The Value of Work
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Last week we had a message focused on Mother’s Day. This week, we decided to have a message aimed primarily at our students, especially since the school year is ending, and we’ve got some graduations coming up.
I got my Bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology back in 2010. Some people call that Sports Science. We studied the anatomy, physiology, psychology, sociology, and physics behind fitness and exercise and sport. And ever since I finished my time in college, I don’t think I’ve put that degree to use in any official sense. All I’ve done since graduation is gain weight.
There was an article released by the Washington Post back in 2013 stating that the majority of people whose highest degree was a Bachelor’s weren’t working in a job that was closely related to their degree. The study said only about 27% were working in a job related to their degree.
That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. It’s not as if the other 72% are ruining their lives or had wasted their education. According to the article, many of them were doing just fine.
A statistic like that can help indicate to us that what you gain (what you get out of) college—or a trade school for that matter—isn’t simply related to the information you acquire.
When you’re in school, or when you’re in some kind of training, you’re learning much more than information. You’re learning about life. You’re learning about yourself, and you’re learning about other people. You’re developing patterns that will affect you, probably for the rest of your life.
All of us have sort of a default mode to who we are, and as we develop changes occur that set the trajectory of our life.
Those of you who are students need to understand this. Your life has a foundation to it. That foundation includes what you believe and what you know, but it also includes the habits you’ve trained yourself for.
Habits are not automatic. You’re trained for them. We see a spiritual example of this in the book of Hebrews.
Hebrews 5:14, speaking of sound doctrine, says: “solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”
So, where there is maturity, there has to have been some training and some practice. You need training for maturity.
Later, in chapter 12, speaking about discipline and correction, verse 11 says, “all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
Again, it’s talking about a training that brings maturity. It’s a training that brings growth. That training, particularly in your younger years, is part of the foundation of your life. You know, when you’re finally finished with school, it feels like you were in there forever. But really, it’s only about a quarter of your life. But that sets a foundation.
Foundations matter. You can’t typically see the foundation in a building, but it matters. Just ask the guys who built the Tower of Pisa. Nobody calls it that, right? We call it the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Why does it lean?
It leans because the foundation didn’t settle evenly. And there have been massive and expensive efforts to help alleviate it. But the best way to prevent all that is to make sure you start off the right way.
For most of you young ones, graduation feels like you’re done with something. But really, it’s just the beginning. That’s why some people call it a commencement. It’s the start of the rest of your adult life. And your teachers and your parents have done the best they can to set you up with a solid foundation—again, not just of information, but of beliefs and habits and patterns .
There’s a diagram I’ve seen frequently in counseling situations that illustrates this. I want you to see it. And feel free to copy it if you want.
[Click on the "downloads" button at the top of this page to see/print the diagram]
On the left side of the diagram, you have the heart. That’s the biblical term for your inner man. It’s the invisible control center of your life. Your heart thinks and feels and wants and makes decisions.
Jesus said that it’s our of the heart that sin comes. Proverbs 4:23 tells us: “from [the heart] flow the springs of life.”
Your heart is what drives your thinking process. Sometimes that process happens tremendously fast, and sometimes it’s drawn out. But either way, your heart is thinking. It’s active.
And eventually your heart comes to the point of a decision. You take an action. And as you can see, you’ve basically got two options for the decision.
Proverbs 28:26 says: “Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.”
You can choose the way of wisdom or the way of foolishness.
The path of foolishness is, at the outset, the easy decision. It’s a decision based on feelings. You do what you feel like doing. You do what’s easy. But though that decision makes life feel easy, it actually ends up making life very difficult. It makes your life hard.
Proverbs 14:12 says “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”
Proverbs 4:14-16 says: “Don’t enter the path of the wicked.” That group is robbed of sleep. It’s the path of violence.
Proverbs 13:15 says: “the way of the treacherous is their ruin.”
Proverbs 22:8 adds: “Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity.”
If you continually make the easy decisions in life—the decisions simply based on your personal feelings—you’ll feel good, for a moment. But life will get very hard. Those decisions become habits. And those habits shape your life.
