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       The final danger of laziness that we’ll look at is the unnecessary difficulty it creates in our lives. Where the distractions of laziness allow small problems to grow into big ones, careful and constant diligence prevents many problems from ever occurring.

A Little Bit of Laziness Can Go a Long Way…

       The verse we’re going to look at in Ecclesiastes reminds me of an oft-quoted saying of Benjamin Franklin: “…for want of a nail the shoe was lost; for want of a shoe the horse was lost, and for want of a horse the rider was lost, being overtaken and slain by the enemy, all for want of care about a horse-shoe nail.” A little bit of neglect or laziness can cause great problems and difficulty, especially when concerning important matters.

       In our finances or our work, misplaced focus or intentional laziness can cause problems that would have been easily avoided with a little hard work and diligence. A little bit of time spent on maintenance and gradual improvement can have a profound effect when continued over a long period of time. In the same way, a little bit of laziness can have disastrous results when sustained over time.

       By slothfulness the roof sinks in; and through idleness of the hands the house leaks.

Ecclesiastes 10:18 (WEB)

       Maintaining a house takes a lot of work, but it’s often many small tasks that need to be done rather than many large ones. With diligent care, the house can be kept in good condition. Without it, small problems become major ones. Projects that could have been completed inexpensively can become a major drain on your savings.

       This analogy easily carries over into many other areas of our life. Small projects and tasks at work can often be dealt with quickly and prevent future (and larger) problems. But the inconvenience of these tasks often causes us to slack off and procrastinate – creating much more work for ourselves in the future than if we had just dealt with it early on. God wants us to embrace hard work and diligence to save us from this extra work. He knows that there’s no need for us to deal with many of the problems we encounter if we’ll follow His call to work hard.

       The wisdom of hard work and diligence and the difficulty it can save us from is also reflected in this verse from Proverbs:

       The way of the sluggard is like a thorn patch, but the path of the upright is a highway.

Proverbs 15:19 (WEB)

       I really enjoy hiking in the woods. I find my hikes especially easy and enjoyable when I have a clear trail to walk along. I can see where I’m going and find the obstacles easily. And I get to my destination quickly. But when the trail is overgrown and difficult to navigate, I find it takes much longer to get where I’m going and I can’t see the dangers ahead very easily at all. While it can be exciting to overcome such a challenge at times, I don’t have the same peaceful and relaxing experience as I do when the trail is clean and clear.

       Clearing a trail that’s very overgrown is difficult and takes a lot of time. But clearing a trail that’s been carefully maintained through diligent work is easy and quick. Laziness is what allows the trails in our lives to become overgrown and difficult to walk. God wants us to use hard work to keep the trails clear so we can focus on Him and doing His will instead of dealing with hassles and problems all the time.

       It’s clear that God is looking out for our interests when He calls us to work hard. If we apply this idea of diligence to everything we do in life, we’ll find we can overcome huge hurdles easily and we’ll encounter fewer unexpected problems along the way. However, we must also remember that God does want us to rest when needed. In all our hard work, we must not forget to rest and refresh ourselves so we are ready for the work that lies ahead and are able to do it with all our might. We’ll look at our need for rest in the next two parts.

       Another danger of laziness is dishonor or a bad reputation. If we are the body of Christ, our actions and reputation impact other people’s ideas about Christ. If people know us to be lazy, we weaken our witness as Christians and bring dishonor to God’s name.

The Destruction of Laziness

       Proverbs contains a powerful warning against the destructiveness of laziness. Laziness can affect us and our reputation so strongly that it makes us a brother to the “master of destruction”, or Satan.

       One who is slack in his work is brother to him who is a master of destruction.

Proverbs 18:9 (WEB)

       If laziness makes us a brother to Satan, we can easily see why God has called us to work hard. There is no glory for God in laziness. (Let’s make sure we agree on the definition of laziness. Laziness is refusing to do work when work needs to be done or should be done. It is not the same as recreation, which comes after the necessary work has been finished.)

