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.
A slave will not be instructed by words alone; for though he understand, there will be no response. Proverbs 29:19
Ever wonder how to deal with someone who works for you - but is not really willing to listen all that well to what you tell them? That is what today's proverb addresses. It speaks of the workplace and relationships within it. This especially relates to those who have employees who are either not working - or - are guilty of slipshod work or work that is counterproductive to what the business is seeking to accomplish.
There are those who will not be instructed by words alone. Solomon speaks to his sons about this fact. Finding a good employee is often a difficult thing to do. There is an attitude that is being fostered today among those who are in the laboring class that will prove to do great damage to our nation - and in fact it already has. That attitude is one of jealousy and envy toward the business owner - and anyone else who makes more than they do for their work. This leads to an attitude where the worker does not listen to his boss when he instructs him on what to do. This brings about poor work habits - a poor work ethic - and an even poorer attitude toward authority. This will cost us millions in lost profit and the benefit that would come from it in future business expansion and growth.
The problem though is not in whether the employee can hear or not. Note from the passage before us that he hears fine - he even understands what has been said to him. The employee has a serious attitude problem though - and refuses to respond to his employer. This lack of respect will result in the worker also not taking the boss seriously. In the end he will do his work with the same attitude with which he listens. So what is an employer to do when these things happen to him?
First, the employer (at least the one in this culture) needs to know that such attitudes will always exist. As long as there is a sin nature in man there will be jealousy and envy in the work environment. The wise employer will work to defuse such things so that the work environment is more healthy. Decrying the sin in workers will do little good - because sin will always be present. What the employer needs to do is to find ways to defuse the problem.
A wise employer seeks to hire people of character. You do background checks and seek information from other employers for this reason. If someone has a bad attitude - don't hire them. They will only bring that bad attitude into your workplace as well. If someone has a history of causing problems in the workplace - they will have that same problem in your situation as well. When you have people with good character - reward them and do all you can to keep them around.
A wise employer also will incentivise his workplace. Just as no employer starts a business for the purpose of providing employment for others - no worker gets a job for the joy of working alone. The employer starts his business to make money. He puts in the hours, makes the sacrifice, and labors hard to make a profit for himself and for his family. He grows the business so that it will expand his profitability - so he can provide better for his family. The worker is motivated by the same thing. He does not work for the joy of working alone. He wants to provide for his family - and would like to see that provision become greater over time. When the workman knows that he will be blessed as the company is blessed - he will work hard. The wise employer will not merely instruct with words - he will make a case for his employees that if things become more profitable for the company, things will be more profitable for everyone who works for the company. Words alone won't elicit response - but a share of the bounty of the company over time will.
A wise employer will also build a servant's heart in his people. He will do this first by his own example. He will not be so detatched from his people that they think he does nothing but play and collect a check. He will spend time with his people - and will let them know that he is a servant to the company as well. They all work together to serve their clientel. That attitude needs to spread to every level of management in the company. It also needs to spread to everyone who works in any position there is. They are not there to be served (which will lead to a bad attitude as they want more and more done FOR them) but to serve, and by so serving to make the company more successful. They are a success when their clients are happy.
Ultimately - the wise employer will let his employees know and see that he does not work for himself - he works for God. This will only be for those employers who submit themselves to God and realize that everything they have is from God. Not only will their employees be judged for their performace - even they as an employer will be as well - by God. God warns both employee and employer that they are responsble to Him. They will have to answer for their actions in the end before His throne. When an employee sees that even his boss submits to God - and wrestles with what is right before Him - it will give the employee a sense of confidence and safety knowing that his boss is not a law unto himself.
Words alone do not often bring about a response when we speak them. Words and promises are cheap - when they are not backed up with character and action. But when we speak the basic self-interest that exists within all of us - and do so with character, godliness, and a servant's heart toward those we lead - we will see response where previously there has been none. Whether it is in reference to a slave - a paid worker - or even family and friends, people want to know that they are doing something that will matter - and will profit them in the end. The truly wise boss will do this - and will let his employees know that the ultimate goal of any business venture in which he is involved is to serve their clients unto the glory of God. Want to have them listen, hear, understand, and respond? Live like this!
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
Today as we look at the Ministry of Neglect and how to avoid it, we are going to look at the area of our jobs or businesses. This admontion goes in two directions - one is for the man who works for someone else and needs to know and not neglect his job. The second direction is for the man who own his own business and therefore is the one in charge of all things - and therefore truly does need to know the condtion of his business because if he does not, then no one will.
How do you watch the condition of your flocks if you simply work for someone else. The way you do this is by first working hard at your job. You do what your boss desires for you to do - and you do what you can to care for and make your boss successful (as long as it is legal). Those of you who spend too much time listening to the world may think to yourself that you see no reason why you should work so hard for "the man." But this is an ungodly attitude. We are to work hard as unto the Lord according to Scripture - and that means working so as to bless your boss. Your attitude should be selfless - even unto him.