The alternative to that approach is to make a decision that is hard at first. That is the decision based, not on feelings, but on God’s principles. The way of wisdom is based on principles. It’s based on God’s truth. The way of wisdom is, as Matthew 6:33 says, to seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness.
That’s not an easy choice. But over time, those difficult choices will make your life easier. Your life gets better.
Psalm 1 tells us that delighting in God’s law beings blessedness.
Matthew 11 reminds us that Christ offers us rest. His yoke is easy, and his burden is light.
Proverbs 4:18 says: “the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.”
As you make those hard decision, life brightens up. Life gets easier, less complicated. God brings His blessing upon you.
In the end, the crux of the decision is: Who will I live for? Whom will I glorify? Am I going to live for my own glory? Or am I going to live for the glory of God?
If you continually pursue your own glory, God will oppose you. But if you live for His glory, He will bless you. He will satisfy you.
The book of Proverbs is primarily aimed at young men and women who are getting ready for an adult life. And what the father and mother of Proverbs want, and what all Christian parents want, is for their children to walk in the fear of the Lord. They want their kids to have a strong and firm foundation to build their life on. They don’t want their kids’ lives to end in a disaster, physically or spiritually.
And that’s why you’ve got so many lessons repeated over and over again in the book. We’ve covered many of them already in the past year or so—lessons about humility and seeking wisdom, lessons about sexual purity, lessons about finances, and lessons about controlling your mouth.
The particular lesson I’d like to focus on today, particularly a we’re focusing on you younger ones with regard to school is the lesson on hard work. We touched on that last week when we looked at Proverbs 31.
In teaching a young person and preparing him or her for the rest of their life, God wants us to make sure we understand the value of hard work.
We live in a culture that downplays the importance of hard work. We downplay the value of diligence many times. We assume that success is almost completely due to natural intelligence or ability or luck, if that’s what you want to call it.
We live in an age where many people, rather than prize what they can earn by their work, celebrate how much they can get for free. In fact, they expect it. Our culture loves shortcuts. We like the easy way.
But rather than think about some of the major examples of this in the culture, I want you to think about your own life. This is how we live. This is our default position. We want to work less and play more.
Culturally, that’s what has happened with the advancement of technology. Rather then being freed up to work on other things that are productive, we’re freeing ourselves up for more play, for more entertainment.
Recreation isn’t necessarily a sin. But, as the term implies, the activity is supposed to re-create you. It’s supposed to energize you for the work you do. But if recreation becomes the goal, rather than the means, it will drain you. People go into work tired because they’ve stayed up all night watching TV or movies. People try to work with Netflix streaming at the same time.
That’s not God’s design. God has designed—for His glory, and for your good—that you and I do work, that we be productive. Work is a blessing.
Back in Genesis 2:15, we read that God made the man and He put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. Work was part of God’s original creation, even before the Fall.
The curse of sin and death on this world didn’t bring work, it just made it difficult. Now, because of our sin, we push back against work. It’s not easy to find the joy in it. But God tells us that the path to His blessing includes diligence, hard work.
I think a fair definition of diligence is “timely productivity.” Timely productivity. Diligence doesn’t mean you’re working as hard as you can all the time. It means you’re working on what you’re supposed to be working on at the right time. And what you’re doing is productive.
Being busy doesn’t mean you’re being diligent. Diligence is a timely productivity. You need to be busy at the right things. Otherwise, your busy-ness is really just another form of laziness.
The Proverbs father wants to make sure his son doesn’t grow up to be lazy. And in order to warn him against laziness, he teaches him about the result of a lazy life. And that’s what I want to point out to you.
Now before we get to the specific lessons, you need to keep in mind that what we’re talking about this morning are general principles. The biblical Proverbs about life are not guaranteed promises. They are general principles. And the goal of this kind of instruction is to motivate us to holiness and to wisdom.
Remember, wisdom is about much more than knowledge. It’s about putting the knowledge into practice, to the glory of God.
As we talk about some of the lessons in the Proverbs about laziness, it doesn’t mean that this will always be the case. But it is the general principle, and it should warn you against laziness and motivate you toward diligence.
