Category Archives: Work

The Sluggard Life

Proverbs 26:16 

“The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason.”
“The lazy man is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly.” – NKJV
Self Perception

The idea here is that the sluggard….wait just a moment…what kind of mental image do you have this very second?

slugSluggard. Think about that word, sluggard. Not just lazy or slothful, but slimy, covered with mucous, moving slowly about the ground leaving shiny trails behind. Sluggard. A slug. A snail-like critter, but too poor for a shell.

The idea, here, is that the sluggard has a self perception problem. He is wiser in his own eyes than seven men, simply because he is the sluggard, not the ones working. The great Matthew Henry comments:

“His slothfulness is the cause of his good opinion of himself. If he would but take pains to examine himself, and compare himself with the laws of wisdom, he would have other thoughts of himself… So wretchedly besotted is he that he takes his slothfulness to be his wisdom; he thinks it is his wisdom to make much of himself, and take all the ease he can get… Of such sluggards, who are proud of that which is their shame, their is little hope.”*

Beyond Reason

So, is there hope for someone who sees laziness and living off of others as a virtue? Verse 12 says that there is more hope for a fool than one that is wise in his own eyes. How much worse, then, one wise in his own eyes that is also a bum? A sluggard?

The Fox News Channel did a story on how some people are scamming the American food stamp system (EBT). They attempted to show how assistance originally meant to aid those in real need was being taken advantage of by people refusing work. Fox News found a perfect example in a young surfer named Jason.

Jason, an unemployed surfer who mooched off of relatives and friends, determined that work was something he did not want to do. He admitted to being perfectly happy taking tax payers’ dollars each month to buy food. All he cared about was playing in a band, meeting cute girls, drinking, and most of all, surfing every day.

There was no reasoning with him. He had everything figured out.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE STORY AND WATCH THE VIDEO

Beyond Argument

But what does the Bible have to say?

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

“For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”” – 2 Thessalonians 3:10 NIV

*Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 1014.


Money for Nothing

Proverbs 26:15 

The slothful hideth his hand in his bosom; it grieveth him to bring it again to his mouth.
A sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he is too lazy to bring it back to his mouth. (NIV)

This is the third verse in a row in which Solomon focuses on the lazy, with one more to follow. For some reason Solomon is really hammering home the point about laziness. I simply can’t imagine a person so lazy that he is unable to lift food from a dish to his mouth, but the point being made here about laziness is that it is completely unacceptable.

Right now in the UK we have a government that is trying to deal with a culture of living on benefits that appears to have become the norm for a proportion of society. If you believe the politicians and the press we have families where more than one generation has never worked in this country. While there are obviously other reasons for unemployment than laziness, the fact remains that there are folk who are quite happy to sit back and live on handouts. Some even call these handouts their wages! That is quite an insult to those who have worked and paid taxes all their lives.

My third son James graduated from University in 2009. He decided to spend a year working to save money to add to what he had already saved so that he could take a masters degree. He got an invite to live with his eldest brother and his wife, and set about looking for work. Having worked two jobs while studying for his BA he thought that this would be a simple matter. It wasn’t. Recession had kicked in and there wasn’t much work around. He refused to claim benefits and carried on searching, doing jobs around the house to compensate his brother and sister-in-law for feeding him. It took a few weeks, but James found two part-time jobs. He had to leave those jobs to return to University but managed to start another job before he completed his masters. Now that impresses the pants off me, not just because James is my son, but because he has shown what is possible despite the dire condition of the economy. I am proud of my son for not choosing the path of laziness.


Sloths and Lions

Proverbs 26:13

“The slothful man saith, There is a lion in the way; a lion is in the streets.”

This verse is one of several in a row that deal with the “slothful man.” Each one gives us a different description of him and his ways.

Slothful

When I hear the word “slothful” all I can think about is that poor, slow, moss-covered critter. The sloth is an animal that barely moves, sleeps most of the time, and quite frankly, stinks. I mean, how nasty would you have to be for moss to grow on you?

three_toed_sloth_11What a disgrace, then, to be called slothful? One could be called slow, a little behind, or weak, but that might mean he was a turtle, a baby elephant, or a butterfly. Even the word “lazy” doesn’t carry the same, stinky punch as “slothful.” Yet, there are people in this world who could make a sloth look peppy by comparison.

