Proverbs 22:29

Seest thou a man diligent in his business? He shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men.
– Proverbs 22:29

Proverbs praises diligence and warns against laziness (Proverbs 10:4; 12:24). The word for diligent means ready, or skillful. Promotion is in view in terms of standing before kings as the reward of the diligent. Wisdom seeks promotion on merit, not bribery or empty talk (Proverbs 14:23; 28:19). Even the talk of the diligent differs from the talk of the lazy. The talk of the diligent is a wise plan executed successfully (Proverbs 21:5).

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Proverbs 21:5

The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness; but of every one that is hasty only to want.
– Proverbs 21:5

The word for thoughts means device, or plans. The plans of the diligent, or determined, are in view. It is contrasted with hasty in the second line, which means hurried. The word for plenteousness means gain, or profit. The word for want means lack, or poverty. Proverbs commends diligence and observes diligence being generally rewarded with gain (Proverbs 10:4; 13:4; 22:29; 27:23-27). From the different proverbs about diligence, we see the diligent make wise plans and work hard to execute those plans and generally make a gain.

By contrast, poverty is the gain of sluggards (Proverbs 10:4). This proverb does not mention the sluggard, but rather the hasty. Proverbs condemns haste as folly (Proverbs 14:29). Haste here contrasted with the plans of diligence suggests a haste to be rich, or the hatching of schemes for shortcuts to wealth. Wisdom condemns these schemes as having an evil eye (Proverbs 28:22). This proverb then contributes to the catalog of ways to poverty. Poverty can be reached through stingy greed (Proverbs 11:24), by talk without action (Proverbs 14:23), by gain through oppression (Proverbs 22:16), and here by haste (Proverbs 21:5).

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Proverbs 20:13

Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty; open thine eyes, and thou shalt be satisfied with bread.
– Proverbs 20:13

Loving sleep is a feature of the sluggard, who is hinged to his bed (Proverbs 26:14). Oversleeping is an image of laziness and of missed opportunity. It brings shame and results in poverty (Proverbs 10:5; 19:15). The imperative, open thine eyes, performs double duty in this proverb. It is contrasted with loving sleep and so images alert action (Proverbs 6:9-11). Open eyes, or seeing eyes, also speaks of discernment and understanding. The second duty is telling the sluggard to wise up. The warnings are an opportunity for the sluggard to hear and receive wisdom and forsake the folly of laziness for the wisdom of diligence and hard work (Proverbs 24:30-34).

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Proverbs 16:26

He that laboureth laboureth for himself; for his mouth craveth it of him.
– Proverbs 16:26

This proverb fits in the broad category of diligence and hard work. It is also among the proverbs I call wise observations. The craving mouth stand for the bodily appetite for food. Our basic needs and appetites compel us to labor. The proverb prompts at least two considerations pertaining to work. First, the hunger is real and only real work will feed it (Proverbs 14:23). Second, the hunger is real and pressing but the satisfaction is only temporary (Ecclesiastes 6:7). If we think about work wisely, we understand the place it should be in, what it can do, and what it cannot do.

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Proverbs 14:23

In all labor there is profit: but the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury.
– Proverbs 14:23

Proverbs doesn’t provide a shortcut to riches, but it does consistently assure us there is profit in diligent work. The word for profit means a gain, or increase. The sure way to it is labor, or toil (Proverbs 28:19). The contrast to hard work is idle talk, the talk of the lips. The word for penury means want, or lack. It can indicate poverty. Idle talk can be in many forms, such as excuses (Proverbs 22:13; 26:13), talking rather than listening (Proverbs 26:16), or pursuing quick schemes (Proverbs 28:19). These sort usually have big ideas about what they’re going to do, but it is always going to be done and never done.

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Proverbs 13:23

Much food is in the tillage of the poor: but there is that is destroyed for want of judgment.
– Proverbs 13:23

The word for tillage means fallow ground. The point is the poor man can eat of the land with hard work and good management. His lack of resource is no insurmountable obstacle (Proverbs 28:19). Contrariwise, failure to discern the time and respond accordingly leads to loss (Ecclesiastes 8:5-6).

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Proverbs 13:11

Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished: but he that gathereth by labor shall increase.
– Proverbs 13:11

The word for vanity means empty. It is contrasted in this proverb with labor, which indicates work with the hands. So vanity here doesn’t exclude illegitimacy but the contrast speaks more to haste and trying to gain wealth without working for it. It reminds us of those always attracted by the offer of making a lot of money with little time or effort. Other similar proverbs speak of haste instead of vanity (Proverbs 20:21; 21:5). The general tenor of Proverbs teaches that diligence, hard work, and good stewardship increases wealth without the attendant sorrows of the vain pursuers (Proverbs 27:23-27).

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Proverbs 13:4

The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat.
– Proverbs 13:4

This proverbs contrasts wanting and having. The word for sluggard means indolent or lazy. We might even say sluggish to do anything. To desire is to wish for or to want something. The sluggard here has a desire for things but has nothing. The sluggard is a certain type of fool in the Proverbs. His character is sketched in vivid pictures. He is hinged to his bed (Proverbs 26:14). He produces outlandish excuses, such as a lion in the street (Proverbs 26:13). The sluggard is pure laziness (Proverbs 26:15). Sluggards tend to have plenty of ideas but they find out talk is truly cheap (Proverbs 14:23). The contrast is with the diligent and their being made fat. Fatness is a reference to abundance or plenteousness. The general tenor of the Proverbs is that diligence, hard work, is rewarded with profit (Proverbs 14:23). The diligent also desire like the sluggards do, but the difference is the diligent get up and work in order to have (Proverbs 21:5).

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Proverbs 12:27

The slothful man roasteth not that which he took in hunting: but the substance of a diligent man is precious.
– Proverbs 12:27

The Proverbs speaks much of diligence and slothfulness. The first phrase shows the slothful man cannot finish what he has started. He has no commitment and perseverance to see a project through (Proverbs 19:24; 26:15). He creates a lot of waste and is left unsatisfied (Proverbs 6:11; 13:4; 21:25-26). The quarry taken in hunting is similar to the image of the harvest. There is a short time to roast it before it spoils. So, the slothful squander opportunities. The contrast expresses a different view by the diligent. All substance got through hard work and great blessing is precious, not to be wasted.

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