So, what does Proverbs say is the result of a lazy life? The lazy life, first of all, leads to poverty. That’s the first result. Laziness leads to poverty, but diligence brings profit.
Go with me to Proverbs 10:4. We’re going to be covering a lot of verses today, so feel free to jot some references down if you’d rather do that. Or just listen today, and then you can review the sermon on our website later on.
Proverbs 10:4 says—A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.
That’s a very simple, basic truth. And it was especially visible in an agricultural setting, because you weren’t paid by the hour. You earned your income based on what you produced.
Proverbs 12:11 continues the idea—Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.
Proverbs 12:17 says—The diligent man will get precious wealth.
Proverbs 13:4—The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.
Sluggard is a word for a lazy person. Picture an actual slug or a sloth. They’re not known for their speed, right? They’re known for how slow they move.
This next Proverb is one of my favorites. I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned it before.
Proverbs 14:4—Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.
If you don’t want to have to be cleaning up the manger, then don’t own an ox. Make the lazy choice. But if you get an ox, your productivity will increase. In other words, the work is worth the payout.
Look also with me at Proverbs 14:23—In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.
Stop talking about what you want to do and go do something. You’re going to meet people in this world who have the greatest plans—plans for life, plans for marriage, plans for getting rich—but nothing has happened. Why? Because they aren’t doing anything productive.
I saw a television report talking about the people who make money on Youtube. It said that the top Youtube personalities make over $10 million a year.
And so, you’ve got all these people who think they’re gonna start a Youtube channel and get rich. But that needs to be put into perspective.
The report said that even if someone could attract 1 million views per month (which puts them I the top 3.5%) that’s only like $15,000 a year in advertising revenue. That’s not even enough to pay the rent!
They had this lady on the program who was some kind of social media expert, and here’s what she said: “It’s incredibly difficult for someone with a Youtube channel to turn a profit. You have to have really great content, really great ads, really great partners and sponsors—all of this together, and Youtube actually liking what you’re doing and making sure it’s not flat.”
Then she added: “Entrepreneurs are creating a false hope for themselves. All of these things inherently take a lot of work to do it and get started. And so, I think that you can’t just put up a channel and expect to make $10 million.”
Whatever it is you’re talking about in life, maybe a good way to phrase the question would be: “Do you want to watch people make money? Or do you want to make money for yourself?” That’s kind of what it comes down to: throw your money away on fun stuff right now—give your money to other people—or do the work of providing for yourself.
Our culture hates to feel dissatisfied. But there’s a certain level of dissatisfaction that is healthy. It moves you forward. Look at Proverbs 16:26—A worker's appetite works for him; his mouth urges him on.
Skip over to Proverbs 19:15—Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger.
Verse 24 says—The sluggard buries his hand in the dish and will not even bring it back to his mouth.
Here’s a guy that’s so close, but he just won’t finish what he started. It’s a graphic picture of laziness. Most recently, I’ve seen it in the baby just a few months ago. She would come over to me, ask me for food, and then just sit there with her mouth open, like a little chick. And I would try to put it in her hand, but she didn’t want it. She wanted me to put it in her mouth.
Well, we never really grow out of that. We want other people to do the work for us. Don’t be that person. You’ll just end up hungry.
Look also at Proverbs 20:4—The sluggard does not plow in the autumn; he will seek at harvest and have nothing.
Also, Proverbs 20:13, put this up in your bedroom if you need to—Love not sleep, lest you come to poverty; open your eyes, and you will have plenty of bread.
Again, these are all verses saying basically the same thing: Laziness leads to poverty, but diligence leads to profit.
Proverbs 21:5—The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.
In this case, you have diligence being contrasted with hastiness. That’s a person who’s jumping into some plan without thinking about it properly. That’s not diligence. I would say it’s a form of laziness, because it skips the planning stage.
Look at verse 25—The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labor. 26All day long he craves and craves, but the righteous gives and does not hold back.
The righteous man, the diligent man, has enough to give to others. That’s God’s blessing upon Him.
