Proverbs 13:4 ESV
The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.
That sloth breeds poverty and diligence plenty is not surprising. We often, however, forget about the more important results of sloth and diligence: the respective impoverishment and enrichment of the soul. Sloth and diligence aren’t just events that happen to us, after all; they’re patterns of thought and behavior we adopt and grow into, shaping and molding ourselves towards one or the other. In other words, the effects of sloth and diligence are first felt in the person, not the world around him.
What does God mean when He says, ‘The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing’? Put simply, however much I want something, it matters diddly-squat unless I actually buckle down and work on getting it. If I want fried eggs, for instance, simply sitting on the couch and salivating will, at most, slightly dehydrate me. To actually enjoy the fried eggs, I have to sit up, get out the eggs and butter and frying pan, turn on the oven, and fry those eggs.
This principle is easy enough to see on the small scale, where we can lay out all the reactants and follow them to the end-goal. If nobody cooks the eggs, nobody eats the eggs (hopefully). Bigger issues, however, can easily slip by us. We want that job promotion, but it’s just so much easier to wait a bit longer before working to merit it. We want to learn more about that particular topic, but really, what’s the harm in putting it off till tomorrow? We want to know God better, but it wouldn’t hurt to spend fifteen minutes more on this before we start reading our Bibles. In other words, when the work is right now and the benefits are later, sitting and craving may seem much better than getting up and doing.
Where this habit really hurts, though, is in our relationship with God. No matter how much I desire God, if I don’t act upon that desire, it might as well not exist. The situation here is much the same as with the dead faith James speaks of. If I desire God in truth, with even a fraction of an infinitesimal fraction of the strength I ought, I would “present [my body] as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which [would be my] spiritual worship”, a standard no man save Christ himself has ever fully fulfilled (Romans 12:1). This spiritual worship, this daily service, includes, I haste to add, the daily labor God has called us to, includes the diligent cultivation of a Godly family, and, yes, includes constant prayer, continual striving towards a better understanding of His word and of Him. In fact, the phrase ‘spiritual worship’ may here be misleading. The two words translated thus refer not to spiritualism or to emotional ecstasy. The first word, logiken (λογικην), means “divinely reasonable” or “pertaining to speech, reason, and logic”; the second word, latreian (λατρειαν), means “service”, such as the service provided for wages or the service of the Temple. The spiritual worship God requires, therefore, is a ‘divinely reasonable (or pertaining to the mind) service’- a whole-heart, whole-life devotion of a person’s life and mind (his reason) as a logical result of Christ’s mercy to him.
In light of all this, what does God mean when He says, “The soul of the diligent is richly supplied”? Precisely what He says: to the man of diligence, blessing it granted. Now, this promise must not be taken out of context from Scripture. Diligence in vice does not produce blessing. Diligence in murder, for instance, will result only in death, spiritual or physical. The only blessing such diligence can expect is the blessing of discipline, wherein God brings suffering in order to turn from vice; even this mercy is promised only to God’s people (Hosea 2). The wicked, on the other hand, will be judged, both in this earth and in the life to come, which is for them eternal death (Psalm 73; Matthew 18:8).
God’s people, however, should read this verse with joy. The diligence of the righteous in righteousness will be rewarded; the strength which God grants to man for his life shall grow a rich reward in that life (2 Timothy 2:1, 4:17). Yet the true glory of this verse is not in what it means for man; it lies rather in the life of the Son of God, the Son of Man, for has not God promised to His people salvation, and does not He accomplish whatsoever He desires? Does not Christ continually intercede for His people, both in His death and in His life, in His taking of sin and imputation of righteousness (Romans 8:34)? Therefore, the soul of every Christian should rejoice with great and exceeding gladness that his salvation, which Christ has accomplished by diligent and perfect obedience beyond the skill or power of man, should rejoice that his salvation has been assured, a blessing greater than any riches.
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.