Proverbs 10:4 Lazy hands make a man poor,
but diligent hands bring wealth.
It seems incredible that this very, very basic truth would ever be forgotten, but it is increasingly so in today’s entitlement society. A big part of the reason for that is that technology has made more of a disconnect between physical effort and results, as in the motto, “Work smarter, not harder.” However, humanity seems to have a strong thirst for “something for nothing,” and that’s why even Solomon felt it worthwhile to record such a simple proverb. Actually, references to this principle are scattered throughout the book of Proverbs, and even Paul felt it necessary to state that “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” (2 Thessalonians 3:10) There have been freeloaders throughout history! The difficulty comes with the even more frequently stated Biblical principle of taking care of the weak. We are not to ignore those who are physically unable to provide for themselves, and the Church has a long and generally honorable history of providing for such, starting right after Pentecost. (Acts 2:44-45) However, this was quickly corrupted at both ends, as the story of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11) and the need for appointing deacons (Acts 6:1-7) illustrate. Absolute honesty is called for all around! For most of its history America has seemed to understand this principle, and many people believed in the non-Biblical proverb of “God helps those who help themselves.” However, individual effort and individual charity have been increasingly displaced by government “social welfare,” and that has increasingly severed the connection that Solomon spoke of. We are all dependent on God for His grace and mercy, and He tells us to “pay it forward” by being gracious and merciful to those around us. He requires that we be good stewards of the abilities and opportunities He provides so that we will be available as channels of His blessing to others.
In my own upbringing I was encouraged to apply myself, but not for the purpose of financial gain. Money was seen as a necessity, but a fairly low-level priority. At the same time, I have always felt blessed by God, and I have tended to take His blessings for granted. That combined to give me a bit of an entitlement mentality, but getting a couple of F grades in college went a long way toward curing me of that! As a pastor I emphasize the grace of God, but as a school teacher I give the students the grades they earn. Actually, grace is understood and appreciated only when we grasp that we haven’t earned it. I do get upset seeing the attitudes expressed in society around me, but I must focus on the tasks God assigns to me, and not waste emotional energy on things He has not assigned. He is still Lord, and He will bring it all right in the end.
Father, the temptation to take up battles You haven’t assigned to me is very real. Help me indeed be faithful and diligent at the tasks You have for me, so that I may abound as You intend, not being distracted but serving as Your agent for Your will to be done, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!