Now, what is it that prevents the lazy person from doing the work? It’s some kind of lie he’s told himself; it’s some kind of excuse to justify his laziness. Sometimes, the lie is: “Oh, that’s easy, I can get it done in no time. I’ll do it tomorrow.”
We get another example of the sluggards lies in Proverbs 22:13—The sluggard says, “There is a lion outside! I shall be killed in the streets!”
That’s like your parents saying: “Go clean the garage,” and you respond with, “But there’s spiders in there! I might get bit and die!” You’re not really worried about spiders, you’re trying to avoid doing the work.” You see it all the time in the professional world. People making excuses. “I’m not trained to do that! That’s not my job!” Don’t be like that. People can see right through the excuses.
Look at Proverbs 24:27. This is another helpful glimpse at the sluggard— Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house.
This is talking about priorities. The sluggard doesn’t prioritize properly. This is written to a son who just moved out. He’s about to start his own new family. And the first thing he need to do is get the field ready. Get the crops ready. But instead, this guy wants to start organizing the furniture. He’s worried more about the dinner table itself more than he is about the food that’s going to be on the table. Do you get that?
I see it a lot of times when someone is moving in. They’ve got a truckload of things to unload. They’ve got beds and tables and sofas and boxes that need to be unpacked. But what’s the guy doing? He’s on the phone trying to make sure the internet gets connected. That’s not the priority right now!
He feels like he’s being productive, but it’s a form laziness. And it going to make things much worse for him later on. Get your priorities straight.
Look at Proverbs 24:30. Again, imagine a father telling this to his son—I passed by the field of a sluggard, by the vineyard of a man lacking sense, 31and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns; the ground was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down. 32Then I saw and considered it; I looked and received instruction. 33A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, 34and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.
Just walking by the house, the father could tell this was a lazy man. It was evident. And the dad wants his son to know. that it didn’t happen all at once. The thorns didn’t magically appear. It happened one day at a time. Just one more day off from work, but now that guy’s vine is worthless. There’s no produce. There’s no useful fruit. Because he was lazy.
Lastly, we have Proverbs 28:19—Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty.
I know that was a lot of verses to cover to make just one point. But that’s how significant a lesson it is. Don’t be lazy, son. Laziness leads to poverty. Diligence leads to profit.
The second result of laziness is shame. A lazy person, and we’ve already seen it, will stand out for the wrong reasons. Laziness brings shame, but diligence brings favor.
We won’t go through as many verses for this, but let’s go back and start again in Proverbs 10, verse 5. Proverbs 10:5—He who gathers in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame.
If you’re lazy, your parents will be ashamed of you. You don’t want that. They’re the ones who might have to bail you out at some point.
Skip down to verse 26—Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to those who send him.
Those are things that irritate the body. If you are lazy, your teachers and your boss will think of you as an irritating person. They’d rather not have you around. And so typically, you end up getting the worst assignments.
Look at Proverbs 12:24—The hand of the diligent will rule, while the slothful will be put to forced labor.
Who are the people who get the promotions? The people that work the hardest. They win the favor of others.
Proverbs 18:9—Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys.
If you turn that into a sports analogy, it would be like saying: “playing half-heartedly is like playing for the opposing team.” It doesn’t make you any friends. It makes you more like the enemy.
On the other hand, look at Proverbs 22:29—Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.
Good work gets noticed. That applies whether you’re a painter or a gardener, or plumber, or whatever. The lazy guy thinks he’s getting away with something by doing a halfway job. But sooner or later, the people catch on, and then nobody’ll hire him.
A diligent man who does good work gets recognized. He gets called back for more work. People trust him.
Let me just close this section with one final verse. Proverbs 26:13. The first few verses are repeating things we’ve already mentioned, but I want to focus in on the last verse, verse 16.
13The sluggard says, “There is a lion in the road! There is a lion in the streets!” 14As a door turns on its hinges, so does a sluggard on his bed. 15 The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; it wears him out to bring it back to his mouth. 16The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly.
The sluggard is that guy who thinks he has all the right answers. In his own mind, he’s wise.
I remember helping with a Love Thy Neighbor some time ago, and I we had a crew digging around the roots of a big dead tree. And I was on the side talking to someone about what other methods we could use to get the tree out. We could use a truck. We could use a bulldozer. We could use dynamite—all kinds of ideas to get this done faster and easier.
But in his godly wisdom, Richard looks over at us and says something like: “You know, if we had more people working and less people talking about a better plan, we’d get this tree out a lot faster.” And he was right. The tree came out eventually. The crew just kept working And I turned out to be the babbling, lazy fool.
The lazy fool is wise in his own eyes. And prefers to blab about all his good ideas, instead of just getting to work. And nobody likes that guy. Laziness leads to shame, but diligence leads to favor.
One final lesson for today. Laziness leads to difficulty, but diligence brings joy. This is what we were saying at the beginning with the diagram. The path of foolishness seems easy at first, but then life gets hard. Laziness leads to difficulty, but diligence brings joy.
I’ll just give you three verses here. The first is Proverbs 12:14—From the fruit of his mouth a man is satisfied with good, and the work of a man's hand comes back to him.
In other words, hard work pays off. It brings joy and satisfaction. God bless you for it.
We also have Proverbs 15:19—The way of a sluggard is like a hedge of thorns, but the path of the upright is a level highway.
The life of a sluggard might seem easy, but it’s a hard life. It’s a difficult life. It’s filled with inconveniences. It's filled with dissatisfaction. But the path of righteousness is blessed.
God wants to bless you. He wants your life to be productive and effective for His purposes. And that requires a life of diligence, a life of intentionality.
Let me finish up the Proverbs study with Proverbs 16:3. I think this is a great verse for you graduates. You’re thinking about what’s next in life. You’re making plans. But do not forget what the word of god tells us.
Proverbs 16:3—Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.
Commit your what? Your work. Work as unto the Lord and rely on Him in everything that you do. And God will bless you. He’ll lead you.
Don’t forget that the default setting for this world and for your life is not to honor God. Ephesians tells us: the days are evil. And so, rather than waste our time, God calls us to redeem the time. Be diligent with what God has called you to do.
Physically, that’s going to include your schoolwork. And eventually, that’s going to include your job.
But you also need to be diligent about spiritual stuff too. If you don’t know Christ, that’s the first area you need to address. Stop wasting time. Today is the day of salvation. Tomorrow is never guaranteed. Build your life of the rock of responding to Christ.
And if you’re already saved, be diligent in your spiritual life. Be diligent about your relationship with Christ through prayer and the word. And be diligent about the mission you’re called to. Again, time is limited.
None of us in here are experts in all this. I certainly am not. But our hope is that we’re all growing together. And our prayer is that you guys, as the next generation, would surpass us, and do even more for the glory of Jesus Christ and the strength of His church. Amen?
Instead of a final song of response today, we’re going to close our time together by praying for our youth. And also praying for our Youth leaders.
So Erick and James would you come on up here to the front? And then all of you Youth, would you come up here, too, with them? Anyone who’s going to enter into the Youth this year, all the way up to those of you who are graduating. Come on up. Give us a chance to see you all together.
In case you don’t know, Erick and James have been in charge of the Youth ministry since Derek was pulled away to Las Vegas about a year ago.
And their job is not simply to hold down the fort. They want to come alongside you parents and help you shepherd your kids by providing biblical teaching, and opportunities to serve and to connect to one another and to the rest of the church.
In addition to praying for the elders, I’d like to remind you to keep these guys in your prayers too. They are a vital part of our ministry, and youth ministry is a very distinct kind of ministry. So they need your prayers and they need your help.
And if you’re a member and you want to commit to helping with the Youth, these are the guys you talk to. You don’t have to come talk to an elder. Come talk to one of these guys, and they’ll let you know how you can help out.
We’re grateful for the work they’ve been doing. And we’re praying that God bears much fruit through their ministry to our students and to our families.
Would you stand join me in prayer for our youth and for our youth leaders? Let’s pray.