon the Lord. That is what is being said here. May God give us wisdom to look to Him day by day - and yet still be wise enough to provide for an expanded future of blessings all as we look to Him for the blessings of today's provision and tomorrow's expansion.
Know well the condition of your flocks, and pay attention to your herds; for riches are not forever, nor does a crown endure to all generations. Proverbs 27:23-24
This verse in Proverbs kicks off a section that deals with diligence, as well as the fact of change in life. The wisdom offered here is to pay attention to things in your life because the one thing that will never change is that there is going to be change in your life. Time will march on whether you are paying attention to the parade or not. The danger posed to us by this is that life will change, either financially, politically, or spiritually and we will be caught off-guard by it.
One of the most effective ministries anywhere in the world is the ministry of neglect. This is an unintended ministry where we get busy in our lives - and neglect to watch over our finances, our marriage, our children, our business - even our own spiritual growth. Over time the ministry of neglect grows. Most people do not grasp what this ministry is doing until they are jolted as to its presence by a "suddenly-serious" problem. These are things that have been building up (or breaking down in many circumstances) and then make their appearance suddenly to us.
One of the best ways to describe this is to make reference to my very patient, very gracious wife. As a guy, I have a tendency to get over-focused in my life. As a result, I have had a pretty amazing track record of having the ministry of neglect in a number of areas of my life. What usually happens is that my precious bride wakes me out of my responbility slumber and alerts me to a way in which my life is in the process of falling apart. Whether it is in regard to my relationship with her - the rearing of our children - our finances - or any number of other things, I am usually shocked to see that there are problems. This rude awakening is a reminder that I truly do need to pay attention to things - many things - far better. The rude awakening is followed by - regret - conviction - repentance - and a flurry of action to put things right. Oh, and occasionally by being mad. The anger is experienced two ways - first I'm mad that someone is interrupting my stupidity (because at the time I don't see how stupid I'm being). Second, I am mad at myself for being so stupid - and letting things fall into disrepair through my ministry of neglect.
For the next couple of days, I want to look deeper into what is means to avoid having the ministry of neglect in your life. Before we are done, we'll look at several areas where this is important. We will examine the ministry of neglect and its affect on our personal lives, on our family, on our jobs or businesses, on our churches, and finally even on our nation and those who rule over us in the political structures under which we live. The ministry of neglect can be a very dangerous thing - if we continue in it. It is my hope that over the next several days we can strengthen the ministry of diligence - or said in a more eye-opening way - the ministry of true love.
The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes Than seven men who can give a discreet answer.
The fourth verse we come to about the sluggard has to do with how his lack of any work ethic eventually affects his reason as well as his ego. He is wise in his own eyes - even though he does not put any work into what he thinks. He is a stranger to hard physical work - but now we learn he is also one to mental work as well. When he looks to someone for wisdom - he looks to himself. This is because of his ego - which is vastly overgrown while having no real reason to be so. He is too lazy to study - yet he thinks he knows far more than those who do. He is wiser than seven men who give a reasoned, well-studied, well-thought out answer. He is a genius in his own estimation - while his supposed genius is honestly ignorance of anything other than what he himself thinks. A legend in his own mind, he mentally gives himself the Nobel prize for everything.
Anyone who has ever done good academic work knows that this is no place for the sluggard. Good quality academic work requires painstaking study and hours of sacrifice both thinking and writing (not to mention re-writing). Someone who has expertice in a subject area has put in years of effort in order to have it. The whole idea of a "masters" degree is that someone has "mastered" a subject area. The seminary I attended required that we read a 300-500 page text for each course taken. But, this was not all we were required to do. We also were required to do extensive reading while preparing papers as well as do 1500 pages of outside reading on the subject. Even after all this effort, we were just barely beyond ignorant in the subjects we studied. Most areas of theology had literally thousands of texts written on it -some had hundreds of thousands.
The mental sluggard stands against seven men who work hard at honing their minds - and mocks all of them. He will take what little learning he has and string it together so as to think he is a mental heavyweight - when he doesn't even tip the scales of learning at a single pound. He spouts his opinion and then closes his mind to anything other than his highly self-valued moronity. He has no need to listen to others since his own ultimate genius has been voiced. Thus the mental sluggard continues his self-imposed banishment to ignorance in a miniature land of his own making.