Lions

What I find ironic is that there are lions in the streets. It’s not that lions are not dangerous, but they are go-getters, hunters, fighters, and fast; everything the sloth is not, nor wants to be. Yet, in life it’s the “lions” and “tigers” who are successful precisely because they are in the streets, not inside watching The Price is Right.

The lazy, slothful man will never be any more that what his as long as he never hits the streets. However, if he would only seek employment with tenacity, creativity, and the driving hunger of a lion, there would be nothing left to fear.

I pity those who make excuses for everything and depend on others to do all the work. The pleasure that comes from the satisfaction of a job well done is far more gratifying than having the best moss garden on my back.


Padded Résumés

Proverbs 25:14

“Whoso boasteth himself of a false gift is like clouds and wind without rain.”

Résumés

There are a few things I hate to do in life, such as flossing (but I do it, anyway), hanging blinds, changing diapers, and moving. I also hate writing résumés – about as much as I despise licking a cheese grater.

Résumés (also spelled resumes, but looks like it would sound like re-zooms) are so difficult because of the desire to boast. For those of us who have less to boast about, filling out a résumé can be even more challenging. There is always the temptation to “pad” the résumé with skills not quite developed, like saying you’re a “lion tamer” when all you’ve tamed is your pet cat.

Expectations

The problem with a padded résumé is that while it may get you in the door, it won’t guarantee you can do the job for which you are hired. When employers hire people based on the skills they are supposed to have, the expectation is that the employees use their skills, or “gifts,” when called upon.

Sadly, many people have been let go from high-paying, high-pressure jobs when their “boasting…of a false gift” became evident. Examples include Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson, RadioShack CEO Dave Edmondson, and Notre Dame football coach George O’Leary.

No Water

Even more tragic than being found out is the negative effect lying about one’s abilities can have on others. When Solomon compares boasting about a false gift to clouds without rain, we might imagine thirsty people, or hungry people looking at withering crops. How cruel it would be to promise them water but never deliver!

Don’t be a cloud without water. Don’t boast about gifts and abilities you don’t have. Be the best you can be and live up to the expectations others rightfully have of you.


Prior Planning and Preparation

Proverbs 24:27 

Prepare thy work without, and make it fit for thyself in the field; and afterwards build thine house.
Put your outdoor work in order and get your fields ready; after that, build your house. (NIV)

photoA very good friend of mine is building his retirement home at the moment. I have to admit that Frank has certain advantages as a trained carpenter who has worked in construction all his life. He also has experience, having built his first house forty years ago. Frank sold that house when his father died and moved into his dad’s bungalow. Directly behind his father’s home there was an orchard. Frank cleared the orchard and some old outbuildings, and got planning permission to build a large garage with an adjoining workshop. This was designed and constructed so that it would comply with the rules for a residential building, with the aim of one day converting the garage/workshop. That work is currently underway. A new smaller garage has been completed and the former garage/workshop extended and altered internally. The roof is now complete, windows were being fitted last week, and under-floor heating has been installed.

A great deal of planning has gone into Frank’s new home over a number of years. There has been wise financial planning, and much forethought on many levels, including the need to comply with past and present building regulations. Without this level of planning Frank would not have been able to build his new house.

Thinking about this proverb and the way that Frank has planned reminds me of another carpenter, and the amount of prior planning and preparation that preceded His arrival in the world 2,000 years ago. God didn’t just have a bright idea one day in Heaven. He planned for His Son to visit our planet in human form before He created the Universe. Furthermore, God’s attention to even the smallest detail meant that He planned the writing of this Proverbial Thought and He knew who would read it. I find that absolutely mind blowing. Having planned and prepared God then built His house. Jesus told us that it has many rooms; and that there is a room in His Father’s house for each of us. It gets better. Jesus paid the rent up front, in full.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” (John 14:1-4 NIV)

Don’t Follow Your Heart

Proverbs 23:19-21

“Hear thou, my son, and be wise, and guide thine heart in the way. Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh: For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe [a man] with rags.”

