I find it interesting that one of the phrases that I hear often is, "Don't work too hard." There are some out there who do struggle with the problem of working all the time - but over the past 49 years of my life, I think my problem is not working too hard. My problem is that I get distracted and lazy - and don't attend to the things that really matter in my life - and in my work.
The proverb today uses an agricultural setting to help us understand the value and the blessing of working hard. "He who tills his land will have plenty of bread." If a man works hard at plowing the ground and planting a crop - he will have plenty of grain to harvest and make into bread. God intended for us to work in life. We need to remember that work is not a part of the curse. God had Adam till and work in the garden before the fall. What the fall did was make it to where we would have to work harder. The ground, which formerly grew wonderfully without weeds, was now going to yield the crops we need by the sweat of our brow. It is going to require not just tilling and planting - but also weeding. This was an activity that was unnecessary prior to the fall. This being said, there is a promise here that if we work hard tilling and planting the land - we will have a harvest sufficient to provide plenty of bread for our family.
There is something that is good about work. The more I am idle - the more my mind and my heart have time to think of things that will get me into trouble. The saying that an idle mind is the devil's workshop is for the most part true. That is why God wants us to work - and I truly believe He wants us to work hard.
The second half of this proverb warns us that the one who pursues worthless things lacks sense. What this is warning against is the wandering mind, and the earthly lifestyle. This man is pursuing worthless things. Worthless is the word "reya" which means something that is empty, worthless, or vain. It indicates something that has nothing in it - it is utterly empty. The unwise man is pursuing emptiness. He is chasing after things that do not matter - and will not matter in eternity. This man, according to Solomon, lacks sense. He is as void in his thinking as he is in his pursuit of these empty pursuits. What he wants and chases after is not worth having. He will open what to him is his treasure chest one day and find that it is filled with things that are void of any value whatsoever. As Solomon says in Ecclesiastes - he has chased after vanity and wind.
Here is where we need to consider Ecclesiastes to give us the proper perspective on things. Solomon was arguably one of the richest men to ever live on this planet. Yet at the end of his life, when he wrote Ecclesiastes, he said that all the riches and wealth and opulence was empty, meaningless - a chasing after the wind. He looked at all the money and things he had and came to the conclusion that they were all vain. He looked at all the women he had sexual relations with and concluded that his pursuit of pleasure was all vain. He looked at all the authority and position he had enjoyed - and came to the realization that it too was vain. It is not that these things were evil in and of themselves (unless Scripture forbade his actions). It was that when he pursued these things he was pursuing emptiness - trying to catch wind in his hands.
There is also the ones in today's society (and every society) that pursue vain things in the entertainments and amusements of our day. We have millions of children and adults who pursue the high score or the next level on their video games like it was the most important thing in life. We not only have people overindulged in sports - but now have fantasy sports leagues where we follow the ones actually playing in a make believe world of a fantasy league. Some lose themselves in virtual worlds on the computer - others now lose themselves in virtual computer pursuits on their iTouch or smart phone. Regardless of how we are doing it - we are wasting our lives in pursuit of worthless things. On the day when we are ultimately judged for the "tilling and planting of our very lives" we may unfortunately find that these pursuits were the height of foolishness. We may come to grasp that we have lacked the bread of life and as a result have suffered from spiritual famine most of our lives.
May God gives us wisdom to learn now that what matters is working hard for the things that matter. What will matter is how we have redeemed the time in providing for our families - loving our spouses and our children - and working in the eternal fields of God's kingdom. If we do, we will have plenty of bread - even the bread that lasts forever. If we do not, we will have the terrifying specter of learning that we have spent our lives chasing after wind.