A wise man knows that he does not yet know as he should know. He is teachable above all things - and is willing to spend more time gathering information than spouting it to others. He who holds his tongue and opens his mind is wise! He may not agree with what is said to him - yet he takes all things in an effort to become wiser still. He does not see himself as wise in his own eyes. He sees God as ultimately wise - and is actively looking for those who will speak according to God's wisdom. If you are a mental sluggard beware of lacking the wisdom of seeing yourself as not yet wise. Few things can dwarf your intellect and your spiritual acumen like being wise in your own eyes. It is proof that your field of spiritual and mental vision is extremely narrow.
Let your foot rarely be in your neighbor's house, Or he will become weary of you and hate you. Proverbs 25:17
Here is a wise proverb concerning friendship that may seem strange at first glance. Having a friend is a wonderful thing - but there are friends who are what some call, "high-maintenance" people. They are the folks who start out as friends - but who soon so dominate your time that you start feeling like you want to avoid them. Yet the more you pull away - the more they seek to dominate your time. You wind up spending hours listening to them every day - and in the end - you wind up almost hating to see them - see their texts - or see their number come up when you look at your cell phone. This is what God is warning against in this proverb.
Friendship does demand some time spent together. This proverb is not encouraging us to be distant to everyone - and rarely spend time with each other. It is just using hyperbole to warn us against being the "over-needy" friend who seems to have to spend every waking moment with their best bud. The warning is to rarely let your foot be in your neighbor's house. The concept here is actually more that you rarely let your foot be there by your own choosing. What is advised is to be a good friend in life - but to be careful about how often you show up at their house. If you are invited, that is one thing, but when you are coming on your own constantly, it can begin to be a bother to them. Therefore, when it is your choice, be careful, be wise, and be somewhat infrequent. Don't be rude - just let your friend be the one who primarily initiates you coming to their home.
The word "weary" is telling us something important here. It lets us understand the hyperbole that is being employed in this proverb. We need to be careful to not "weary" someone else. The Hebrew word used here is "yisbaacha" and it means to be sated or full to the point of sickness. You know the feeling you get when you have eaten so much that you are about to throw up? That is what is being described here - in fact the same concept was used just a verse earlier to speak of eating too much honey. Now it is being used to describe a friend who spends too much time with you - and you are 'sated' with their presence to the point of being - honestly - sick of them. The warning here though is to us! Don't be that kind of friend. Be a friend naer enough to be a blessing - but yet still far away enough to NOT be an annoyance. It takes a wisdom to be able to discern which you are being.
Have you found honey? Eat only what you need, That you not have it in excess and vomit it. Proverbs 25:16
Overindulgence is something to be avoided in life. Here we have an admonition to be careful when we find honey. This most likely refers to wild honey that is found in the forest areas around Israel. It would be much like the honey that Jonathan found after the battle with the Philistines in the forest. The counsel is to eat only what you need of this honey. The problem comes when our desire for something sweet and tasty goes beyond our stomach's ability to handle it. Then we will have a reaction from being too full - and we will vomit due to having an excess. But this proverb goes beyond a dietary warning and restriction. It refers to the problem we all have with excess in any area of life.
Having good things is profitable to us. It is when we allow these good things to go beyond where they should that good things become a problem - and possibly even an addiction. Moderation is wise in just about every area of life. To moderate ourselves makes us take time to consider what we really need. Yet, because of the fall of man into sin, we are no longer wired for moderation. We are wired for the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life. That kind of wiring can get us in serious trouble. When we overindulge our desires - we can build that desire into something that we no longer control. Our desires control us. We see this in every kind of addiction. The addict can no longer control their desires. Their desires control them - and dominates them to the point of being able to command them what they WILL do. This leads to an "out of control" lifestyle - which becomes horribly destructive to the one caught in it.
The wisdom of God is to live life in moderation - especially when it comes to anything that flies in the "lust" zones of our lives. What is good can become what is overdone. When it reaches these levels it then can become that which makes us sick - sick in body, but also sick in our minds and our spirits as well. Knowing this the wise man approaches all things with a desire that they remain under the control of the Holy Spirit and the guidance of Scripture. This is how he avoids trouble that comes from fallen desires gone wild.
