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Proverbs 10 by Robert Dean
"Wake up! Boss is coming! Better get busy!" Are these familiar sounds where you work? Listen to this lesson to see if you measure up as a wise worker. Learn how the Word of God is the path to lasting wealth and why it's not the size of your bank balance but what's in your soul that counts. Discover the only thing you can take with you when you die.
Series:Proverbs (2013)
Duration:51 mins 51 secs

Wise Labor and its Results. Proverbs 10

 

Beginning in chapter ten and extending through the remainder of this book—with the exception of a few places where there is an extended discussion such as Proverbs 31 which talks about the virtuous woman—these are just a miscellaneous, yet divinely inspired, collection of proverbs. They are not necessarily meant to be studied verse by verse, but we go through and categorize these pithy little sayings that have boiled down key principles of the Word, and then we apply them in our life.

 

We started on the negative side of the doctrine related to wise work and labor. The negative was not to be slothful, not to be irresponsible, not to be lazy. Now we will look at the flip side of that, which is wise labor and its results in our life. The importance of labor according to the wisdom of Scripture as well as the result of labor, which is the production of wealth in our lives. And wealth is not simply a term that is a financial metric. One may not have a whole lot financially but have wealth from the Scriptures. One can have little financially and use it wisely so that is provides great abundance of we follow God's principles for our use of these resources. We now look at the characteristics of the wise worker to begin with and then the results of wise work. In other words, how some of the things the Proverbs say about how we handle our finances.

 

The first characteristic that we see of a wise worker is a flip side of what we saw in terms of the slothful worker. The same section is on both because this passage is built on an antithetical parallelism, which means there is a contrast in Proverbs 6 between the one who is slothful, unwise, doesn't think in terms, of preparation, and doesn't work hard in a consistent manner during good times in order to prepare for the bad times. So the illustration that is used in Proverbs 6-8 has to do with the ant. The wise worker works diligently and consistently, doesn't work in terms of an immediate need, but has a consistency in the work pattern so that every day is built on the same level. Whether there is success or whether there is failure, especially in some careers, it is hard to continue to self-motivate. No matter what our career might be we all experience days when we are successful, days when we are not successful, and we have to keep a consistency there of working. And even in times of abundance the prosperity test is one we often fail because we have a tendency therefore to waste financial resources, a tendency maybe to ease off on our diligence and in our work; but then we need to be preparing for the difficult times, the end game when we may retire, a time when we may be out of work due to health reasons. A number of things can happen. All of these things we need to save for. As the writer of Proverbs points out, we prepare in the summer and gather food and harvest for the harder times in the winter. 

 

The second point is beyond just diligence. A wise worker also takes initiative and works well without supervision, developing a mental attitude where he realizes that he is not working for himself; he is really working for the Lord. That is expressed in both Ephesians 6:7 as well as in Colossians: that we are not to be as men pleasers but we are to work as serving the Lord. So we view our employment as an opportunity to express the image of God in us, using whatever measure of creativity that we have in terms of our image as God's creatures, so that we can apply that to whatever area of labor that we are engaged in. This can function both in our vocation as well as in our avocation. We work to please God and therefore we should be working with an attitude of making ourselves indispensible to our employer. Our time during that work is his time, the time that we are getting paid for in order to make that person successful. That is a foundational attitude that should be in the mindset of the worker.

 

Unfortunately this runs counter to the mentality of many workers and they work to get something that is entitled to them, not something that they are working to earn. An entitlement mentality destroys a true biblical work ethic.

 

The third point is that the wise worker prepares for the future and does not work for the immediate future. When we think about Scripture the episode that comes to mind is the one from Joseph in Genesis. It is wise to save for the future, for times of disaster as well as times of retirement. This is a virtue in the Christian life. It is not a violation of trusting God.

 

The fourth characteristic of the wise worker is that he patiently and consistently pursues success. This is an important factor. This is an enduring consistency. We have to have perseverance. No matter what difficulties there may be we continue to go forward. The race goes to the one who is the consistent plodder. 

 

Proverbs 28:19 NASB "He who tills his land will have plenty of food, But he who follows empty {pursuits} will have poverty in plenty." We are to have consistency and persevere, and be diligent in everything that we do.

 

The fifth characteristic of the wise worker is that he works responsibly and develops and uses his resources well. Proverbs 27:23 NASB "Know well the condition of your flocks, {And} pay attention to your herds." This use an agricultural analogy from a shepherd: that a shepherd is going to pay attention and know all of his sheep. He is going to pay attention to their health, to their welfare, and everything there is to know about each one. We can transfer that easily to work. We need to study and learn about everything it is that we do. [24] "For riches are not forever, Nor does a crown {endure} to all generations." This is an explanation of the previous verse—because riches don't last forever. A contemporary application would be that we keep everything in good work order.