Let me share an illustration from my own life in this regard. When I was in school I had a job at UPS. This was a very hard job - and the people for whom I worked were not the most grateful folks in the world. But I appreciated having the job and knew that God had given it to me. As a result, I worked hard and sought to make my bosses successful. I was working for THE Man - the God-man, Jesus Christ. The wonderful thing about this is that you will stick out like a sore thumb in our society. Hard workers who don't constantly complain are in short supply - and believe me - your boss will appreciate having one. And even if he doesn't you can know you will receive reward from The Lord in the end.
If you are the boss - and own your own business - you had better know well the condition of your business. The truth is (and all those of you who own businesses know this) that if you don't do this, no one else will. That is why it is important to keep up with what is happening with your customers, your employees, and the financial health of your business.
The wise man knows that no matter what place he has in the workforce, he needs to pay attention to his role and do it as unto The Lord. That way he is blessed whether he is the one who receives the profits from the business or he just receives a weekly paycheck. Either way you will be blessed - bless others - and in the end receive a blessing from The Lord in all that you do.
He who tends the fig tree will eat its fruit, And he who cares for his master will be honored.
Today's proverb will instruct us on how to be blessed by your master or your employer. For those who lived as slaves in the day in which this proverb was written, it applied to those who cared for their masters. In our day, when slavery is not practiced as it was in Biblical days, it refers to our relationship with our employers - of for that matter - anyone under whose authority we find oursevles.
The picture used here is that of someone who is tending a fig tree. The one who does this task will get to eat from the fruit of the fig tree. There may be an encouragment here to serve over a long period of time, due to the fact that a fig tree is a tree that lives a long time. It is also one that matures rather slowly. A great reminder for us who have been conditioned to think a certain way in our "fast-food" society. We think if we serve a week, or month, or even a year or two, we should be rewarded richly. The use of the fig tree should point us to faithful service over the long haul - not just a few weeks, months, or years. When we serve faithfully over a long period of time - our master or employer will consider us worthy to be honored. This is especially the case with wise employers.
The word used for "cares" in the second part of this verse is the Hebrew word "samar." This is a word that means to watch over, keep, preserve, or guard. The idea is not of grudging service. It points to a careful watchfulness. IT refers to those who pay closer attention to what their master needs. It also reminds us that this kind of "care" is not done with a bitter, resentful heart. It is done with a loving watchcare.
There is another reason to live this way towards those in authority over us. When we do this, we are leaving the sweet savory aroma of Christ with them. They watch how we love and serve them - and wonder at what it is that motivates us to live as we do. There will most likely be some kind of reward or blessing for that hard work - but there will be something far more valuable than silver, gold, or awards. There will be the questions that we can answer as they ask, "Why do you work harder than anyone else? Why is it that you work this way without complaining? Why do you live this way - with such a different work ethic as well as a desire to honor me as your employer?" These are the questions that they should be asking as we work as unto God in their business. When they do ask, our reply will be first to give glory to God for our work ethic - and then to turn to the gospel whereby our hearts were transformed to be different than the rest of the world. You see, our work ethic - our willingness to work as unto God - our desire to care for our master/employer with love and hard work - are all for the purpose of glorifying God and the gospel of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. So . . . let me ask you in closing - through your work ethic have you glorified God today? Has how you worked made a way for the gospel that has changed your heart? You see, we do not work to bless our master for the reward of his favor alone. We work for our Lord and Master first and foremost for the glory of His grace and mercy. The fact that our earthly master notices and rewards us are just perks that come as we live to make much of our Heavenly Master.
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.
Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before obscure men. Proverbs 22:29
When a man works hard he honors God in what he is doing. But there is also another way to honor God in your work. The man who becomes very skilled in what he does and does it to the glor of God truly honors the Lord. According to today's proverb the Lord will not be the only one honoring him either.
A question is asked as we begin this proverb. The question is this, "Do you see a man skilled in his work?" Skilled is the word "mahiyr" which means to be well-versed, to show extraordinary expertise in some area. One who has a skill of this level is said to be one who is referred toglowingly by anyone blessed by it. Ezra was such an expert in the Word of God as referred to in Ezra 7:6 - and the Messiah is spoken of glowingly as one who is skilled or an expert in righteousness in Isaiah 16:5. These two cases have to do with the things of God - but there are also experts in a field of endeavor that are a blessing as well. Such was the case with two wonderfully blessed men who helped in building the tabernacle of Moses. Bezalel and Oholiab were the two men God had gifted in all kinds of metal and embroidery work. They were skilled with jewels and with building the glorious things that God required for the Tabernacle. Their skills, which were relatively unknown, were brought to the forefront by God Himself for use in constructing the Tabernacle in Exodus 31 and 36. Their skill, developed over years of hard work and a drive for excellence landed them a job working for God Almighty, building the very tent of worship in which God would be properly sought.
