“A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. He who gathers in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame” (Proverbs 10:4-5).
This is a pretty straight-forward Proverb. It’s a contrast between someone who is slack-handed and someone who is diligent. Slack-handedness causes poverty, but diligence causes richness. Someone who “gathers in summer” is prudent, but the one who “sleeps in harvest” is shameful.
The point is clear: we don’t want to be slack-handed, we want to be diligent. But what is diligence?
What is Diligence?
If you look up “diligence” you will find it means “careful and persistent work and effort.” But Proverbs adds to this the element of timeliness. Diligence in God’s Word is careful and persistent work and effort done at the right time.
In other words, our obedience to Proverbs 10:4-5 is not to go and be workaholics. That’s not what these verses are suggesting. Sleep is not a bad thing – we’re designed to need to sleep. But sleeping at the wrong time is a bad thing.
God gave us a perfect illustration of this earlier in Proverbs 6:6-11 (see “Wisdom and Laziness“) referring to ants. The ant is a perfect illustration of biblical diligence because “she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest” (v. 8).
Diligence is doing the right work right when the right work needs to be done. So how do we apply this to our lives?
How Do We Live Diligently?
If we apply Proverbs 6:6-11 literally, we would all need to quit our jobs and become farmers. But that’s not the intention – the principle we need to apply to ourselves is this: don’t procrastinate when there’s work to be done.
We also don’t apply this by just working harder. The message isn’t “Work harder! Work more!” it’s “Do the right work at the right time.” But how do we know what the right work is? How do we know what we should be doing right now?
It’s not always clear what we should be doing. Take an average evening, for instance. Should you be getting ready for tomorrow? Should you be doing chores? Working on the car? Ordering clothes? Focusing on spending time with your kids or wife? Participating in a group Bible study? Praying by ourselves? There’s so much we could be doing with our time, it can be overwhelming. How can we know what work we should be doing?
Here is a practical suggestion for something to do: prayerful planning. Perhaps you need to budget your time more carefully so you can be diligent about what God has called you to do. Prayerfully ask what you should be doing right now.
Prayerfulness in light of our biblical priorities will lead to godly diligence, aimlessness will lead to either slack-handedness or aimless busyness.
What Are Your Priorities?
What is your top priority as a Christian? Jesus said that the most important thing for us to do is love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Matthew 22:37). There is no wise diligence that doesn’t put God first. If you’re putting anything above your relationship with God, then you’re already off the mark.
A second priority for you if you’re trying to do the right thing at the right time: focusing on your relationships with other people. Jesus said also that the second greatest commandment is to love others (Matthew 22:39). Everything that God has told us to do hangs on these two priorities: loving God and loving people.
Let’s not be known for slackness or just busyness – everyone can be busy. Let’s be known for distinctively Christian diligence, prayerfully asking in light of God’s Word, “What is the right work for this year of my life – for this month, this week, this day?” And let’s do the right work right when the right work needs to be done.
What does “diligence” mean? How is this different from “busyness”?
How can we know what the right work is for right now?
What are your top priorities? How do they compare with the biblical priorities of loving God and others?
What work should you cut back on in order to be more diligent? Or what work should you diligently increase?
What is the right work for us as a church right now? As an individual?
What steps can you take toward having Christian diligence?