Be Diligent – Exploring the Passages

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. What does Proverbs 14:23 (printed below) tell us about work?

There is profit in all hard work, but the talk of the lips leads only to poverty. (Proverbs 14:23)

The Word of God confronts us with the necessity of labor—working for a living, and even for a higher standard of living if one does not lose his spiritual perspective. Productive, creative work is a part of our divine calling (note Genesis 1:28). The point of Proverbs 14:23 is this: work is the task, the calling, appointed by God for us in this world, and as we apply ourselves to this task (doing the work God in His providence has ordained for us to do) we can expect God’s provision and blessing.

2. How would you explain the meaning of Proverbs 14:4 (printed below?)

Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean; but an abundance of wealth comes by the strength of the ox. (Proverbs 14:4)

If there were no oxen, there would be no mess to clean up (i.e., no unpleasant, time-consuming, boring, dirty work to be done.) But there would be no profit either (oxen are needed to perform the strenuous labor men cannot do.) The point of the proverb is that unpleasant work (work that may be tedious, boring, dirty, etc.) is an inescapable part of productive and profitable work in this present world.

3. What is the message of Proverbs 12:11 (printed below?) What are some of the “worthless things” to which it refers?

He who tills his land shall have a sufficient amount of bread; but he who pursues worthless things is void of understanding. (Proverbs 12:11)

The first part of the proverb is not so much emphasizing the promise of prosperity (the Hebrew word sometimes rendered, “plenty,” also has the meaning, “sufficient,”) but is reminding us of the fundamental biblical principle that diligence and hard work meet with God’s approval and God’s provision. The latter part of verse 11 warns of the foolishness of neglecting the God-appointed course in order to pursue “worthless things.” What is in mind here is the pursuit of such things as “get rich quick schemes” (playing the lottery, gambling on “a hot tip” at the race track, frequenting the casinos) as a futile substitute for hard, industrious work. Also in mind is the pre-occupation with dreaming up your own “get rich quick scheme” when you should be applying yourself to the work at hand.

4. According to Proverbs 12:27 (printed below), how does the diligent man view wealth? What does this mean?

The slothful man does not roast what he killed in hunting; but the wealth of men is precious to the diligent. (Proverbs 12:27)

The latter part of this proverb states, “the wealth of men is precious to the diligent.” This proverb reveals the outlook of the diligent man, it reveals how he views wealth (material prosperity): he views it as being “precious.” This does not necessarily mean that he idolizes it; but he does recognize that it is a blessing, and that it is the result of industriousness, and that it can quickly disappear. Consequently, he appreciates the measure of prosperity he attains, he does not take it for granted, nor does he foolishly squander it.

5. What is the message of Proverbs 24:27 (printed below?)

Finish your outdoor chores and prepare your fields; after that, furnish your house. (Proverbs 24:27)

The message of this proverb: you must put the necessities of life before the niceties of life (luxuries, comforts, pleasures). “Finish your outdoor chores and prepare your fields,” this is referring to getting your fields ready for planting and then harvesting them in due season. The reference is to the necessary labor on which your income and sustenance depends. The phrase, “After that, furnish your house,” in other words, making home improvements, is referring to the pursuit of comforts or luxuries or amenities that are beyond the necessities of life.