Proverbs 12:27 ESV
Whoever is slothful will not roast his game, but the diligent man will get precious wealth.
The image of a man deciding not to eat because cooking is just too much work is legitimately funny, but we’ve all had similar impulses. We’ve all considered (or gone through with) leaving the dishes unwashed, skimming the boring textbook instead of reading it, eating unhealthy food because we don’t want to cook, or any number of other temptations. We’ve all done it, though not always as blatantly as the man in this proverb, who hunts down his game and decides it’s too much work to actually cook it.
Diligence, meanwhile, is a virtue modern society loves to ignore. We want fun times now, for free. We want to rest without ceasing. We want everything for nothing, and when we get very little instead, we whine. Now, many who read this will say, “That’s not me, though.” Very likely it isn’t. All too many, however, believe themselves so entitled, whether they say it or not.
What is diligence, what is laziness, and why is the first a virtue? Laziness and diligence are two sides of the same coin: diligence is ‘steady, earnest, and energetic effort : devoted and painstaking work and application to accomplish an undertaking’ according to Merriam Webster, and laziness is naturally the lack of such steady and assiduous effort. Diligence can be misapplied. Anyone who argues that men like Lenin were not diligent is fooling himself. Lenin accomplished the horrors he did precisely through his diligence. Nevertheless, diligence directed towards Godly ends and through Godly means is a necessary virtue for both physical and spiritual prosperity.
This necessity arises from the ‘why’ of diligence’s virtue. Diligence is the trait which God commands His people to in the Dominion Mandate, in Deuteronomy 6, and in the Great Commission, as well as countless other passages (Genesis 1:26-28; Matthew 28:16-20). As Micah 6:8 says, we are to “do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with [our] God,” and to fulfill this commandment, we must exercise diligence.
What is a Christian view of being rich (in a single paragraph)? Wealth has been much maligned in the current times. To be wealthy, we are told, is to participate in systems of oppression or to be inherently immoral. The more ‘Christian’ arguments use simplistic, out-of-context interpretations of Bible verses and stories to urge that to be wealthy is a sin in and of itself. In the Biblical model, however, while wealth is not without grave danger, prosperity, when properly obtained and used, is a blessing from God, to be treated as such with reverence, gratitude, and stewardship. Despite historic Christianity’s ascetic tendencies, passages such as Job 1, which describes the incredible wealth of Job, a righteous man, and 1 Kings 3:5-15, wherein God promises to Solomon great wealth, rule out the idea that wealth is inherently immoral. That it is dangerous nobody should deny: rich men face great temptation to abuse their riches, to the detriment of themselves and others (Psalms 73). Riches can also become a consuming passage, worshiped by their possessor above the God who created both (Matthew 19:16-30).
Why doesn’t diligence always produce wealth? The proverb implies a causal relation between diligence and wealth. This relation is real: diligence does produce wealth. Diligence, however, does not always produce wealth. Some people work incredibly hard their entire lives and end up at the bottom regardless. Ultimately, this discrepancy is a result of sin. In a sinless world, diligence would produce prosperity (though whether it would produce relative wealth is hard to say and not a matter for concern here). In this marred and fallen world, however, diligence does not always guarantee success. Laziness on the other hand essentially guarantees misery; diligence may not be a guarantee of happiness, but it is a prerequisite.
Sloth leads to misery and diligence to virtue with the possibility of wealth. The motivation for our diligence, though, should not be the potential of riches. We should not prioritize the storing up of earthly treasures above the pursuit of heavenly treasure (Matthew 6:19). Instead, our diligence should arise from the faithful imitation of the ministry of Christ. Anybody who has carefully read the Gospels knows of Christ’s diligence in serving the lost sheep of Israel (Luke 15:1-7). We should seek likewise to glorify God with our diligence in good works, that His righteousness might be made manifest through our actions (Ephesians 2:10).
Sanctuary Functional Medicine, under the direction of Dr Eric Potter, IFMCP MD, provides functional medicine services to Nashville, Middle Tennessee and beyond. We frequently treat patients from Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, and more... offering the hope of healthier more abundant lives to those with chronic illness.