A Diligent Worker is Hard-Working (Proverbs)

Bible Commentary / Produced by TOW Project

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The Valiant Woman “works with willing hands” (Prov. 31:13), meaning that she chooses, of her own volition, to work tirelessly in pursuit of the household’s goals. “She rises while it is still night” (Prov. 31:15). “She makes linen garments and sells them” (Prov. 31:24). “With the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard” (Prov. 31:16). It adds up to a lot of work.

In an agrarian economy, the connection between hard work and well-being is easy to see. As long as they have access to land to cultivate, hard-working farmers do much better than lazy ones. The proverbs are clear that a lazy worker will lose out in the end.

A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. A child who gathers in summer is prudent, but a child who sleeps in harvest brings shame. (Prov. 10:4-5)

I passed by the field of one who was lazy, by the vineyard of a stupid person; and see, it was all overgrown with thorns; the ground was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down. Then I saw and considered it; I looked and received instruction. A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want, like an armed warrior. (Prov. 24:30-34)

In the ancient near east, hard work brought prosperity, but even one week of laxity during the harvest could spell a hungry winter.

Modern economies (at least in the developed world) may mask this effect in the short term. In good times, when virtually everyone can find work, the lazy worker may have a job and appear to do nearly as well as the diligent worker. Likewise, in economic downturns (and at all times in many emerging economies), a hard-working person may have no more success than a lazy one in finding a job. And at all times, rewards for hard work may be blunted by discrimination, seniority rules, union contracts, bosses’ favoritism, nepotism, golden parachutes, flawed performance metrics, ignorance by managers and many other factors.

Does this make the proverbs about hard-working diligence obsolete? No, it does not, for two reasons. First, even in modern economies, diligence is usually rewarded over the course of a working life. When jobs are scarce, it is the diligent workers who are most likely to keep their jobs or find new ones faster. Second, the chief motivation for diligence is not personal prosperity, but the fear of the Lord, as we have seen with the other virtues in the proverbs. We are diligent because the Lord calls us to our tasks, and our awe of him motivates us to diligence in our work.

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Dale Crownover attributes the success of his company to II Chronicles 15:7 where it says, “work hard and work strong and you will be rewarded.”

Laziness or the lack of diligence in the workplace is destructive. All who have experienced lazy coworkers can appreciate this pungent proverb: “Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so are the lazy to their employers” (Prov. 10:26). We hate to be stuck on the same team with people who don’t shoulder their share of the burden.

For an application of these passages, see "Do the Tedious Work to Target" at Country Supply Study Guide by clicking here.