Everyone needs sleep to be able to function in life. If you don't think this is true - try going without sleep for a few days. But there is a problem that comes with too much sleep. Too much sleep leads to laziness. That is the problem that is pointed out in these 3 verses of Proverbs.
The question is put to the sluggard, "How long will you lie down?" The writer of Proverbs asks when he is going to rise from sleeping. Here is the problem - we have a man who is more interested in sleeping than in getting up and doing something. There is not an illness involved here. Neither is there a situation where someone has been up all night working or dealing with a child. This is simply a man who does not want to get out of bed. He doesn't want to do this because he is lazy.
It is good to have a routine for yourself that includes a time when you are going to wake up in the morning. For the vast majority of us who have jobs - this problem is solved by our employer, who expects us to show up for work each day when he dictates. We have a choice to sleep in . . . it is just that this choice also involves not having a job, food, a place to live - you get what I'm saying. Because of this fact of life - we wake up and get out of bed.
If you want to rear a child well - you will also teach your child to get up and get out of bed as well. For this reason it is good for your child to have a job - even if it is one that is around home. I remember hearing a story about a farmer who taught his children to wake up and get working on the farm. His sons were with him in the corn early one morning when a neighbor commented about this practice. His comment was that he sure was working his boys hard to raise corn. I love the comment the farmer gave in return. He said, "Sir, I'm not raising corn - I'm raising sons."
What a wonderful statement. We teach our children to wake up and get going each day because we want to train them and teach them how to live in this world. It would be far wiser for them to learn this lesson young and maintain it throughout life - than to learn it only because necessity demands it when they get a job. When we leave it to necessity to educate them - they often learn the hard way. They also resent having their laziness interrupted with something so harsh as . . . reality.
Sleep is not the real problem here. It is what comes with too much sleep. There is sleep and slumber that is perfectly fine. If we go to bed on time - we can get plenty of sleep every night. Our problem usually is discerning between a regular night in life - and one that is special. I know some will scoff at this - but it is also wise to teach children (and some adults as well) the difference between a school night - and a weekend or vacation night. For big people reading this - that can also be said this way. We need to discern the difference between a night when we have responsibilities the next day - and one where we do not.
Our problem is that we not only sleep and slumber - but we also get the idea that we can fold our hands and not work. When we decide that we don't have to be diligent - we don't have to be hard working - we don't have to be our best for work and our employer each day - we are making a big mistake. The Scriptures teach us that God desires us to work hard - as if we are working for Him. When it is time to work - God wants us to work. This folding of the hands to rest is a picture of a man who values sleep and rest far more than he does hard work. This may sound fine to most - but God made it clear to us from the Law that for six days we are to labor and do our work. Work was not a part of the Fall of man into sin. Work is something God had Adam do in the garden.
When we don't work there will be troubles and problems for us in life. First, we won't earn money with which to pay for food and other living items. Second, if we have a job and don't work hard - we will eventually lose that job. Finally, God calls us to work - and when we don't we often find ourselves doing things that we will regret later. Too much free time - plays right into the hands of the devil. I believe the old phrase is, "Idle hands are the devil's workshop." No work and all sleep makes Johnny a sinful boy.
When we don't work something is coming - and it would be wise if we were warned of what that is. Poverty is coming if you don't wake up and work hard.
The warning here from Solomon is that poverty is coming to us. Two descriptions of how poverty is coming are given to us to warn us that this visitor is not welcome in our lives. First, poverty is coming in like a "vagabond." The word here means one who walks back and forth on a highway - and it referred to a highwayman. These were people who walked about on the highways and roads who desired to rob those passing on the road. They were thieves and robbers. Thus what Solomon is saying here is that poverty is going to come upon you like a thief hiding near the road. He will rise up suddenly and attack. Usually this comes without a lot of warning. That is the way it is for the sluggard who loves his sleep. He thinks everything is fine - and then suddenly poverty hits him without him being ready for it.
The second picture Solomon uses here to describe how poverty is coming is that of an "armed man." What is fascinating about this word is that it actually refers to a man with a shield, and the same word is used of the protective scales of a crocodile. Most commentators figure that this refers to an armed man with shield and with a sword. This one comes upon you for the purpose of taking what you have. I take a different tack on this word. I think it refers to how hard it is to get out of poverty - especially a poverty caused by laziness, lack of discipline, and being a sluggard. You can try to fight a man with a shield - but it is difficult. He is going to be able to ward off all your attempts to harm him. He will prevail more than once - so you have to be wise and fight hard to vanquish him. When a man is lazy and in poverty - he is hit with the proverbial double-whammy. He not only is poor, he is poor and unwilling to work hard to get out of poverty. All of the stories I've heard about those overcoming poverty had to do with those who worked hard to do so. I can't ever remember one where the man or woman slept in every day and barely worked when they did apply themselves.
Laziness is a difficult thing to overcome. Someone who loves their sleep does not train easily. They want to relax and NOT work. Thus they face a very daunting future. They don't want to work - but they do want to eat. They don't want to apply themselves - but they do want the stuff that comes from applying yourself. Unfortunately, our government often gives no incentive to get out of this state as they offer welfare programs and far more incentive NOT to work than TO work. Welfare to those who are just lazy is not a help - it hurts them and society as well. Those truly in need can and should be helped by society - but we've gone well beyond that in our nation. We've subsidized far too much laziness and lack of discipline. That is why our growing socialism, and the laziness it encourages by punishing the successful and rewarding those who stick their hand out to the government, is going to receive a visit from these verses one day. One day even nations will be visited by the highwayman and the man with the shield. Unless we encourage work - hard work - and things like industry and frugality and discipline - we will continue to destroy the work ethic in our country. When that work is completed, we will have put the finishing touches on a sleep-loving, work-hating society. Oh, may God give us wisdom to wake up, work hard, make wise financial choices, and honor Him in it all. May He have mercy on our country and help us to see that laziness, self-indulgence, and the thought that our government owes us a living are not helping us - these things are destroying us.