Proverbs 24:3

Through wisdom is an house builded; and by understanding it is established:
– Proverbs 24:3

Verses 3-4 form the next saying, which is a metaphor illustrating the positive, constructive power of wisdom. The imagery of wisdom building a house is elsewhere in the Proverbs and it provides an excellent illustration of lasting success (Proverbs 9:1; 14:1). The word for wisdom means skill, like that of a craftsman. This word functions like an umbrella term over other words that are more like components of the whole picture of wisdom. The word for understanding means intelligence, sense, or discernment. The word for builded means to build up and the word for established means to be made firm, or secure. Wisdom begins the building on a sure footing and completes the structure with lasting stability.

This saying also touches upon the ontological realities of vocation within the created cosmos. God has created and established with wisdom (Proverbs 3:19-20; 8:22-31). As image bearers of God, we are to build, or work, with wisdom. It is easy to see then why building, or working, with folly is destructive, because it gives false witness to the Creator, will not be established, and cannot stand. When we work and build with God-fearing wisdom, our work is established and we give faithful witness to the Creator and are walking in his way.

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Proverbs 22:13

The slothful man saith, There is lion without, I shall be slain in the streets.
– Proverbs 22:13

Readers of Proverbs are well acquainted with the sluggard by this point. Despite all counsel and evidence to the contrary, the sluggard thinks he knows best (Proverbs 26:16). Here he justifies not working by the preposterous excuse of a lion in the street. The sluggard seeks the easier, more comfortable, route (Proverbs 20:4). The word for slothful means lazy. He, of course, intends to get to work, but it is always after (Proverbs 6:9-10). He needs just a little more sleep and to give the lions time to clear out.

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Proverbs 21:25

The desire of the slothful killeth him; for his hands refuse to labor.
– Proverbs 21:25

The word for desire means longing, or wish. In the negative sense, the word refers to greed and lust. The desire is explained in the next verse as daily, greedy coveting. The word for killeth can mean to die as a penalty, or what we might call execution. The slothful man’s desire destroys him. The first phrase is explained by his refusal to work. The slothful have an animal laziness that marks them (Proverbs 6:9-11; 12:27; 19:24). When laziness is couple with strong appetites, then unrighteousness is sure to follow. The slothful man will go to various evil means to obtain what he desires and bring ruin upon his own head.

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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 14:4

Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox.
– Proverbs 14:4

This proverb is straightforward. We might say, “You can’t be productive without having messes to clean up.” Keeping the barn, or the crib, clean is far easier and longer lasting when there are on oxen. The problem is apparent because a clean crib is not the point. Applications of this proverb are numerous. Many want a clean house and life and therefore want no children. Many want a clean church and restrict evangelism. God created man to work productively and make a gain in the earth (Genesis 1:27-29). Jesus reinforced this principle in the parable of the pounds (Luke 19:12-27). That servant who tried to keep his master’s money clean was called a “wicked servant.” I suppose we can add a clean crib to the sluggard’s excuses for avoiding work (Proverbs 22:13; 26:13).

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Proverbs 12:14

A man shall be satisfied with good by the fruit of his mouth: and the recompence of a man’s hands shall be rendered unto him.
– Proverbs 12:14

To be satisfied is to be filled to satisfaction. The metaphor of fruit is suggestive. It is what is produced and usually not immediately. Whether we think of a farm setting or wild fruit, it takes time to get the product. We should view our words as a kind of work and sowing. Then we must understand that word-work and sowing will produce a harvest, whether bad or good (Proverbs 13:2; 18:20-21). It is just as the work of our hands that brings a recompence, or a requital of our effort. Refusal to heed wisdom in this matter means the sluggard will have nothing in the winter (Proverbs 20:4).

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