Something that used to be said often was that the protestants in Christianity had a strong work ethic. In fact, this was known as the protestant work ethic. The place where such a strong motivation and exhortation to work was learned was from the Scriptures. Here we see one of those passages that encouraged and exhorted people to work hard.
Work existed before the fall. It is a godly thing to work - and the very first work was tending a garden. Thus in Israel's agrarian world the idea of working in the fields, planting and harvesting crops was something that was valued highly. The son who gathered in summer, when the crops were ripened, was a son who acted wisely. He knew when hard work was required - and when it would yield great benefits. This is another area where work ethic is important to us. We work hard because we gain from the work that we do. The Lord encouraged a system where hard work by the individual and the family yielded gain and blessing to those individuals and families who worked hard. Only in extreme situations did the Lord have men live in a way that they worked so that they could equally share things. Too many look at the early days of the church and deduce that God wants us to live in a commune - or in some kind of socialist utopia. There is far more Scripture that tells us that we are rewarded individually for working hard. Socialism and Communism eventually break down into those who work hard - and others who benefit by taking what those who work hard produce. Thus these systems promote laziness and a lack of a work ethic. It is only when a man can personally benefit from his own hard labor that work will be encouraged throughout society. And . . . it is only when a lack of work results in shame, disgrace, and poverty that work will be respected and embraced by all in society. This is what the second half of our proverb today encourages. The son who sleeps in the harvest is one who acts shamefully. Shame will come upon him when he has nothing to show for his laziness and slothful attitude and actions.
There is also a spiritual application to this passage that we should not miss - because the whole idea of gathering and harvesting are terms that God uses in reference to the work of evangelism that should be taking place in the life of a New Testament believer. The son who gathers as the Spirit of God is working is a wise son. He recognizes that the gospel must be planted and watered in the lives of those who need to know Christ. There is also a time to gather - as God brings a harvest in accordance with our diligence to share Christ with others. But the son who sleeps spiritually - who is too busy loving the world and the things of the world - is indeed a shameful son. He does not see that we only have a very limited amount of time to share the gospel in this life - and therefore wastes that time in foolish pursuits.
God expects us to work - and to work hard. He wants us to work so that we can provide for ourselves and our families. He wants us to work so that the gospel can touch each and every generation. And just as important . . . He wants us to teach our sons and our daughters to also enter into work - the work of provision as well as the work of eternity.