At first glance this looks like a common proverb concerning agrarian matters – or something along the lines of an admonition about hard work. Let’s begin our look at this proverb in this way.
Anyone in agriculture will agree that there are only certain times when a person can plant, grow, cultivate, and harvest crops. The wise farmer takes this into account when planning when to work and when to take his leisure. Summer is the time for a farmer – or in this case his son – to work hard at producing a crop. The words used here are interesting though. One does not gather in the summer. One usually is working hard in the field on things like weed control or maybe some type of irrigation if the growing year is particularly dry. Yet God is saying to us that a person who is gathering in the summer is acting wisely. Here is the lesson for us. Summer is a time when the sun is hot – and it is easy to slack off in our work. But it is a very important time for the farmer. It is when the crop is being watched. It is when the farmer is showing great care on matters such as weed and pest control – and drought. Working at this time is exhausting and hard. But – it is also a time where if you do what you are supposed to do – you will guarantee a harvest.
The word “wisely” here is the Hebrew word “sakal” which means to act with prudence, insight, and understanding. For the wise son – he sees hard work – even hot, difficult work. But what he also sees is work that WILL be rewarded if he sticks with it. He may have to remind himself that the hard work now pays off later in the harvest.
The second part of the proverb speaks of the shame coming to the son who sleeps during harvest time. The word sleep here indicates a deep sleep – even a sleep with snoring. The harvest is crucial to a farmer. He MUST work hard and gather the harvest because if he does not, there is great risk of having it rot on the vine or stalk. There is a risk of losing it all if he does not work hard to gather it. A son who leaves all the work to his father is a truly shameful son. What we learn from the proverb on the surface level is that there are only certain times when work can be done – and it is a wise person who works hard during those times. The one who decides to be lazy, undisciplined, and slothful in those times is a fool. There is great value in hard work – and that value is only increased when the one working realizes the times when applying yourself to the work is even more important.
It would be a disservice to not mention the spiritual parallels that this proverb has with the New Testament call for us to be involved in a spiritual harvest. In Luke 10 and John 4, Jesus reminds His disciples that the fields are white unto harvest spiritually – and that we are to cry out to God that He would send out laborers into His harvest fields. You see, now is the summertime and harvest for men and women to be cultivated for the gospel of Jesus Christ. Now is the acceptable time to go forth weeping, sowing our precious seed – knowing that we will surely come again rejoicing with our sheaves (i.e. those whom we’ve seen God draw and save as a result of our obedience). To be asleep spiritually in this – or any generation is a shameful thing. We should be working with our Lord – sowing the gospel among those who are lost. We should be speaking to them and praying for them that the wicked one would not blind their eyes to the glory of God in the face of Christ. We should be laboring in the Lord’s vineyard knowing that a harvest is coming if we do not faint. Oh to be the wise, prudent sons who see the end from the beginning and labor to rescue those shoes sins will destroy them. Oh to be about the work of sharing Jesus with the lost so that a glorious harvest of righteousness, peace, and men and women who are born again may be gathered on that wonderful day when He comes for His own at the end of the age! Let us therefore work while it is still the day – for the time is coming when no man can work.