Summary: God’s wisdom for our work ethic
Do you realize you’re going to spend (or have spent) about 150,000 hours of your life working, which is about 40% of your waking hours. Unless you’re retired, you are probably groaning inside. A Harris survey found out in 1973 the average American spent 40 hours a week at work, but by 1987 the average American spent 46 hours a week at work. If you’re a professional you spend an average of 52 hours a week working and if you’re a small business owner/operator you work an average of 57 hours a week. The fact is you’ll spend more time working, commuting to work and thinking about work than you will eating meals, playing on week-ends and vacationing in the summer combined. Work is a huge part of our lives.
It shouldn’t surprise us that God addresses work in the Bible since it is such a major part of our lives. If we work 40% of the waking hours of our lives, I think God is concerned with how we live that 40%. Following God should affect our work life. How do we honor God with our work?
Over the last few weeks we have been exploring the book of Proverbs or as it is known as, the OT book of wisdom. It was written by one of the wisest people who ever lived, King Solomon. In this book God speaks through Solomon to give us practical wisdom and guidance on how to live our lives, including work.
1) Work Hard - Diligence
The first principle which Solomon affirms over and over again in his Proverbs regarding work is the expectation that God’s people will be hard workers, they are to be diligent and avoid laziness at all cost. In our verse this morning, Solomon points to the ant and tells us to learn from it how hard it works. It works hard storing its provisions for the summer and gathering at the harvest time. Ants don’t have anyone to tell it what to do, but they work diligently to store up for the winter. I find this Proverb a little humorous when I think that Solomon was writing it for his son. I can just see dad telling his son this proverb trying to get him to pick up his room and work around the house. Look at the ant they don’t have their mom or dad telling them what to do, but they work hard and pick up their room.
Why is it important for God’s people to be hard workers?
a) Laziness leads to poverty
Solomon was a very practical person and his reasoning was not so much spiritually related as it was practical, if you are lazy and choose not to work, perhaps you sleep in too late, catch a few extra zzz’s, get to work late. His reasoning is very simply, you will fall into poverty, you will lack provision, you will go hungry:
Proverbs 6:10 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest-- 11 and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.
In another Proverb Solomon writes: NLT Proverbs 20:4 If you are too lazy to plow in the right season, you will have no food at the harvest.
Those who are too lazy to work won’t have food when the harvest comes. They were mainly an agricultural community and if you missed the planting season because of your laziness, guess what? There was no crop for the harvest, and therefore no food. 1100 years later, the first Christian missionary to the Gentiles, the Apostle Paul, was adamant about this when he wrote, “if anyone is unwilling to work they should not eat (2 Thess. 3:10).” He modeled and taught that Christians should live by the principle of hard work (we’ll talk more about the situation he faced in one of his churches in a moment).
I have seen younger generations who have been spoiled and become lazy thinking everything will just be given to them on a silver platter. The problem we run into is the motivations behind our work.
God created us to work, it is built into our DNA. When the first woman and man, Adam and Eve were created, God gave them a job to do in the Garden of Eden, to tend the garden. Work became more difficult after Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden and were booted out, but it is still a necessary part of our lives, and I don’t by the way see retirement in the Bible (retirees).
Our country is where it is today because of hard working people. Our country is still in the top five in the world for the highest average work hours per week. However we must ask, “what drives us to work so hard and so much?” Unfortunately, what drives us all too often is not need, but greed. We work more hours because we want to earn more money to have more stuff, or nicer stuff. I once heard a survey (I couldn’t find it this week), but US employees were asked if they thought they worked too much. The majority replied that they did work too much. Then they asked, would you work more if you were asked to. And again over 50 percent responded positively. We feel overworked but want to work more? Is it out of necessity or greed?