       We don’t admire lazy people. We don’t look at a lazy person and say, “Now he’s a respectable fellow.” We might envy or covet their rest, but that is only an indication that our heart is not right or that Satan is tempting us. But we do not look up to lazy people as an example to be followed. This is why laziness is warned against so strongly in the Bible, and especially by Paul in the New Testament. Laziness can destroy our reputation and completely undermine any witness we have in Christ. And that’s the most terrible effect of all.

       Not only can laziness ruin our reputation, but it can also ruin our life. Laziness in our work can lose us our job. Laziness in managing our finances can bankrupt us. Laziness in our relationships can hurt others. Only a short-sighted fool would choose laziness over doing the work needed to keep things going smoothly.

       The fool folds his hands together and ruins himself.

Ecclesiastes 4:5 (WEB)

       It’s clear that laziness is extremely destructive in our lives. Whether we’re looking at the spiritual aspects of our lives or the temporal, the devastating effects of laziness are not worth the fleeting pleasure of rest. Even just a little bit of laziness can make things much more difficult than they need to be, and we’ll talk about that a bit more in the next part of this series.

       But it’s also important to remember that we do need rest. Proper rest taken at the right time is essential to our health and well-being. After we look at the difficulty laziness brings, we’ll look at our need for rest.

       We’ve discussed how God calls Christians to work hard as a way to glorify Him and because of the benefits hard work affords. However, there is a third aspect to this calling. God knows that laziness and too much rest can be dangerous for our well-being and can become a stumbling block in bringing others to Christ. In the next three parts, we’ll look at the dangers of too much rest and laziness.

The Traps of Laziness and Excuses

       The problem with laziness and excuses is that their full effect is not felt for quite a while. It never seems like a little more sleep here and a little more fun there will cause our entire world to crumble. But it’s the cumulative effects of our procrastination that can wreak havoc in our lives. With steady, diligent care we can manage our lives well. But if we allow ourselves to get sidetracked with sleep, idleness, or unimportant things, we can quickly lose track of what we need to be doing and become overwhelmed with the mess that piles up.

       30 I went by the field of the sluggard, by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; 31 Behold, it was all grown over with thorns. Its surface was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down. 32 Then I saw, and considered well. I saw, and received instruction: 33 a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep; 34 so your poverty will come as a robber, and your want as an armed man.

Proverbs 24:30-34 (WEB)

       Continual neglect of our work and the important matters in our lives, even if it doesn’t seem like a big deal at the time, can cause poverty and want to creep up on us – even to the point where we don’t realize it until it’s too late. In stark contrast, continual care, maintenance, and repair, even though it doesn’t seem like much, can keep our work running smoothly and help us deal with our lives much more easily – especially when disasters strike.

       But even if you’re at the point where your neglect has ruined your work or your finances, do not fear. With the Lord, nothing is impossible. You can overcome the weeds that have taken over your life, if you will fall back on the Lord and commit to His ways. The same thing that prevents the ruin of poverty and neglect can overcome it – diligent, hard work over time will bring you and your affairs back into order. During this recovery time be careful not to forget prayer and do not be so proud as to reject the help of your fellow Christians.

       The are two main ways to prevent poverty and disaster from sneaking up on you. One, be careful of how much you sleep. And two, be cautious of using excuses to avoid work.

       Don’t love sleep, lest you come to poverty. Open your eyes, and you shall be satisfied with bread.

Proverbs 20:13 (WEB)

       Sleep and naps can easily rob us of time we need to do work. While sleep is necessary and a quick nap may refresh us enough to get some work done, it’s easy to fall into the habit of excess. But it’s easy to see that too much sleeping and napping can quickly bring you to poverty. You just can’t do any work while you’re sleeping or napping.

       The sluggard will not plow by reason of the winter; therefore he shall beg in harvest, and have nothing.

Proverbs 20:4 (WEB)

       Another trap we must avoid is using excuses to get out of work. I don’t just mean calling in sick to get a day off. These excuses can come in all kinds of disguises depending on your circumstances. It’s up to you, through the power of the Spirit, to uncover those excuses for what they are – lies designed to distract us from the work God calls us to. I’m not saying you should be out breaking your back if you’re on your deathbed. But we all know how we use excuses and half-truths to get out of things we don’t feel like doing at the time.

