Proverbs 6:6-11

Proverbs 6:6-11

The father has spoken about finances in some measure in vv. 1-5. Now he urges his son to be industrious. The father is concerned about the way his son uses his money and time. These two things (along with what follows after) greatly affect a man.

6:6-8 — 6 Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. 7 Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, 8 she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.

Though we may know more than the beasts, yet the smallest of insects can teach us.  The young sluggard is bidden to go to the ant to learn. The ants have no one goading them on and yet they get all their work done and acquire all their necessities (30:25, “… the ants are a people not strong, yet they provide their food in the summer…”). If we reflect on their behavior and heed their industry, we will be wise (“consider her ways, and be wise”).

The father addresses a pupil who is perhaps not a sluggard but one who may easily become one (Hubbard). Remember, we can lose all that we have by chasing a wicked woman (5:7-10) as well as putting up security for someone (6:1-5). The other way we can come to impoverishment is sheer laziness.


6:9-11 — 9 How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? 10 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, 11 and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.

Not only must the sluggard consider the God’s creatures but he is also exhorted to awake from his slumber. It is said by some that the most unproductive tend to sleep the most. Sleeping too long is often a symptom of laziness (all things being equal). Lawson says,  “It is a shame for men to give up to sleep a third part of their time, but it is not less so to spend our waking hours in doing nothing, or in doing what is as unprofitable.” (Lawson)

Verse 10 is the sage’s observation. A little bit of all of these things can only lead to one thing. The sluggard may defend his “little” sleep, slumber, and folding of his hands to rest. This may be his response to the question of How long? Just a little bit more! “The lazy person says they just want a ‘little sleep,’ but we suspect that little nap will become a long sleep to avoid work necessary to sustain life.” (Longman)

This indolence has consequences. Poverty will come upon them quickly. The phrase “armed man” may better be translated as “beggar” or “insolent man.” “The house of the sluggard is the haunt of poverty, and it comes not like an invited guest, whose visit is expected, but like a traveler, whose approach is unforeseen. It comes like an armed man, and gains an easy victory over the naked and slumbering sluggard.” (Lawson) “The doom of the sluggard travels swiftly and is inevitable. While he slumbers inertly, Poverty is coming on apace, drawing nearer to him every moment; and when it comes, it falls upon him like an armed man…from whom there is no escape.” (Perowne)

The opposite of this is hard work; to be busy and productive.  “Hard work ought to be the normal routine of us who serve a carpenter-Christ, who follow the lead of a tentmaker-Apostle, and who call ourselves children of a Father who is still working (John 5:17).” (Hubbard)


Some Lessons

1. Believers should be busy and productive. Our culture is too preoccupied with pleasure and entertainment. TV, internet, games, outings, etc. may all have their legitimate place but they must not take a large part of our time or impede the proper and productive use of our time.

2. This is not arguing against legitimate sleep.

3. Christians have been known to be productive. It has been said that Christ’s work in the hearts of men and women have often freed men from their waste (drunkenness, gambling, prostitutes, sinful entertainment, etc.)

4. “The idle man is bad, but the mischievous man is still worse; but indeed it generally happens, that he who is enslaved by the one of these vices, becomes in process of time the slave of the other also.” (Lawson)

5. “Laziness is a breach of love. It refuses to carry its own weight let alone help with the loads of the rest of us who plod along supporting our young, our aged, our infirm. We have no surplus energy to carry those who can walk and will not.” (Hubbard)


On the Sluggard and Hard Work in Proverbs[1]

Proverbs has strong words against laziness. Laziness leads to poverty (10:4) and at best, it will lead him to forced labor (12:24). His worthless pursuits (or frivolity) show that he lacks sense (12:11) and they will lead him to poverty (28:19). Not only worthless pursuits but mere talk will also lead to poverty (14:23) and hunger (19:15). This suggests that the man may be busy and talk much about all that he is doing and intends to do but at bottom, he is bone lazy and wants a quick gain — it can only lead to poverty because it is without wisdom and not God’s way. His way is “like a hedge of thorns” (15:19) and is a “brother to him who destroys” (18:9).

