Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Counseled By The King, The Proverbs Of Solomon. Day 13, Wisdom Prevents Laziness

Today Solomon mentions several things that the wise person is to avoid, including laziness. He begins, though, by cautioning us against making unwise agreements. "My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, if you have shaken hands in pledge for a stranger, you have been trapped by what you said, ensnared by the words of your mouth. So do this, my son, to free yourself, since you have fallen into your neighbor's hands: Go---to the point of exhaustion---and give your neighbor no rest! Allow no sleep to your eyes, no slumber to your eyelids. Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the snare of the fowler." (Proverbs 6:1-5) Bible scholar James Coffman says, "This is the equivalent (in modern terms) of co-signing your neighbor's note." Solomon is of the opinion that making such a pledge encourages laziness in the one we have promised to help, plus it endangers our own bank accounts and property. If the person defaults on the payments, we are now responsible for the debt. Solomon cautions us not to make such a decision lightly. There are times when it might make sense to co-sign a note for one of our children or close family members, but all such agreements must be made only after carefully considering whether we are able to take on the debt if the other person doesn't keep up his or her end of the bargain. We must also consider whether the person we are helping is actually going to be helped by us or whether we are simply enabling them to keep on being irresponsible. There are many factors to take into account before making a promise like this.

While he's on the subject of whether we are actually helping or enabling a person, Solomon gives a sharp command to the one who is lazy. "Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest." (Proverbs 6:6-8) He says, "Nature itself teaches us not to be lazy. Glance down at the ground and observe the ants. See how busy they are? See how they think ahead and work toward the future? Should you not do the same?"

Solomon can be accused of many things, but laziness is not one of them. During his reign he completed a number of ambitious building projects and he orchestrated many important political and trade alliances. He had a strong work ethic that compelled him to get up early in the morning and to labor late into the evening. He can't understand the person who has no goals for his or her life. "How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest---and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man." (Proverbs 6:9-11) The king asks, "How can you lie in bed all day? There's work to be done. Stop putting it off. If you keep putting it off you will soon be in trouble. The bill collectors will be pounding on the door. Your property will be seized for debts. Then what will you do?"

You may have heard the saying, "Idle hands are the devil's playthings." Idleness leads to boredom which in turn leads to becoming a busybody and a troublemaker. "A troublemaker and a villain, who goes about with a corrupt mouth, who winks maliciously with his eye, signals with his feet and motions with his fingers, who plots evil with deceit in his heart---he always stirs up conflict. Therefore disaster will overtake him in an instant; he will suddenly be destroyed---without remedy." (Proverbs 6:12-15) The Apostle Paul noted the same relationship between being lazy and being a troublemaker in one of his letters to the people of Thessalonica, "We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat." (2 Thessalonians 3:11-12) He said something similar to his friend Timothy about women in the community who were not hard workers and who did not keep their households in order, "Besides, they get into the habit of becoming idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also busybodies who talk nonsense, saying things they ought not to." (1 Timothy 5:13) In Paul's day the men mostly did the work of earning a living and the women did most of the household chores and child-rearing. So he says to the people of his day, "Men, be responsible and get up every morning and go to your jobs and provide for your household. Then you won't become troublemakers and villains. Women, keep your households in order and stay closely involved in your children's lives. Then you won't have time to run around spreading gossip to the neighbors."

Solomon concludes with a list of attitudes and behaviors that the Lord despises. "There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community." (Proverbs 6:16-19) The king sees a relationship between a lazy spirit and these deplorable attitudes and behaviors, saying something like, "Lazy people have a haughty spirit, believing they are too good to toil every day like the rest of us. They are also more likely to lie and make up excuses for why they aren't accomplishing anything. They might even resort to robbery or bloodshed to get what they need. If nothing else, they will become idle, and that will lead to meddling in other people's business. The Lord hates it when someone stirs up trouble. He is a God of peace and it honors Him when we live peacefully among our neighbors."

Solomon is speaking about the person who is physically and mentally able to perform a job, and who knows he or she ought to perform a job, but who simply does not want to. He warns us that the wise person is not idle, for idleness leads to other sins. Godly wisdom will help us to set good goals for our lives, godly wisdom will make us capable of achieving these goals, and godly wisdom will help us be productive members of society. There are at least 555 references to the word "work" in the Bible. God the Father and God the Son are always at work. (John 5:17) God the Holy Spirit is always at work, leading sinners to repentance and giving guidance to believers. We can honor our Lord by doing good honest work at home or at our jobs, being thankful for the health and strength He's given us, achieving godly goals for ourselves and for our families.

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