Slothfulness casteth into a deep sleep; and an idle soul shall suffer hunger.
Lazy people sleep soundly, but idleness leaves them hungry. (NLT)
I remember reading a book entitled ‘Mr Lazy’ to my children. Mr Lazy lived in Sleepyland where the birds flew so slowly that they fell out of the sky sometimes. One afternoon Mr Lazy fell asleep in his garden while waiting for his bread to toast for breakfast. He was woken by two gentlemen shouting; “WAKE UP!” He opened his eyes to find Mr Busy and Mr Bustle standing in front of him. They set about giving Mr Lazy many tasks in an attempt to change his life. But it was all a dream and Mr Lazy didn’t have to change his life. Or did he?
There always needs to be a balance between work and rest. Work too much and rest too little and we may face burn out or depression. Even Jesus took time off, and He made sure the disciples took time off too (Mark 6:30-32). But there is a big difference between justifiable rest and bone idleness.
The KJV states that an ‘idle soul shall suffer hunger.’ While that may seem like an obvious statement, is Solomon linking failure to work with hunger, or is there a deeper meaning here? How about a hunger of the soul? I wonder how many followers of Jesus have hungry souls? Walking with Jesus is like any relationship – it requires investment, and it requires our time and commitment. All this comes on top of everything else we have to do. Consider the disciples. They had to invest a significant amount of time, and make some pretty substantial sacrifices, before they qualified as apostles. Even the process of waiting for Pentecost required an investment in prayer.
We need to carry out a spiritual stock-take to determine whether we have hungry souls. Are we Mr or Mrs Lazy living in Spiritual Sleepyland waiting for a wake up call? What will it take for God to get our attention? What will it take for us to make time for Jesus?
The king’s wrath is as the roaring of a lion; but his favor is as dew upon the grass.
Of Earthly Kings and Princes
I was intrigued to see a video posted on Facebook in which Prince Charles spoke very favorably of the church in the UK. He was referring to a particular event called The BigChurchDayOut, but the positive manner in which he described the church was most encouraging. Prince Charles is not yet King Charles, but he is next in line to the British throne, and his favor is definitely worth having. In fact, Prince Charles has bestowed his favor on many through his involvement with various charities through The Prince of Wales’s Charitable Foundation.
While Prince Charles is unlikely to display wrath, many of his ancestors were skilled in anger. Before the monarchy became constitutional, the Kings and Queens of England were the most powerful individuals in the land, and their subjects were wise to avoid their wrath. Anger the king and you might up in The Tower of London, facing torture and execution. Not even the rich and famous were safe. It seems amazing that the great explorer Sir Walter Raleigh met his end not during some dangerous expedition, but at the blade of the executioner’s axe.
King of Kings
Psalm 47:7 states: ‘For God is the King of all the earth; sing to him a psalm of praise’ while in Revelation 19:16 God is referred to as the ‘King of kings and Lord of lords.’ God is King above all kings, but unlike other kings He does not demand our allegiance. The King of kings gives us a choice. He doesn’t threaten us with His wrath, but instead promises favor that is like dew on the grass, or icing on the cake (to bring this proverb up to date). But while God’s wrath may not fall on us now if we turn our backs on Him, there will be a day when all humanity will be required to stand before the King (Matthew 25:31-46).
“A false witness shall not be unpunished, and he that speaketh lies shall not escape.”
“A false witness will not go unpunished, and whoever pours out lies will not go free.” (NIV)
There are people in prison today who are there because someone has falsely testified against them. Sometimes we read in the press about terrible miscarriages of justice that have taken place because one person gave false witness against another. While giving false witness is a terrible thing, even the smallest of lies usually has consequences. The trouble with lies is that they entrap us. When we are untruthful it is often the case that one lie leads to another. Although we are always hopeful of improving a situation through lying, lies are eventually discovered and those who lie or bear false witness have to face up to the consequences of lying.
I learned the lesson early in life. I had been forbidden to walk home from school, but one day I did. When I arrived home my mother asked if I had traveled home on the school bus. I told her that I had. Then she asked who I had sat next to on the bus. That stumped me momentarily, until I managed to pluck a name out of the air. Then my mother asked me if I had disobeyed her and walked home. I insisted that I had been on the bus. Unfortunately for me my mother had watched the bus stop outside our house ten minutes earlier and she knew I hadn’t been on the bus. I went to bed early that night. It gave me plenty of time to think about what I had done.
God is very clear regarding what He thinks about lies and false witness. The trouble with false witness is that it is bad witness. God calls His people to demonstrate His eternal investment in them through the way that they live their lives. Lying is not an acceptable component of a life surrendered to God. Jesus warned a group of Pharisees about the fruit of the mouth, and His teaching applies equally to us.
“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:33-37 NIV)
Better is the poor that walketh in his integrity, than he that is perverse in his lips, and is a fool.
Better to be poor and honest than to be dishonest and a fool. (NLT)
Perverting the Course of Justice
A former senior politician is currently serving a prison sentence in the UK. He is a wealthy man, and a man who was so driven by ambition that when clocked by a speed camera for the umpteenth time he persuaded his wife to tell the authorities that she was driving. She duly complied and took the points on her licence so that her husband could keep his. Some years later she discovered that her husband’s dishonesty extended to matters of the bedroom, and she leaked his past misdemeanor to the press, claiming that she perverted the course of justice only because of marital coercion. The jury did not accept her defense, and she was also imprisoned, but only after many months of her former husband denying the charges. He eventually admitted that he had been driving. He will still have his wealth when released from prison, but his integrity is in tatters and will be difficult to rebuild.
