The book of Proverbs is a collection of wise sayings that teach practical and moral lessons. Written by Solomon (Prov. 1:1), it served as instructions to make a son wise and knowledgeable (Prov.1:2, 8; 2:1; 3:1; et al.). Though the book was written as instruction to an individual, there are many proverbs we can apply to the church. Let us note a few to emphasize the importance of laboring in the work of the church.
A working church is a prospering church. Throughout the book, Solomon consistently emphasized the importance of working in contrast to slothfulness. We find one example of this in Proverbs 10:4, “He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand: but the hand of the diligent maketh rich.” The “slack hand” is the lazy man; the “hand of the diligent” is the working man. In laziness, there is poverty, but with diligent work is great increase. Applying this proverb to the church, we conclude that a working church is a church that prospers.
Many elderships discuss good works but never put plans into action. Church members are sometimes quick to talk about work that is not being done but refrain from putting their hands to the plow. To these, wisdom teaches: “In all labour there is profit: but the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury” (Prov. 14:23). Additionally, how often do we make excuses for abstaining from the work of the church? Solomon noted, “The slothful man saith, There is a lion without, I shall be slain in the streets” (Prov. 22:13). In other words, one excuse is as good as another! Nevertheless, excuses do not excuse one from his responsibility to be diligent in the work of the church.
Jesus pictured the work in the kingdom of God as laboring in a vineyard (cf. Mt. 20:1). With this thought in mind, consider the following:
I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down. Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction. Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth; and thy want as an armed man (Prov. 24:30–34).
Brothers and sisters, is the church where you attend and worship growing? If not, ask yourself, Are we working or simply talking about work? Are we laboring in the vineyard of the Lord, or have we excused ourselves from His call? Wisdom teaches that a working church is a prospering church.
The size of the local congregation is not the most important factor. Another word of advice to the church from the proverbs highlights size and numbers. “Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues without right” (Prov. 16:8). There is a mentality that the greater the numbers, the stronger and greater the church. After all, greater numbers translate to greater contributions; therefore, greater work. Because of this attitude, some churches are found sacrificing what is “right” for riches.
Parallel to this thought is Proverbs 15:16, “Better is little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble therewith” (Prov. 15:16). Compromising what is “right” for any reason is to invite trouble. That trouble may come with error. That trouble may come as strife among brethren. Trouble will certainly come in the day of the Lord (cf. Isa. 13:9; Jer. 46:10; Ezek. 13:5) for the compromising church!
The key is not in great numbers but great faith and participation by the numbers we have. “Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox” (Prov. 14:4). When none are working in harmony with the Lord, there is no fruit, regardless of the size of the church! However, even a few, when laboring with the Lord, can do much good work. The size of the local congregation is not the most important factor, but the depth of faith and participation of its members.
These are but a sample of the Proverbs of Solomon that serve as advice for the church. For further study, consider the benefit of the church to the local community (Prov. 11:10-11) and the nation (Prov. 14:34); the longevity of a local congregation (Prov. 10:30; 12:7; 14:11); the importance of elders in the church (Prov. 11:14; 15:22); soundness in the pulpit (Prov. 13:17); wisdom and necessity of practicing church discipline (Prov. 19:28; 22:16; 16:6). Brothers and sisters, let us ever look to the wisdom of the Scriptures for understanding in our personal lives as well as the life and health of the body of Christ.