I passed by the field of the sluggard And by the vineyard of the man lacking sense, And behold, it was completely overgrown with thistles; Its surface was covered with nettles, And its stone wall was broken down. When I saw, I reflected upon it; I looked, and received instruction. "A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to rest," Then your poverty will come as a robber And your want like an armed man. Proverbs 24:30-34
There are certain things you can learn by making observations of physical things. These are not always universally true - but they are true more often than not. This particular observation was made by someone who knew that a field belonged to someone who was already known as a "sluggard." Therefore it was known that this man was lazy and undisciplined. The danger here is not knowing someone's character - and assuming things because of what you see physically.
What we have here is someone who is making an observation about a sluggard's field or vineyard. This person is known for two things. First is that he is a sluggard. The term refers to someone who is lazy and who shuns any kind of work. The second observation is that he is also a man who seriously lacks sense. As usual in the book of Proverbs the word here is actually the Hebrew word, "leb" which means heart. What is referred to here is not this man's physical heart, but more his spiritual condition. God is concerned about the state of our hearts - because our actions and our words come out of the overflow of our hearts. Therefore the fact that this man lacks "heart" speaks more to the truth that he is lacking spiritual wisdom and a heart that turns to God for it.
We continue to look at the sluggard and his field and we have this report given to us. It wa a field and vineyard completely overgrown with weeds and nettles, which refers to thorny plants that make for a very unfruitful, unproductive field. These things are there because of the laziness of the owner. Not only was this field ignored agriculturally - but it was ignored physically too. It is noted that the stone wall around it was broken down as well. This most likely was not due to vandalism, but rather simple neglect over a long period of time. Therefore there were serious weed problems - and also serious problems with animals getting in and destroying the crops as well. This was a field ignored completely - and therefore would be a field that was grossly underproducing for its owner.
Seeing such a field in an agrarian society made the onlooker reflect on things - actually he reflected on the owner of the field. The word for "reflect" is the Hebrew word "siyt" and it means to focus one's heart and thinking on something. One might say that this writer was taking this matter to heart. He had God lay something on his heart as he looked. The author of these verses was spiritually astute enough to have the Lord speak to him as he looked on this sad scene. He received instruction as a result of what was before his eyes. The words here speak not merely of knowledge - but rather of a kind of instructing that disciplines us and uses things to turn us from a destructive path. That was what was happening here. Oh that we would open ourselves to such "at-the-moment" instruction like this - that God could take anything and use it to help us walk in His ways. Jesus spoke like this - using everyday pictures of life to help instruct His disciples (and us) how to walk with Him and honor His Father.
This was the comment he received. It is said in a way that is placed in quotations. There are those moments when God is about to speak to our hearts. We need to be open and receptive to such "wisdom statements" from Him. As the writer mused on this scene - the Lord spoke to his heart.
The statement made to his heart had to do with sleeping too much, slumbering too much - and wanting to fold our hands and "take it easy." God is not against rest - but He is against those who do not work hard. The sluggard did not want to work - he wanted to rest, slumber, and fold his hands and refuse to work. The state of his field was proof of these things. He didn't want to work and do the things that would make for a productive and protected field. He wanted a life of rest and relaxation.
This brings me to comment on an oft-said phrase that I hear in our society. "Don't work too hard," is said to me often - and I understand that people are not urging me to slothfulness. But - in all honesty - I do need to work hard. God said that in a fallen world like ours - being a hard working person will have a tendency to protect me . . . from me! Too much time along - too much time without something productive to do - too much time to myself - and I will get into trouble. I know - because I've been there - and I know how hard it is to keep me from being stupid when there is too much time on my hands. Therefore I know that a life of hard work - of labor - and of productiveness (whether at work, or at home, or even in spiritual things) is good for me.
The end of this proverb is telling. What hapens when you get lazy and undisciplined. God says that the end of such things is poverty. There will be a poverty of finances because the sluggard won't have any crops. There will be a poverty of character because the sluggard won't do what is necessary to develop it in cooperation with God. There will be a poverty of spirit because we won't grow spiritually without some kind of discipline in our lives. Poverty is coming - and is coming like a robber. This word speaks of a vagabond who comes upon you and takes what you have. Poverty will come if a man is lazy - and it will come like someone who walks up unannounced and steals your things. Poverty is also coming like an armed man. This speaks of those who came with armies - and who plundered after they took a city or town. Poverty was coming to the sluggard - and was coming to plunder everything he had. Laziness is costly - and it is a lesson that we too need to learn - even as we see its ravages all around us.
