The Value of Hard Work

20 Jan

Hard WorkYou can listen to the podcast for this message here.

Last week Solomon talked about drinking your own water. The mandates he gave were really metaphorical instructions to remain faithful in marriage. Don’t be under the false assumption that what happens between two consenting adults is no one’s business. Everything we do is before God’s eyes. Pay attention to the instructions of Scripture so you don’t wander in your own foolishness. As we begin Chapter 6, we’ll see four divisions in the text that don’t deal specifically with wisdom or parental guidance. This morning, Solomon shifts gears and introduces two new subjects.

Find your Bible and read Pro. 6:1-11.

Solomon enters a land I tell people never to go. He enters what if land and gives us a couple of conditional phrases. His first is, “If you have become surety for your neighbor, have given a pledge for a stranger.” There are a couple of words that we don’t really use much anymore. Surety means taking on the responsibility for a debt. You may know it as a cosigner. There is no specific prohibition against cosigning a loan. Paul said he would take care of any outstanding debt regarding the slave Philemon in v. 18 by saying, “But if he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge that to my account.” (Phl. 18) One thing we know for sure is that it’s wrong to take on debt you cannot repay. When you cosign a loan, you’re taking the responsibility for that loan in the event the one taking the loan cannot repay it. So if you cosign a loan, understand that you could responsible for the entire loan amount. There will be much more regarding finances later in Proverbs. Remember this; creditors these days get you hooked by selling you on a monthly payment rather than telling you the entire debt. “Have given a pledge for a stranger” is an interesting phrase. It goes along with the first part regarding surety. The word “given” means to clap the palms or strike the hands. This looks a lot like a handshake. We apply this verse in broad terms as not giving surety or taking on the debt of another. But the verse is directed at your neighbor or a stranger. As I was reading this, I’m thinking, who would do that? And then it just struck me. In this context, pledge means a promise of charity. It could mean don’t promise money to anyone. The principle is a good one.

This leads right into the next conditional phrase, “If you have been snared with the words of your mouth, have been caught with the words of your mouth.” Think of debt as a trap. You have made promises that you are obligated to keep. A quick application of this might be the housing crash of a few years ago. People were given loans for houses they could not afford and then the banks were blamed when the houses were foreclosed. They said they would pay the debt, but were not able to.

So what’s a guy to do? Getting caught in the trap of debt is not a life ending sentence. Solomon provides the solution in vs. 3-5. Notice that the individual is to deliver himself. No bail outs, no hands outs, no absolution of debt. Several years ago, I heard an older, seasoned Christian counsel a younger one who was feeling the weight of a mortgage. The counsel was, just let it go back to the bank. Even if you’re protected under bankruptcy, you are still obligated to pay your debts biblically. Part of getting out from under that bondage is to, “Go, humble yourself, and importune your neighbor.” In some connotations, importune means to prostitute yourself. While the word is typically associated with sexual activity, it can also mean offer your services to another. We can conclude from the abundance of principles in the Bible regarding sexual purity that this verse has to be talking about offering your services to work off a debt. That makes sense because Solomon goes on to say, “Give no sleep to your eyes, nor slumber to your eyelids.” Do not rest until that debt is paid off. When we work hard to pay off a debt we, “Deliver yourself like a gazelle for the hunter’s hand and like a bird from the hand of the fowler.” We escape the snare that has us trapped. We are set free from the debt that has entangled us.

This next passage is going to hit home with something I believe might just be crippling people. Solomon tells us to consider the insect world. Most of us don’t give a second thought to an ant. We apply insecticide to make sure they don’t hang out in our houses. We smoosh them with our hands or feet. They are pretty interesting creatures. More than 10,000 ant species are known. They can lift and carry more than three times their own weight. Solomon says watch them and learn from them. They have no chief, officer, or ruler according to v. 7. In other words, no one tells them what to do. They know what needs to be done and they do it. Ants work hard all summer long to prepare for winter and they do it without anyone or anything beating them over the head. Learn from them. Compare the ant to the sluggard. He’s not talking about the shell-less gastropod that eats your plants. A sluggard is a person that is lazy. One that is slow moving or inactive. The ant is hard working and needs no leader. The sluggard can have someone standing over them and still not get done what needs to get done.

Look at Solomon’s rhetorical questions in v. 9 as he says, “How will you lie down, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep?” How long are going to lounge around not doing what needs to get done? Get off the couch, get out of the recliner, quit napping, put your phone down, get up and get to work! Solomon answers his own how long questions by saying, “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest.” Just five more minutes, hit the snooze. You get five more minutes, then want five more. The more you get, the more you want. I’ll get to it, I’ll do it tomorrow. Solomon is saying what no politically correct person will say. Laziness leads to poverty, but it doesn’t happen overnight. Look at the progression. Lack of foresight, poor preparation, laziness, too much sleep, poverty. The poverty doesn’t come in like a thief, it comes in like a slow rolling train, “like a vagabond.”

Then what happens? “And your need like an armed man.” Need means something that is essential for life. In other words, your needs are like an armed man – literally like someone that has a gun. The gunmen takes you by surprise; there is no opposing him. He’ll take what he wants and there is nothing you can do to stop it. You realize: I’m hungry, I need to buy food. Your needs come upon you suddenly. We’re not talking about a lazy day here; we’re talking about a lazy lifestyle. Is your life characterized by inactivity? Solomon is talking physically, but is there a spiritual application? Are you a sluggard when it comes to your spiritual walk with Christ? Just give me five more minutes, then I’ll get up. I’ll take care of that later. The church has become a reflection of society rather than a reflection of the transforming power of Christ. We are developing a generation of entitled Christians that scream what’s in it for me? People who’ve been professing believers for years that have never lifted a finger in service to Christ in or out of the church. We have professing believers that claim they don’t like to or don’t have time to read God’s word, they don’t like to or have never prayed, they’ve never given any money to support the work of the ministry, in fact they’ve done little to nothing to support their claim of being a believer in the One that created all that we know from the power of His voice. This one of a kind, incredible, loving, omni-present, omniscient, all powerful being is somehow too weak to make a change in your life. We have a responsibility as a church to teach and expect transformation. I acknowledge that the process takes time, but what do you say to someone that does not want to change, that wants to continues in the lifestyle they’ve always had, that wants to live life on the fence and be in the world and in the church, to discount the fundamental principles of Scripture, that refuses to listen to spiritual or earthly authority, and does not want to be accountable to anyone or anything? What do you say to that person? Repent!!

There is no time like the present to allow Jesus to modify your life. You will not regret it. What you will regret . . . at some point . . . is the years of inactivity, excuses, and laziness. There is value in hard work. Don’t let the cares and concerns of this world derail you from following Christ.

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