       If a farmer doesn’t plant his seed in the spring, there will be no harvest in the summer and fall. And if we don’t do our work when we need to, there won’t be a paycheck to pick up next Friday. Don’t let the excuses Satan feeds you distract you from the work God has called you to. Pray to God for deliverance from Satan and ask for His strength and guidance. His will can overcome any excuse.

       Besides providing for our needs and bringing honor to our name and God’s, hard work can help us to gain wealth beyond what is required to meet our needs. To honor God with this extra money, we need to be focused on how we can serve Him with our extra instead of thinking about how we can use it all for ourselves.

Hard Work Brings Wealth

       Hard work is the fuel for wealth. (The engine would be spending less than you earn because that’s what actually gets you to wealth.) We cannot gain wealth without hard work, regardless of whether we’re trying to honor God or ourselves. And it’s not enough to work “just enough”. We have to be willing to put in the effort:

       He becomes poor who works with a lazy hand, but the hand of the diligent brings wealth.

Proverbs 10:4 (WEB)

       Once we combine work with diligence and focus, then we can begin to gain wealth. We can all think of people we’ve worked with who did only what was required so they didn’t get fired. But it’s rarely those people who get the promotions, raises, and bonuses. This principle of working with a diligent hand is even more important for the self-employed. When you are your own boss, your income is primarily the result of your effort.

Honoring God with Your Wealth

       We’ve already determined that God calls Christians to work hard. Being lazy and bumming around when we are able to work does not glorify God at all. When we begin working hard, we not only honor God but we also reap the benefits of our work – namely providing for our needs.

       The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labor.

Proverbs 21:25 (WEB)

       But it’s not just how we work that makes Christians different from the rest of the world. It’s what we do with the wealth we gain from our work. The worldly view is to use whatever you earn for yourself – it’s your money, so do what you want with it. The Christian view should be vastly different. Everything we have, do, earn, or gain belongs to God. And after meeting our needs, we are to honor God with the rest of our wealth by giving generously. (And by needs, I do not mean a luxury car because you “need” transportation.)

       Take a moment to realize how different that idea is from the rest of the world. While everyone else is worried about how they can get a bigger house, better car, nicer clothes, fancier country club – more and nicer stuff – Christians are supposed to be focused on how we can glorify God with what He has given us. How can we bless more people, meet the needs of the hungry, cloth the naked, shelter the homeless, heal the sick, comfort the mourning and the lonely? Those are the things that should constantly be on our mind. While the world is seeking more and more for itself, we’re trying to give more and more of ourselves.

       There are those who covet greedily all day long; but the righteous give and don’t withhold.

Proverbs 21:26 (WEB)

       This idea of giving generously out of our wealth, even to the point of denying many of our own wants, seems like utter foolishness to the world. But for Christians who trust in God and believe Christ, it is a sure reward. We are no longer working just so we can buy more stuff. We’re not breaking our backs so we can keep a house that’s much larger than we actually need. We are working so we can glorify God by giving away the wealth we gain and blessing the poor and needy. We are working for a sure reward.

       Wicked people earn deceitful wages, but one who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward.

Proverbs 11:18 (WEB)

Redefining Riches: Giveaway

Corey —  November 2, 2010

Redefining Riches       My friend Rob Kuban at Dollars and Doctrine has recently released a four lesson Sunday school series called Redefining Riches. It’s a great series and I highly recommend it if you’re interested in studying this at your church or small group. It’s an excellent value at only $3.99 as it includes PowerPoint slides, leader’s guides, handouts, and the right to print as many copies as you need for your group.

       You can see an overview of the main areas it covers in these posts on Provident Planning:

The Redefining Riches Giveaway

       If you’d like to try this series out with your group but aren’t sure about buying it, here’s your chance to win a free copy! Rob has agreed to let me give away one copy of the Redefining Riches Sunday school series. You’ll get the whole package if you win.

       To enter, simply leave a comment at the bottom of the post letting me know you’d like to enter. I’ll randomly select a winner and announce it on this post. I’ll email the package to the winner, so be sure to use a valid email address! You’ve got until 7:00 P.M. EDT on November 3, 2010 to enter.

