Biblical Wisdom Means Wise Diligence

Biblical wisdom, the application of the Word of God in our daily life, counsels both skill and diligence in daily work, and rebukes laziness. Here are some representative scriptures:

Proverbs 10:4: “Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth.”

Proverbs 12:24: “Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in slave labor.”

Proverbs 19:15: “Laziness brings on deep sleep, and the shiftless man goes hungry.”

Proverbs 21:5: “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.”

Proverbs 22:29: “Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will serve before kings; he will not serve before obscure men.”

Ecclesiastes 10:10: “If the ax is dull and its edge unsharpened, more strength is needed but skill will bring success.”

In the current culture, there’s a saying: “Don’t work harder, but smarter.” This would pretty much be what Solomon is saying here. What does this mean? Skill, planning, and continued effort; not lots of continued, fruitless and undirected activity.

One of the classic statements on the Biblical directives for wealth is John Wesley’s sermon, ‘The Use of Money.’ It’s famous for the three points of “Earn all you can, save all you can and give all you can.” In it he advises, “Gain all you can by honest industry. Use all possible diligence in your calling . . . Gain all you can, by common sense, by using in your business all the understanding which God has given you . . . You should be continually learning, from the experience of others, or from your own experience, reading, and reflection, to do everything you have to do better to-day than you did yesterday. And see that you practise whatever you learn, that you may make the best of all that is in your hands.”

But diligence does not mean becoming a workaholic! Again, Wesley makes the point extremely well: “. . . we ought not to gain money at the expense of life, nor (which is in effect the same thing) at the expense of our health. Therefore, no gain whatsoever should induce us to enter into, or to continue in, any employ, which is of such a kind, or is attended with so hard or so long labour, as to impair our constitution. Neither should we begin or continue in any business which necessarily deprives us of proper seasons for food and sleep, in such a proportion as our nature requires.”

What will Christian diligence look like, then? Here are some suggestions:

  • It will mean seeking always to put in full and honest effort for the day’s pay. This will mean avoidance of personal business or pursuits such as Internet shopping, casual surfing or socializing on company time, use of company assets for personal use, keeping rest  breaks reasonable, etc.
  • It will mean keeping up with developments in one’s profession, such as engineering, medicine, law, automobile repair or information technology. For instance, I long ago read that most people in information technology read only one technical manual per year. If anyone simply reads two manuals, that person will be doing twice as well as the average. For myself, I will usually go through six technical manuals or references per year.
  • It will mean, where a Christian works as part of a team, sharing knowledge and helping the others on the team work better as a whole.
  • It will mean using vacations, sick time and other personal time off wisely and with integrity, to refresh and renew the mind, body and spirit.
  • It will mean keeping one’s vocation and employment in proper perspective, with other Biblical directives and responsibilities for one’s family and church involvement.
  • It will mean seeking God’s glory in one’s work time, rather than personal status and fulfillment (Colossians 3:16-17), because it is in our relationship with God through Christ that we find our true purpose and fulfillment.
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