Stay Away from These

The first thing many people will pick and choose out of these verses is a condemnation of drinking alcohol. Like many I have known in my life, the point many will immediately deduce is that drinking will lead to ruin, poverty, rags, etc. The last thing most will conclude is that eating will lead to destruction and ruin. No, the only thing many will see is, “stay away from those social drinkers and drunks.

Why is it that little is ever said about gluttony? Why is it that gluttony is a sin, but eating isn’t? Unfortunately for the legalists among us, this proverb has nothing to say about eating and drinking, but gluttony and drunkenness. Take that for what it’s worth.

What Solomon is really telling us to stay away from are people who will most likely influence us to act like they do. We should stay away from those who eat and drink simply for pleasure because their self-indulgent spirits will lead not only to their own destruction, but also to the ruin of those who follow.

A Heart Issue

Drunkenness, gluttony, and drowsiness are certainly dangerous characteristics, but the initial command in this passage, a warning, is to “guide thine heart in the way.” Much like as in Proverbs 23:12, the idea is that the heart must be forced to do what is in its best interest.

How many times have you heard it said, “Just follow your heart”? Solomon is warning against that advice by cluing us in to what the heart desires. The Prophet Jeremiah said that the heart is “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). The way that the heart wants to go is where the “winbibbers” and  “riotous eaters” are.

Wisdom should guide the heart, not the other way around.

What of the Other?

Alcohol is no different than carbohydrates and fat; both are amoral. In other words, there is no more inherent sin in a bottle of Jack Daniels than there is a Big Mac and a large fry or a banana split. Some people can eat what they need to stay fit without over-indulging, while others will pig out and clog their arteries…all in the name of a church social.

Some people can consume alcohol without becoming drunkards, too. However, many who consume are proven to be fools.

Simply put, an unguided heart will go in the way that numbs pain, fills voids, and distracts from reality. The wise son will guide his heart down a different, disciplined path which leads to provision, not poverty; robes, not rags.


I Did It My Way

Proverbs 23:9 

Speak not in the ears of a fool: for he will despise the wisdom of thy words.

All of us fall into ‘the fool who doesn’t listen’ category from time to time. One example that comes to mind is of Martin, a fellow cadet on my second trip to sea. Martin was a first tripper and all seafarers are aware that first trippers know nothing. Hence the saying ‘only first trippers and seagulls sit on a ship’s rails!’

Mart154Martin was an intelligent but unconventional young man, with an unusual upbringing. This included time spent growing up as a missionary kid out in the bush in Kenya, followed by a boarding school education back in England, while his parents continued to serve in Africa. We hit it off straight away. Martin was a couple of years older than me, but theoretically I was the senior cadet having served longer at sea. Friendship and length of sea time did not mean that Martin listened to me. In fact, his failure to listen meant that we both regularly got into trouble with the chief officer (otherwise known as the mate) and even the captain on occasions. Three incidents in particular spring to mind:

1. When we were told to paint the emergency fire pump Martin thought it would look better in rainbow colors. I told him the mate would not like it. Martin didn’t listen and we ended up repainting the fire pump. In our own time.

2. When given the task of repairing the canvas lifeboat covers Martin soon got tired of stitching on the patches. He suggested glue. I told him the mate would not like it. He didn’t. He made us stitch around the patches we had glued. In our own time.

3. When presented with numerous flags to wash by hand Martin felt that a spot of bleach might help restore the flags to their former glory. I took a stand on this one and told him that bleach would damage the flags. Martin didn’t listen. I didn’t see him add the bleach but I sure as heck saw the results. So did the captain when we tried to sneak the damaged flags back to the wheelhouse. I still remember the explosion. “YOU DID WHAT! YOU WASHED THE FLAGS IN BLEACH?!!!” The captain’s cap didn’t quite leave his head, but as a small man he was prone to jumping up and down a lot when he lost his temper.

Martin had a knack of thinking up shortcuts. No amount of advice would deter him from taking action that others were convinced was foolish. I guess the best defense that Martin had was his youth, but many of us left youth behind many years ago yet still fail to heed a voice of wisdom, or worse the voice of God. It is no excuse to say we didn’t hear, we didn’t understand, or we thought that our way was better. When God speaks we need to listen. Carefully. Then we need to do what He says, when He says, and how He says.