There is precious treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise, But a foolish man swallows it up. Proverbs 21:20
The wise man takes what God has given him and uses it wisely. He spends some and uses it for himself, his family, and his friends. He also saves some and puts it away for future use as well as for lean times. Today let's take a look at the acts of the wise man who saves for his future and the foolish man who simply swallows everything God grants to him.
We are told that precious treasure and oil are in the house of the wise man. Whether he received these things from the practices of industry and frugality - or whether he received them as an inheritance from godly, thoughtful parents - the wise man knows how to save. Precious treasure is an interesting word as it has two connotations. The first is from how the word is used to refer to things like gold, silver, and other commodities. He saves money, food, and other valuable things so that he will have access to them in the future. Why does he do this? Because a wise man knows that since the world in which we live is fallen and affected by sin - there will be times of shortage and leanness. Throughout all human history there have been both abundance and famine in our world. Joseph knew such things from God Himself when he interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh. He did not waste time in the purcuit of gluttony and over-indulgence. Joseph was a wise man and saved and stored much so that when the famine came he would be ready. His foresight and obedience to God saved all of Egypt, saved his own family, and made Egypt rich beyond their imaginations.
There is a second way this word "treasure" is used. The word can also mean "temple treasures." These spoke of treasures that were given so as to build up and maintain the worship of God in the temple. In the dwelling of the wise there is provision stored up not only for physical welfare - but for the spiritual welfare of the home as well. There is little more foolish among mankind than to think this world is all that there is. They live ignorant of God and ignorant of their responsiblity to Him. The wise man stores up for both the physical and the spiritual. There is in his house a physical inheritance - but also a spiritual one as well. He lives godly and rears his children to love and honor God. He makes sure that the Word dwells richly within their hearts - desiring for them to walk with God and know Him intimately.
Not only is there treasure within this house of the wise, there is also oil. When speaking of oil - this could speak of the olive oil that was used in almost every aspect of a Jewish family. They needed this for food preparation - for spiritual worship for annointing oil - and for medical reasons like softening wounds and helping them heal. There was also the idea of savings - because some oils were very expensive. Mary offered a container of very expensive oil as she annointed Jesus with it in preparation for His crucifixion and burial. This alabaster vial was worth a whole year's wages. When one of the prpohetic students of Elisha died, his widow was in debt and in danger of haring her chidlren sold into debt slavery. Elisha answered this by having her collect numerous vials which later were supernaturally filled with oil. This she sold, paid her debt, and even had plenty to kep her and her children alive and well. This kind of oil would signify that a family was preparint for their future - for the needs of their children and grandchildren. On a spiritual note - oil was a picture of the Holy Spirit - so one could even consider this the way that a family cherished the work of the Spirit in their lives and encouraged it in themselves and in their children.
The foolish ones don't save any of these things - either physical or spiritual. Theirs is a consumer mentality. They swallow up whatever they receive with no thought of the future. They live by their lusts and desires - and therefore do not even consider anyone except themselves. The end of such a life is that they are broke, both physically and spiritually. The saddest example of this is the prodigal son. He took a large inheritance and wasted it on the party life. In the end he was broke. His so-called friends abandoned him and left him to fend for himself. This was only after he abandoned any kind of spiritual preparation for the future by rejecting his father and his father's God. He was left with nothing - except the grace his faher would give him in the end.
If we are wise we will realize we live in a fallen world. This will necessitate preparation for our future - both physically and spiritually. We will face famines physically that will require that lay up wise stores for that day in order for us and for our families to survive. But there is also a need to prepare spiritually - for there will also be a day when we will face being ready for the judgment of God. Oh to be wise and understanding so that our preparations will have our homes and lives filled with treasures both temporal and eternal so that we will be well provided for when the day comes that we need them. May God, in His grace, work in and deliver us from a life lived for self and for the moment. May we be ready for anything - famine in life - and fatal spiritual thinking in eternity.