The Holy Bible is one of the most influential books in the history of humanity. This is no wonder, for it contains a great amount of wisdom that should be learned from. One of the always timely topics discussed in the Holy Scripture is the issue of diligence and sloth. In our paper, we will look into this topic, as well as consider how it relates to the subject of wisdom and folly.
Diligence and Laziness in the Bible
The Bible touches the theme of diligence and laziness many times. Much wisdom on this question is contained in the book of Proverbs. It is emphasized that hard-working people can often achieve satisfaction and great benefit. For instance, it is highlighted that “the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied” (Proverbs 13:4 New International Version).
On the other hand, those who are slothful rarely achieve much: “A sluggard’s appetite is never filled” (Proverbs 13:4). Idlers are also likely to be harmful to the people who surround them; they are compared to devastators: “One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys” (Proverbs 18:9). As a result, the diligent are likely to become rich, while the lazy often remain poor: “Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth” (Proverbs 10:4).
Therefore, it might be asserted that laziness is condemned by the Bible. Lazy people tend to leech on their friends and relatives, taking advantage of their hard work and kindness. It is no wonder that God strongly disapproves of such attitude; thus, it should not be practiced by any true Christians.
Estes (2010) highlights that idleness often results in disaster; the houses of the slothful start falling apart (p. 367). The punishment for lazy behavior is poverty and public disgrace; the Holy Scripture even stresses that loafers are likely to become slaves: “laziness ends in forced labor” (Proverbs 12:24).
So, idlers must make an effort and start working; the Bible emphasizes that “anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need” (Ephesians 4:28). Laziness should be replaced by diligence and hard work – not only for the sake of the person in question but also for the sake of those who remain in need.
But isn’t that a contradiction? We have just seen that poverty is the result of laziness. Does that mean that idleness needs to be overcome only to help the other slothful? But, if we examine the issue further, it becomes clear that poverty does not always result from sloth; it can also be a consequence of injustice or corruption: “an unplowed field produces food for the poor, but injustice sweeps it away” (Proverbs 13:23). Thus, the Bible’s view on the issue is quite balanced; poverty can also be a result of misfortune (Hindson & Yates, 2012, p. 266). Therefore, it is clear that such needy people must be helped.
It is also stressed that diligence often leads to wealth; a hard-working individual is favorable in God’s eyes, and is rewarded. For instance, the Holy Scripture says that “the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied” (Proverbs 13:4); that “diligent hands bring wealth” (Proverbs 10:4); and that “diligent hands will rule” (Proverbs 12:24).
Still, it was noted that poverty is not always a result of sloth. Wealth is not always a consequence of hard work as well. It can also result from oppression and corruption. However, these misdeeds are punished: “one who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and one who gives gifts to the rich—both come to poverty” (Proverbs 22:16).
Wisdom and Folly and their Relation to Diligence and Sloth
As Hindson and Yates (2012) elaborate, wisdom is the skill of expressing good judgment and managing one’s relationships with others (p. 266). Estes (2010) stresses that a wise person avoids obstacles by constantly assessing the situation they are in and acting accordingly (p. 233). It appears, therefore, that a wise person cannot be lazy, for laziness, as we have seen, is a major hindrance.
And indeed, as laziness often leads to poverty and ruin, Estes (2010) asserts that those who are slothful might be considered fools (p. 367). But the folly of the idlers often makes them think they are wise: “a sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven people who answer discreetly” (Proverbs 26:16). It is no wonder that the Holy Scripture advises to the slothful: “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!” (Proverbs 6:6).
Still, diligence on its own does not mean that a person is wise; hard work without wisdom is often fruitless: “the plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty” (Proverbs 21:5). Only wisdom and hard work combined can lead to continuous wealth. But it is important to stress that diligence does not aim at becoming rich; Hindson and Yates (2012) note that wealth is often not a stable phenomenon, and those who are wise understand this instability and do not chase after riches, which actually allows them to maintain their wealth (p. 266).
As we have seen, the Bible offers a considerable amount of wisdom concerning the issue of sloth and hard work. According to the Holy Scripture, laziness is a misdeed that is tightly connected with folly; it usually leads to poverty. On the other hand, only diligence combined with wisdom are able to provide a person with a real wealth, both material and spiritual, that does not fade over time. Therefore, it is clear that wisdom and hard work are necessary for any true Christian.
Estes, D. J. (2010). Handbook on the Wisdom Books and Psalms. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.
Hindson, E., & Yates, G. (Eds.). (2012). The essence of the Old Testament: A survey. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group.