 

A sixth characteristic. A wise worker performs his duties with excellence and artistry. We not only learn to do it well, we learn to do it with a measure of aesthetic beauty. We not only need to function well but the form needs to be done well. This is an area of weakness in most evangelical theology going back to the Protestant Reformation where there hasn't been a lot of thoughtful development in the area of the theology of beauty. Everything that God did was not only functional; it had beauty. What happens in the breakdown of culture? Many different t cultures present different dynamics. One dynamic that is evident in our culture is we operate on form rather than function. For example, politicians are excellent at presenting a certain façade but there is no content behind it. You can't trust what many politicians say. On the other hand, there are people who will sometimes reject the functional simply because it is not visually appealing, not aesthetically appealing. When we look at Scripture there should not be this dichotomy between form and function, but the two go together. A wise worker is not only going to excel in terms of the mechanics or the details of his job but he is going to develop skillful artistry in the presentation of his work.

 

Proverbs 22:29 NASB "Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before obscure men." Notice, he stands before kings not because of his self-promotion but because he performs well. And ultimately God is the one who truly promotes a person.

 

This is all a part of understanding wisdom. Wisdom is the skillful application of God's Word in life. It is not just the application of God's Word to life; it is the skillful application of God's Word to life. It takes time to develop skill.

 

Remember, Proverbs is stating what happens in most cases; a proverb is not a promise.

 

Proverbs 10:4 NASB "Poor is he who works with a negligent hand, But the hand of the diligent makes rich." The way to wealth is consistency, perseverance, and pursing excellence in everything that you do. But there are many people who pursue their jobs and careers in many areas and yet God, for whatever reason, does not promote them. And that's fine; that teaches us then to rely upon God and not upon ourselves. In many cases God does not promote us because He knows that by promoting us it may destroy us, because we haven't yet developed the capacity to handle prosperity. Prosperity often destroys people more than it elevates them. So we have to learn to be content with what God has provided for us and content with where we are, and yet at the same time pursuing excellence. The result is that we will enjoy success and fulfillment in our vocation.

 

The word "vocation" comes from a Latin word meaning a calling, recognition that every human being has a calling from God. That calling is often displayed in the area in which you labor. It may not be. There are many people who work where they work simply because that is how they could get a job, and they are not able to labor in the area of their true love. This, again, has its own test. We have to put food on the table and provide for our loved ones the best that we can, and at the time that we are doing that we need to be pursuing options and alternatives where we can indeed provide a living in the area where we excel.

 

But then there are some of us who have areas of service where we excel that are not areas that are financially viable. But the principle is that the hand of the diligent produces a success.

 

Once we have enjoyed success there are responsibilities that come with the success. Wisdom teaches the value and the use of that financial success, that it is not just something to be frivolously spent on the details of life but that there are responsibilities toward others that come with the possession of wealth.

 

We must first understand that in the context of Scripture wisdom comes as the result of listening to God. Wisdom has its root in God, so that when we look at the Scripture and it talks about providing something it is ultimately saying that God is the one who provides the knowledge and the understanding in order to accomplish the task. So wisdom as the result of listening to God is the source of true wealth.

 

There are many people—and the Proverbs talks about these—who pursue wealth through illegitimate gain, and it just passes through their hands and has no enduring value; they have no capacity for prosperity. Proverbs 8:18, 19 talk about the fact that Wisdom (God) is the source of wealth. [18] "Riches and honor are with me, Enduring wealth and righteousness. Notice the connection here between wealth and righteousness, that this is not just a matter of physical wealth, but this is talking about a wealth that goes beyond the physical—the spiritual wealth, the spiritual capacity that should be developed along with the development of physical riches and property. [19] "My fruit is better than gold, even pure gold, And my yield {better} than choicest silver." So in the pursuit of wealth we should be pursuing wisdom and spiritual maturity and our relationship with God even more.

 

The value of knowing God's Word is more important, more valuable than the value of wealth or riches. That is not saying that physical wealth and riches are not valuable. It is saying don't get distracted by that which has only temporal value. The Scriptures never talk negatively about the rich. What they do talk about is that money is not the source of all evil but the love of money is the source of evil. That is greed. Greed is warned against. But the responsible development and use of wealth is praised in the Scripture, because it is through those who have wisely used their wealth that many others are provided for and blessed. But the ending isn't physical wealth, it is spiritual wealth; it is developing that spiritual capacity to use what God has provided for us.

 

Proverbs 24:3 NASB "By wisdom a house is built, And by understanding it is established." Here "house" is a reference to an entire family and all that is produced by that family. It is built on wisdom. It is a dynasty, a family, a generation where wealth is passed and distributed from one generation to the next. [4] "And by knowledge the rooms are filled With all precious and pleasant riches." So wisdom, which is doctrine from the Word of God wisely applied, is the true source of personal wealth and riches.

 

The next thing we learn about the proper and responsible use of wealth is that as it ultimately comes from God we should not be covetous. Colossians chapter three talks about covetousness or greed being another form of idolatry. It is wonderful to pursue wealth but not for its own sake and not for an illegitimate manner.

 

Proverbs 28:16 NASB "A leader who is a great oppressor lacks understanding …" Power without wisdom is oppression, tyranny. We live in a world today that is characterized by that more and more, even in so-called free countries. But this is not unusual throughout the history of humanity. The norm has been oppression from rulers. Rulers thrive on power and strength, not on the wisdom of God's Word. " … {But} he who hates unjust gain will prolong {his} days." In other words, don't give in to greed, materialism; the end game is not how much you have externally but how much you have internally.