Being skilled at something requires work and focus. These are things that are valued in the kingdom of God. God desires for us to work hard - and here we see also to work with skill and excellence. God mentions the excellence of those who worshipped Him specifically mentioning men like Chenniniah and Asaph. There were even men who served God with excellence doing things we might never notice - such as Obed Edom who was known for his care for the Ark of the Covenant and later an excellence as a door keeper in the house of the Lord. Finally, there were the mighty men of David listed in 2 Samuel 23 who were known for their leadership and bravery in fighting the battles of the Lord.
When a man has developed skill and excellence above all others we are told that he will serve before kings and important officials. Such a skilled man will not serve or stand before ordinary men. His skills will make a way for him - and he will be known widely. In a day where too many look to knowing the right people to get ahead - or a big break to suddenly be noticed, this is a welcome call to hard work and excellence. It is a reminder that time and time again men and women have distinguished themselves by being the very best at what they do. That is the way to true success in business or in some skilled profession. Any other way to make it to the top will leave the one gaining the position very vulnerable. His vulnerablility will be to those who actually have the skill to be where he is. When that is the case - the one who is there will resort to intrigue, betrayal, and many other kinds of wickedness to stay at the top. Better to let your skill talk for you - than to trust in your ability to be one step ahead of your competition. Because at the end of the day - or better said at the end of life - we will not get ahead that way. We will be known for our willingness to serve - and to serve with skill and excellence for the glory of God. That is the way to get ahead now - and even if you are unnoticed in this world - you'll be rewarded in the next.
A worker's appetite works for him, For his hunger urges him on. Proverbs 16:26
Did you know that the Bible does not support the idea of a welfare state? There is plenty in the Scriptures that support giving to help out the poor and disadvantaged. But the idea of providing a living for someone without them having to work - especially when they are able to work - is foreign to the Bible.
God's Word encourages us to work - and to work hard. Beginning with God encouraging man to work the garden - prior to the fall - and continuing through the New Testament where Paul tells us that if a man will not work, not to let him eat - God is adamant about people giving themselves to worthwhile endeavors in life. We've seen several verses already that rebuke the sluggard and warn him to apply himself to work hard. God also encourages us to enjoy our work in the book of Ecclesiastes.
God's Word states that a "do nothing" mindset will destroy a man's character - and eventually his life. Welfare will eventually create not just a sluggard, but a person who feels that they are entitled to getting things without working. This entitlement attitude will not just destroy an individual - it can destroy entire economies and states. When the state either cuts off these entitlements or even downgrades them in size - the lazy rise up and riot because they have grown to expect something for nothing.
The whole idea of incentive and hunger is necessary for a society to have a good work ethic. The incentive causes the worker to become more dependable and productive. He works harder and better and in the process not only blesses himself - but his company and even his entire nation. The hunger for food is one way that this is seen - and the hunger for even better things can be a continued way this is beneficial. First we work so that we can feed ourselves and our families. Over time our families are fed, but we want even better things for them. This comes not out of greed, but out of a true desire to bless our families - even beyond the scope of our lives. The incentive to see our children have a better life is a good thing.
Our society is falling apart because it has ignored these things. We have begun to adopt a mindset toward socialism - where the government takes care of all the people. God did not intend for this to be the case. He meant for men to care for their families - and for the state to only have a limited role in governing our lives. The family is the basic unit of society - and the place where values and work ethic is to be taught and encouraged. Even with our children we are to use incentive to help them see the need to work and to labor. When a child is spoiled by his parents - that child is given everything they want - without having to work for what they receive. The child does not appreciate these things - and even has resentment when the parent either cannot or will not provide something they demand. The child never learns a solid work ethic - which damages them for life. They don't work hard - get fired from multiple jobs - which they always equate to a problem with the employer. The problems they have even enter into their marriage and family - because they are unwilling to work and do what is necessary to bless a family. Everything is about them and what they want. Thus they destroy not just their own lives - but in time multiple generations which follow in their footsteps.
The incentive and drive to work - and work hard is a matter of godliness in the end. It is encouraged by God granting to us an appetite - and a hunger for food. If we are coddled and protected from hunger and need. If we are given everything and never made to work for what is necessary. If we are spoiled as children - and even as adults - we are headed for a disastrous end. The older we get, the more selfless we should become. The selfishness of a little child is not to be encouraged - but worked out of them. If this is not done - not even their hunger can get them to engage in profitable work. When multiplied over the face of a region - and even a nation - this will lead to the fall of that nation. Let your hunger and your thirst be a motivation to work hard - and to encourage others to do the same. It may seem hard at first - but you will see the wisdom of God's Word in encouraging work and labor as a way to bless ourselves and others around us.