Sleeping when he should work will bring shame (10:5) and his slothfulness “casts into a deep sleep” (19:15). They should not love sleep (20:13) but as it is, “As a door turns on its hinges, so does a sluggard on his bed.” (26:14) He will not plow when he needs to (20:4) though he will look for food in the harvest but will find nothing (20:4). Yet, he is “wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly.” (26:16)

The sluggard is so lazy that he “buries his hand in the dish” and won’t “even bring it back to his mouth” (19:24) for “it wears him out to bring it back to his mouth” (26:15). His hand refuses to work (21:25). The sluggard won’t even roast his game (12:27) nor will he get what he desires (13:4). He will have all kinds of excuses and says things like, “There is a lion outside! I shall be killed in the streets!” (22:13; 26:13). Indeed, “the desire of the sluggard kills him” (21:25).

24:30-34, “I passed by the field of a sluggard, by the vineyard of a man lacking sense, and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns; the ground was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down. Then I saw and considered it; I looked and received instruction. A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.” (cf. 6:6-11)

But we are strongly encouraged to work hard. The wise gathers (10:5) and opens his eyes instead of sleeping (20:13). Working our land will allow us to have what we need (12:11) and hard work can lead to wealth (“…the hand of the diligent makes rich.” [10:4; cf. 12:27; 13:4; 28:19]) and may enable the person to rule (12:24). His diligence and skill will elevate him: “Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.” (22:29)

We are taught that “in all toil there is profit” (14:23). Though we may not become rich through diligence, careful planning, etc. we will have enough. This principle must be fixed in our minds. We are to be like the woman in Proverbs 31. “She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.” (31:27) We will have enough when we work (because the Lord does not let the righteous go hungry, 10:3). The same principle and encouragement can be found with greater clarity in 27:23-27: “Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds, for riches do not last forever; and does a crown endure to all generations? When the grass is gone and the new growth appears and the vegetation of the mountains is gathered, the lambs will provide your clothing, and the goats the price of a field. There will be enough goats’ milk for your food, for the food of your household and maintenance for your girls.” One commentator says this: “It may well be a warning not to let the pressures of urbane activities and the lure of get-rich-quick schemes seduce attention from the enduring and indispensable tasks of feeding and clothing one’s household and providing ‘nourishment’ for one’s helpers.” (Hubbard) Waltke adds, “To involve himself fully and personally with his sources of income will take the energy, discipline, kindness, shrewdness, and other virtues bestowed by wisdom.”

That is the point of all this — wisdom shows itself in a person’s industrious ways. Though we are exhorted not to trust in riches (11:28) yet we are also taught that diligence will make rich (10:4). God blesses the efforts of the righteous and adds no sorrow to it (10:22, more on this when we come to it). But how does one do this? Wisdom enables one to be industrious and helps the person to prepare. These things do not simply come to us — in Proverbs, they are the expressions of wisdom as well as the effects of wisdom in a person’s life. He has a proper view of work and wealth (not like 18:11, “A rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and like a high wall in his imagination.”) The point of these verses is not, “Just work hard. Do it!” Rather, show wisdom (rooted in our Lord) in the area of your vocation. Proverbs teaches us what wisdom looks like when it comes to work and planning. Mere work is not the expression of wisdom; rather, work done with an eye to God’s glory is wisdom at work.


Some Questions

•Do these verses teach that all who are poor brought it upon themselves?

•Does it teach us that some of the poor brought it upon themselves?

•What does this teach about sleep? Leisure?

•Our generation fears being a “workaholic.” Do these verses have anything to say?

•It is easy to accuse the “other” person who is in a desperate situation of being slothful (that is, their “sloth” or folly brought it upon themselves). Where does compassion come in?

•Are all industrious people wise? Explain. Or, are all poor people fools?

•Is “poverty” related to morality? To wisdom? Explain.

[1] The list of these verses can be found in Longman, 561-562.

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