11He who tills his land will be satisfied with bread, But he who follows frivolity is devoid of understanding.
Paul writes in Romans 8:29 that God has predestined His people to be conformed to the image of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. The Proverbs assist us in that process, directing us in the way of wisdom and teaching us what it is to imitate our Lord’s character. Today our passage contrasts the faithful worker with the idle dreamer.
On the one hand is the faithful worker. “He who tills his land will be satisfied with bread…” Scripture reminds us that “all hard work brings a profit but mere talk leads only to poverty” (Pr 14:23). So the wise man is a faithful worker. He sets himself diligently to his labor knowing that it is God Himself who has called him to it. Work is a gift from God, given to us as human beings prior to our fall into sin. While toil is a result of the fall, work itself is part of our design. Hence, God calls us to labor and blesses us with bread as the fruit of our labor. Paul writes to the Thessalonians, “you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; nor did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you…” (2 Thes 3:7-8). Our calling is to support ourselves with our work.
How perverse, therefore, the one who is an idle dreamer; who follows frivolous schemes rather than setting himself to faithful work. Solomon is not forbidding ingenuity and risk here. Rather, he is forbidding idle dreams – the man who lives in his parent’s basement and mooches off them while failing to develop his vocational skills; the college student who takes on tens of thousands of dollars in college debt to study feminist studies and then wonders why she can’t find a job; the young man who thinks society owes him a job, owes him a car, owes him a house but who has no marketable skills. He who follows frivolity is void of understanding. He doesn’t understand that it is the one who is excellent in his work who “will stand before kings” (Pr 22:29). Like the fool in “The Big Rock Candy Mountain,” he sings of the place “Where they hung the jerk That invented work.” But God invented work and the one who fights against work, who wants to eat without labor, is a fool.
So what of you? Are you committed to work? Do you give thanks that God has placed you in this world that you might love Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength – and that loving Him with your mind and strength involves using the gifts that He has given you to bless your neighbor by developing the latent potential of the world? Do you work with your mind and hands? Do you rejoice that he’s given you another problem to solve, another job to do, another meal to fix, another nose to wipe? Or do you want the fruit of labor without the labor? I fear that we often desire that, do we not? We are often, like the Cretans in Paul’s day, liars, evil beasts, and lazy gluttons.
So reminded of our calling to work with our hands that we might have bread to eat, let us confess that we are often lazy, that we want the fruit of labor without the labor. And as you are able, let us kneel as we confess our sin to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletins.