Hard work is an investment that pays dividends.
The Book of Proverbs makes the case for this conclusion in two ways. Negatively, it shows the debt that laziness incurs. Positively, it shows the profit that diligence accrues. Let’s take a close look at two proverbs that make this case.
Proverbs 24:30-34 makes a negative case for hard work by showing the devastating results of laziness.
I went past the field of the sluggard,
past the vineyard of the man who lacks judgment;
thorns had come up everywhere,
the ground was covered with weeds,
and the stone wall was in ruins.
I applied my heart to what I observed
and learned a lesson from what I saw:
A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest —
and poverty will come on you like a bandit
and scarcity like an armed man.
Notice in this proverb that laziness begins in the mind. A “sluggard” is a “man who lacks judgment.” Specifically, he lacks means-end thinking. He fails to see that his present actions (laziness) determine his future results (poverty).
Moreover, because he lacks judgment, the sluggard engages in counterproductive behavior. While weeds overrun his fields, the lazy man takes a nap. No intelligent person is surprised by the resulting poverty. But for the sluggard, it’s like being unexpectedly robbed at gunpoint.
By way of contrast, Proverbs 27:23-27 makes a positive case for hard work by demonstrating the beneficial results of diligence.
Be sure you know the condition of your flocks,
give careful attention to your herds;
for riches do not endure forever,
and a crown is not secure for all generations.
When the hay is removed and new growth appears
and the grass from the hills is gathered in,
the lambs will provide you with clothing,
and the goats with the price of a field.
You will have plenty of goats’ milk
to feed you and your family
and to nourish your servant girls.
This proverb teaches several important lessons:
First, hard work is not a one-off deal. It does not mean putting in a full, eight-hour day and thinking that one days’ wages will be sufficient for the rest of your life. Instead, it’s a day-after-day discipline. The “condition of your flocks” is not static; it’s dynamic. It changes from day to day. The hard working person knows this and pays attention, changing his behavior to meet new challenges.
Second, hard work is performed in the face of scarcity. “Riches do not endure forever,” we read, “and a crown is not secure for all generations.” Some work with their hands, others work with their minds. For neither is today’s wealth guaranteed tomorrow. They must continually work for what they have.
But third, and paradoxically, hard work provides what we need tomorrow. In other words, wealth accumulates. The proverb says that when the seasons change, the hard worker will still be able to provide for his family and employees.
So work hard! Other people depend on you.