The word of God not only teaches us how to “live soberly, righteously, and godly” (Titus 1:11-12), but also how to avoid unnecessary suffering. The Bible guides us practically as much as spiritually. A man who knows and walks in the wisdom of God not only has the hope and expectation of eternal life, he also lives a life of abundant joy on this earth (cf. John 10:10; Psalms 23). The book of Proverbs is as practical as the Psalms are devotional. The chief purpose of Proverbs is to teach wisdom. In fact, the word wisdom is found 53 times in the book and no less than 15 times in the first four chapters. From Solomon, we are taught and admonished to “receive the instruction of wisdom” (Proverbs 1:3); “the LORD giveth wisdom” (Proverbs 2:6); “Happy is the man that findeth wisdom” (Proverbs 3:13); that “wisdom is the principal thing” (Proverbs 4:7). Those who despise and refuse the wise counsel found in the Proverbs will “eat the fruit of their own way” (Proverbs 1:31), i.e., they will suffer unnecessarily. But one who hearkens to the wisdom of God “shall dwell safely and shall be quiet from fear of evil” (Proverbs 1:33). Let us consider the Proverbs of Solomon and learn how to avoid unnecessary suffering in this life.
LAZINESS VS. A GOOD WORK ETHIC One of the most common causes of unnecessary suffering is laziness. Solomon noted, “He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand: but the hand of the diligent maketh rich. He that gathereth in summer is a wise son: but he that sleepeth in harvest is a son that causeth shame” (Proverbs 10:4, 5). Many families become unnecessarily burdened with the care of family members who refuse to work. Countless women have become the providers for their homes because of lazy husbands (cf. 1 Timothy 5:8). Parents hide their faces in shame when a son or daughter continues to require financial support because they have chosen a life of leisure and laziness rather than work and responsibility. Even some youth forego their childhood because a father or mother has failed to work and provide.
The Proverbs of Solomon are abundant with the wisdom and benefits of a good work ethic in contrast to the shame of suffering of a lazy man. Consider the following:
As vinegar to the teeth, and as smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to them that send him (10:26). The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat (13:4). Slothfulness casteth into a deep sleep; and an idle soul shall suffer hunger (19:15). The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing (20:4).
The man who diligently puts his hand to the plow expects good in life, but the slothful man will ever be under the hand of another. Solomon noted it thusly: “The hand of the diligent shall bear rule: but the slothful shall be under tribute” (Proverbs 12:24). Claudius Galen, a first-century physician, philosopher, and writer noted “Indolence is the mother of misery.” Suffering and depressed circumstances will ever be the friend of the idle.
Consider again the words of Solomon and the consequences of the man who slumbers his way to suffering:
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 (Proverbs 24:30-34).
Diligence and a strong work ethic are wise companions to help one avoid unnecessary suffering in life. A man with a good work ethic will consistently find himself in a better situation in life than a sluggard. Next week we will consider the use of the tongue and unnecessary suffering.