 

Proverbs 11:28 NASB "He who trusts in his riches will fall, But the righteous will flourish like the {green} leaf." The one who is trusting in his riches is not righteous. Righteousness is characterized by trusting in God. One who trusts in God can have great riches but the one who trusts in his riches will not have a relationship with God. The righteous will flourish whether he has a large bank balance or a small bank balance. If you are righteous your spiritual wealth will flourish.

 

Proverbs 13:7 NASB "There is one who pretends to be rich, but has nothing …" He has prosperity with no capacity. He in on a frantic search for happiness and meaning and value, yet he has nothing in his soul. He may have all of the external trappings of great wealth but internally he is miserable and unhappy and without capacity for life. So when the wealth is taken from him he has nothing to live for and his life is destroyed. "… {Another} pretends to be poor, but has great wealth." The way he makes himself poor is through the distribution from his own volition of his resources to help and aid others. He gives up hoarding for his own purpose. This is one who gives to sustain others, and therefore he has great riches.

 

We should be cautious with our financial resources and not give unwisely or provide for others unwisely or frivolously spend our money. We should be cautious and responsible with what God gives us. Proverbs 19:4 NASB "Wealth adds many friends, But a poor man is separated from his friend."

 

We should use our resources to responsibly aid those who are less fortunate. Proverbs 29:7 NASB "The righteous is concerned for the rights of the poor …" Notice that this is the responsibility of the individual, not the responsibility of the government. "… The wicked does not understand {such} concern." That seems to have a wonderful political application! Those who do not understand that it is the responsibility of the individual citizen to take care of those who are impoverished within a culture are wicked. That would apply to many people in government who seek to tax the individual thinking that somehow government is going to be more efficient and more effective in providing for the poor. Yet in the past, before we got this idea that the government takes care of everybody from the cradle to the grave, who took care of the poor, of the orphans, of those who were elderly and sick. It was through churches. It was through the religious organizations that provided a much more personal care. There was a level of accountability closer to the source of the money.

 

Only Christianity has produced orphanages and hospitals in order to sustain and aid the poor. This comes out of a Judeo-Christian framework. Jews have done this as well. You don't find it in Islam, in Buddhism, in Hinduism; there is not a value placed upon the individual in those cultures. Now we have gone back to a pagan form. We are about to see the true largesse of the Federal Government when Obamacare comes into affect, because government cannot appropriately and efficiently handle the compassion it needs for those who are poor. We have seen this in the whole area of welfare and how it has destroyed the black community in America, and the black family, because of the way in which it is structured. So we come back to that principle that we really cannot trust government very much. Government in and of itself is not evil but because it is controlled by people who are evil, because they are sinners, it leads to all manner of wickedness and disaster. And so we have to understand from Scripture that it is on the individual, on each one of us to look around and be cognizant of those who have needs and to help them.

 

Proverbs 28:27 NASB "He who gives to the poor will never want, But he who shuts his eyes will have many curses." God is the one who sees. Our giving should be done in private. God is the one who supplies all of our needs and all of our resources. Proverbs says those who give to the poor will not lack; God will sustain them.

 

Proverbs 11:24 NASB "There is one who scatters [one who gives], and {yet} increases all the more, And there is one who withholds what is justly due, {and yet it results} only in want." The one who holds on to what God has given them doesn't receive more. God doesn't give them more because they are not demonstrating their capacity for the wise use of their resources.

 

Proverbs 19:17 NASB "One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the LORD, And He will repay him for his good deed." So we are to use our resources to responsibly aid those who are less fortunate.

 

Wealth is the result of honest labor, but we should value that which is eternal. Don't just focus on that which has temporal value but that which has eternal value. 

 

Proverbs 27:23 NASB "Know well the condition of your flocks, {And} pay attention to your herds; [24] For riches are not forever, Nor does a crown {endure} to all generations." We are to pursue that which has eternal value.

 

Wealth has limited value; righteousness is forever. We need to be pursuing that which has eternal significance, that which will be rewarded at the judgment seat of Christ in terms of gold, silver and precious stones, which simply stands for different degrees of rewards and responsibilities in the millennial kingdom.   

 

Proverbs 11:4 NASB "Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, But righteousness delivers from death." We know from Scripture that the basic problem of every human being is a lack of righteousness. We are born unrighteous; we are born spiritually dead, and the first step toward life is to trust in Jesus Christ as our savior. At that instant God imputes Christ's righteousness to us. That is the beginning of our spiritual life, the beginning of our new life in Christ, and that life must be nourished and developed. And, as Peter says in 2 Peter 3:18, we are to grow by the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. This isn't something that happens immediately but happens as a result of applying these same principles of perseverance and diligence in the study of God's Word. When it is all over with it doesn't matter how much we bequeath to our children, it doesn't matter how large our bank account, it doesn't matter what kind of car you have in the driveway, the only thing that we take into eternity is the spiritual wealth that we have developed within our own soul, and that then forms the basis for our rewards and future responsibilities in the eternal state.