Work versus Reward

As we discovered earlier, Solomon and the wise men of Israel had a lot to say about the value of diligence and the dangers of laziness. When we put all the sayings together, their message becomes clear: work diligently and you will reap material rewards; laziness will leave you penniless. Even in this, however, the proverbs call for balance. In favor of work, the wise men wrote:

A worker’s appetite works for him,
For his hunger urges him on. (16:26)

The word translated “appetite” is the Hebrew term for “soul.” In this context, it refers to the human desire to meet our basic needs for survival. Literally, a person must have water, food, and shelter. This biological need drives us to work. In a broader sense of the expression, the sage acknowledged our spiritual need for meaningful work. God designed us with this “hunger,” and we reflect His image when we fulfill our divine purpose (Genesis 1:28; 2:15).

This need, however, can become an obsession. Hunger urges us to work, but greed—or one of many personal issues—compels us to work too much. God calls us to diligence, but He doesn’t want workaholics. According to this book of wisdom, there is both a time to work and a time to enjoy the fruit of our labor.

Prepare your work outside
And make it ready for yourself in the field;
Afterwards, then, build your house. (24:27)

The phrase build your house has both a literal and a figurative meaning. To build one’s house, a man not only erected a structure in which to live, but he worked to establish a legacy. He married, filled the home with children, reared them to adulthood, and then enlarged the dwelling to accommodate the next generation. In this sense, a person’s house represented his life, which he filled with family, friends, wealth, and provisions for security.

To paraphrase this proverb, “Work hard! Then, get a life!”

From Living the Proverbs by Charles R. Swindoll, copyright © 2012. Reprinted by permission of Worthy Inspired., an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

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