       In addition to providing for our material needs, hard work brings honor to our name and glory to God. People don’t look at a hard-working person and think ill of them. Diligent work brings respect and reward. It is key to remember, however, that this aspect of work is not to bring honor to ourselves. Our hard work is a sign of our dedication to God’s ways, so when we are honored because of our work we also honor God.

Hard Work Brings Responsibility and Reward

       In 1 Kings, we find the story of Jeroboam. He’s introduced by his reputation as a hard worker, and we see that this is why he became one of Solomon’s officials:

       The man Jeroboam was a mighty man of valor; and Solomon saw the young man that he was industrious, and he put him in charge of all the labor of the house of Joseph.

1 Kings 11:28 (WEB)

       As we continue reading the story of Jeroboam, we see that God used him and his position of power to accomplish His will. The good reputation we can build through hard work may put us in positions to do much good work for the Lord. This idea is also outlined in Proverbs:

       The hands of the diligent ones shall rule, but laziness ends in slave labor.

Proverbs 12:24 (WEB)

       Through our hard work, God can bless us and put us into positions of power – power that may then be used to further glorify God and do His will on earth. Though many people work hard to gain power for their own edification, Christians should use positions of power to build up the Lord and do His work.

Hard Work Brings Honor

       Our hard work may not always put us in positions of power, but it can help us influence those who are in leadership. Those who do their work well are often called upon to serve powerful people or to offer their advice:

       Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will serve kings. He won’t serve obscure men.

Proverbs 22:29 (WEB)

       We’ve seen this clearly in the life of Billy Graham. His reputation for clearly teaching the Word of God and explaining salvation simply has brought him into contact with many powerful people. God can use such opportunities in our lives to influence leaders to follow His will.

       God can work through many circumstances in our lives to accomplish His will, but our hard work can put us in a position to do even more for God. Next week, we’ll look at how our hard work can help us gain wealth that can be used to bring glory to God.

Redefining Riches       My friend Rob Kuban at Dollars and Doctrine has recently released a four lesson Sunday school series called Redefining Riches. I’ve had the chance to review it and I can tell you it’s an excellent introductory course to the core principles of a Biblical approach to finances. If you’re looking for something related to finances to do in your Sunday school class or small group, I highly recommend this as a starting place. (I’m not getting paid to say this, and I don’t earn anything if you buy it. I just believe Rob’s put together a great resource with a heart for helping people understand Biblical truths about God’s desires for our finances.) It’s only $3.99 for all four lessons, which includes PowerPoint slides, leader’s guides, and handouts. You can print as many copies as you need for your group, so it’s a great deal.

       Today’s post is from the content in the lesson on contentment, which I’ve reprinted with Rob’s permission. I’m not devaluing Rob’s work because the value of buying Redefining Riches is in having the lessons already prepared for you along with the PowerPoint slides. You’ll get a good idea of the content by reading the excerpts I’ll share, but you’re still missing out on some additional content Rob includes as well as the leader’s guides and handouts.

Contentment: A Steadfastness of Hope

       Contentment is the currency of God’s economy and God’s people.

       “Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, ‘I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU.'” (Hebrews 13:5)

       The world champions consumption, but God’s word makes much of contentment. In order to live contently, we have to begin setting our mind on things above. (Colossians 3:2) When we allow the scripture to guide our thoughts and habits, we free ourselves from the insatiable appetites of the world and allow instead the fullness of God to be our portion. A content Christian finds his hope in God not in success or accumulation. (See Also: 1 Timothy 6:6-8)

       Contentment is a lifestyle based on biblical convictions.

       “And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness”…Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

       The Bible calls us to allow our convictions, not our circumstances, to govern our sense of contentment. True, biblical contentment is a conviction that Christ’s power, purpose and provision is sufficient for every circumstance. We are to learn how to walk through all kinds of adversity believing in and experiencing Christ’s sufficiency. We have to choose to rest on God’s good promises despite what may be going on in our lives.

       Contentment is a commitment to choose Christ over consumption.

       “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13)

       A Christian is called to learn to be content. This is a lifelong process, but well worth the time as we learn to lean on Christ for our strength. We are to choose to walk by faith not by sight, choose self-control over self-indulgence, choose gratitude over grumbling and ultimately, choose to set our hope on Christ. (See Also: Luke 3:14, Mark 8:35-37)