In the midst of a few days of being a dreadful slacker, I come to Proverbs 10:4. This is how God speaks through His Word: the truth is always there. Then when you need it and bother to read it, the truth smacks you in the face like a bug hits a windshield on the highway.
What do we do with Proverbs 10:4? First, we need to address a reality of life in poverty. There are some who are poor because of unjust systems or pure misfortune. The latter should receive assistance and the former should see us provide systems that provide justice.
There are those who are poor because of negligence and laziness, though. The difficulty in modern America is that we are so sensitive that we never want to judge another person’s behaviors when in point of fact, we should do just that in the case of poverty. How we do so should be carefully considered, but it should be done.
Why? Because as Solomon tells us, poverty also comes from working negligently. Consider that person at work who slacks throughout the day, the cashier who doesn’t pay attention, the sales rep who never tries to sell anything. These are negligent hands at work, and if they lose their job and end up in poverty, it’s not unjust systems or pure misfortune. It is their own action.
In this we see the importance of personal responsibility. The stories seem to sound so familiar: there’s always an excuse, a reason why it’s not our fault for the trouble. Are we really all helpless before a cruel world? I have my doubts. Big doubts. We need to wrestle with that in our own lives first.
This should include our spiritual development. While I am an absolute believer in salvation by grace alone, I am convinced that relationship requires effort. Our growth in walking with Christ requires effort. Spiritual poverty awaits those who work at their faith with a negligent hand.
Then we see the counterpoint in the Proverb: diligence makes rich. I think we mistakenly add an Americanized view of “rich” to this, and expect fancy cars, private jets, and massive mansions. True, that is how it happens for some. However, rich in this case should be seen as self-sustained, not blinged-out. A rich person is one who has a full pantry, a full stomach, and a roof to keep warm. That’s rich enough—which is a matter for other days, but is my opinion.
In all, we control a large part of our life. Our willingness to work diligently and strive makes a difference in the outcomes. There are exceptions to this, but we should them as that: exceptions to the rule. Strive for the rule and aid those trapped in the exceptions is a good way to work.