Selected Proverbs: March 30—Do not be a slacker
Mar 23, 2014

Mark Rathel is a professor of theology at The Baptist College of Florida in Graceville.
I teach a class called Christian worldview. During the class, I teach a brief section titled, “You might be a slacker if. ...” The slacker or sluggard is an important character within the book of Proverbs. The Hebrew term translated “slacker” or “sluggard occurs 14 times. Proverbs sets forth contrasting types of people. For example, throughout the book Solomon contrasted the wise and the fool. Proverbs contrasted the lazy slacker with the diligent and the righteous. In God’s book of Wisdom, laziness is both a character flaw and a moral issue. The consequences of laziness are devastating. 

What lessons does Proverbs teach about the negative lazy slacker?

First, Proverbs warns against laziness (Prov. 13:4; 14:23; 20:4; 24:30-34; 26:13-14; 28:19). Proverbs sets forth the following characteristics of a slacker in terms of work. A slacker has a strong appetite for physical things yet dreams and never expends the energy to fulfill the appetites (13:4). A slacker does not plant during the inconvenient, uncomfortable, wet rainy season of a Palestinian winter and does not reap a harvest (20:4). Laziness, then, results in nothing to eat in the present and no seed for next year’s crop. The slacker’s prefers slumber and sleep resulting in an overgrown vineyard. Poverty surprises the slacker like a bandit (24:30-34). The slacker possesses a “gift” for excuses for not working. The slacker cannot go outside of the house to enter the workforce in case a lion is outside. Rather than exiting the door for work, the slacker’s bed becomes the doorframe upon which the slacker turns in sleep (24:13-14). A slacker experiences self-deceptive pride by viewing himself or herself as wiser than a perfect number of seven wise counselors (Prov. 26:16).

Second, Proverbs encourages diligence in work (Prov. 6:6-8; 10:5; 14:4; 21:20; 24:27). To awaken the slacker from the deception of self, Solomon directs the slacker to open his or her eyes. The wise carefully observe and learn from patterns in nature. Solomon frequently used observation of God-given processes in nature to teach wisdom (1 Kings 4:33). Solomon frequently used God-designed processes: Solomon commanded slackers to observe and learn from the Palestinian harvest ant for lessons in self-discipline, foresight, and work. The ant works in an organized community despite the absence of a leader. 

Future food needs motivate the ant to prepare. Hope exists even for a slacker, if such a person would observe the lowly ant.

Third, Proverbs challenges people to not be slackers by giving generously (Prov. 11:24-25; 19:17; 22:9; 28:27). Proverbs contains paradoxical teaching. From a human perspective, ruthlessness and hoarding are the pathway to prosperity. 

According to Proverbs, giving is one aspect of a prosperous life. A literal translation of the phrase “one who gives freely” in Proverbs 11:24 is “the soul of blessing”—an open-hearted attitude. “Gives freely” describes the act of “widely, loosely, and “freely” distributing God’s blessings. Proverbs describes the opposite attitude as withholding blessings from others. By implication, if Proverbs describes the generous person as “a soul of blessing,” then the heart of a hoarder describes a “soul needing blessing.” Generous people “lend to the Lord” in the sense that God will repay kindness. God’s payment may not be “payment in kind”—God blessing a believer with material blessings for sharing material possessions. A generous person, though, can trust God to meet needs. God’s payment of the loan may be a blessed life (22:9). An individual with a generous heart does not miss what he or she gives away. Indifference—turning the eyes away from the need—receives curses, probably from the poor. 

The last point affected my life. Do I have a “soul of blessing?” Or, do I have a “soul needing blessing” because I do not share.

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