The challenge to be honest in all things is one that most of us face daily in a variety of situations. I remember being given too much change in a restaurant. It was 1976. I was home on leave and taking a holiday in my childhood home of Guernsey. I was also running out of funds, and a week or two away from payday. I knew when the waitress handed me my change that there were two brand new £5 notes stuck together. I got halfway to the door, but as much as I wanted that other £5 I could not bring myself to knowingly take what wasn’t mine. I turned around and went back to the waitress. When I explained that she had given me too much change she was overwhelmed. She told me that if I had not returned that £5 note it would have been deducted from her wages. I wanted to feel good about myself, but I couldn’t because I knew that I had wanted to leave the restaurant without returning what wasn’t mine.
In both the above examples it is evident that dishonesty has consequences. It hurts us when we are dishonest, and it hurts others. There can be no differentiation between dishonest acts and dishonest words. Dishonesty hurts. Likewise, there is never any wisdom attached to dishonesty. Dishonesty almost always catches up with the dishonest. Ask a certain British politician and his wife.
Jesus once said to the Pharisees: “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” John 8:44 NIV
A man’s belly shall be satisfied with the fruit of his mouth; and with the increase of his lips shall he be filled.
Wise words satisfy like a good meal; the right words bring satisfaction. (NLT)
A Good Meal
I visited Pristina in Kosovo for the first time recently. I found the locals exceptionally welcoming and friendly, despite their recent troubles, and the obvious lack of wealth in the country. It was a pleasure to be taken out one evening for a meal in traditional restaurant where there was no menu. Instead of choosing our food, it was chosen for us, and a variety of dishes were brought to the table until none of us could eat any more.
The food was superb and I returned to my hotel extremely satisfied. I don’t know if I will ever go back to Pristina, but I will never forget that meal, or the kind people of Kosovo.
Just as a good meal brings satisfaction, so it is with wise words. You know when you have said the right thing to someone, a word of encouragement perhaps, or a word of appreciation. The knowledge that the right thing has been said at the right time brings satisfaction to both the speaker and the listener.
Before I left Kosovo my main local contact thanked me for the way in which I had conducted my review of his organization. Apparently my approach was very different to that of auditors in his company, and he appreciated it. I, in turn, thanked him for his time, for his hospitality, and for the effort he put into preparing for my visit. I also expressed my appreciation of his professional knowledge and expertise. He encouraged me, and I encouraged him. Right words, good words, wise words.
Words are so important. We have the power to bless and build others with our words. Let’s aim to bring satisfaction to others with our words every day. May our words be words that will never be forgotten – for the right reason.
He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.
To answer before listening – that is folly and shame. (NIV)
It doesn’t matter how much teaching we receive on the subject of listening, or how many times we are reminded by Scripture (James 1:19) to be quick to listen and slow to speak, most of us are not good listeners. Isn’t it true that when we are on the listening end of a conversation we are only partially listening? Generally we are working out our reply and looking for the opportunity to interrupt so that we can say what we want to say.
Our failure to be listeners exists despite our own experience of being in conversations where we know that the other person hasn’t heard a word we have said. Such experience means that we are all acutely aware of the need to be good listeners. It is foolish, rude, and shameful to interrupt with a response when the other party to a conversation has not finished speaking.
Listening requires focus and concentration. It is important that we hear correctly and understand what is being said, not just in conversations with other people, but when we come to God in prayer. So how do you approach God in prayer? With a listening heart or a chattering mouth? Or do you start out planning to listen but end up butting in so many times that you never really hear what God is saying to you? God speaks to us in many different ways. It is essential that we take time to ensure that we hear what He is saying. While that means listening carefully, it also means growing in our understanding and knowledge of Him. It is a bit like learning to speak a foreign language effectively. It requires practice and a lot of work to achieve real understanding.
“He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster.”
“A lazy person is as bad as someone who destroys things.” (NLT)
Some of my school reports mentioned the word lazy. Laziness wasn’t the problem; it was just that I had more important things to do with my time. But if I wasn’t being lazy at school, I was wasting the opportunities provided to me by the education system (which wasn’t bad in my day).
Outside of school I don’t recall either being allowed to be lazy, or ever wanting to be lazy. I made the most of any opportunity to earn cash, but I also enjoyed the surroundings provided by my island home – mainly the beach! I had my first paper round when I was eleven years old; I washed cars, picked up leaves, and pulled sycamore seedlings out of our front lawn. When I was older I worked at a supermarket after school, and on Saturdays and through the school holidays. Then I joined the Merchant Navy where neither lazy people, nor wasters were tolerated.
While most of us would see a clear difference between a person who is bone idle, and one who is a waster, Solomon sees them as one and the same. Every day God provides us with opportunities that we waste. One is that we often neglect to spent meaningful time with Him. We fail to hear God speak, and we walk around with our eyes and our minds closed to opportunities of various types than He brings into our lives.
On Good Friday this year I had the opportunity to serve God – arriving at 07:30 to open the church and get things ready for the Good Friday breakfast and service, manning the foyer, and then helping to clear away and lock up. Others served in the kitchen, or leading in the three different devotional streams that our pastor had set up. Because some of us took the opportunity to serve, others had the opportunity to reflect, to take time to quietly worship, and to thank God for the events that took place during that first Easter. Those of us in the support team were able to worship God through our service to the rest of the congregation.
What opportunities will you grasp today? What opportunities will you miss? What opportunities will you waste?