Proverbs 20:4

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


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Lazy people always have excuses to avoid hard work. Any difficulty or discomfort causes them to procrastinate another day. If a little effort or toughness is required, they avoid it. They want a handout or subsidy from others, but instead they should be left hungry!

Here is precious wisdom for every home, business, church, and nation. Proverbs are dark sayings, but God expects you to find and learn the hidden truth and wisdom. Sluggards beg or expect workers to support them, but workers should foreclose on sluggards!

The example here is a cold spring morning when plowing needs to be done, but the sluggard chooses to stay in his warm bed. When harvest comes a few months later and working farmers are rolling in cash, the begging sluggard is to be turned away. Believe it!

Sluggards are lazy people. The word sluggard means, “One who is naturally or habitually slow, lazy, or idle; one who is disinclined for work or exertion of any kind; a slothful or indolent person.” You have seen sluggards; you may even be related to one.

Solomon told sluggards to learn diligence from the ant (Pr 6:6) and stop sleeping so much (Pr 6:9); he described them as irritating to bosses (Pr 10:26), always coveting what they will not work for (Pr 13:4), and conceited in their excuses for their laziness (Pr 26:16).

The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold. Soil must be turned in fall or spring, but the cold weather discourages the sluggard. He prefers a warm bed and house. The thought of working in the cold is too much for him. He grabs the flimsy excuse and does nothing.

He will not do anything difficult or stressful. Life should be easier, he thinks to himself. But a diligent man ignores little things like temperature or other circumstances. He has a job to do, and he gets right to it, with passion. He generates body heat for comfort!

Of course, a sluggard is not easily moved from his excuses or fears. He can give ten reasons why it is not a good time to work, why he will do it later, or why life is not fair to him. His pitiful efforts are to defend himself from the shame of being a lazy freeloader.

There will always be an excuse, for the problem is his heart, not his circumstances. Though seven men tell him the truth about hard work and reward, he arrogantly rejects their advice and goes back to bed (Pr 26:16). But the LORD knows how to teach him! There is a way to get a young man to hate video games and love hard work – hunger!

A sluggard will beg. When others get income, he wants some of the wealth, even though he wasted the very same opportunity. Sluggards are socialists and communists by nature. They want you, a worker, to support them. Politicians subsidize them to get their votes by redistribution of wealth from workers to sluggards – against God’s will and word.

God and Solomon are capitalists in this important measure of rewarding diligence and punishing indolence. Believe it. Solomon wrote, “The hand of the diligent shall bear rule: but the slothful shall be under tribute” (Pr 12:24). And again, “The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat” (Pr 13:4).

A sluggard should not be helped. God’s welfare system is simple – we will help you learn to work by letting you get hungry! Paul wrote, “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat” (II Thess 3:10). And not only should he starve, he should be thrown out of the church (II Thess 3:6,14).

Hunger helps a man work (Pr 16:26). The closer the belly button gets to the spine, the greater the desire and effort toward work. Believe it. Until a sluggard decides to work, he should be denied any help or support, lest you are an accessory to his sin. God’s plan is for the diligent to be rewarded with the confiscated assets of the slothful (Luk 19:12-26).

Christian charity only applies to needs – food, clothing, shelter, or emergency medical care, and then only for acts of God; it should never subsidize laziness (Acts 2:44-45; 11:27-30; Jas 1:27). God expected the poor to glean corners of fields left for them. They still had to get up and get out in the cold to get it (Lev 19:9-10; 23:22; Deut 24:19-21).

Handouts make you an accomplice in the sin of slothfulness. Your assistance encourages and endorses his laziness, no matter what you might say. He does not care what you say, as long as you pay – pay for him to eat and sleep and play. Consider another parable of Jesus; wise virgins do not share their precious oil with foolish virgins (Matt 25:1-13).

To be fair, the sluggard has a brother – a hard working person that wastes income by foolish spending or investing (Pr 18:9; 13:23; 21:17,20). If you subsidize him, you are again an accomplice in sin. Men must be held accountable to live within their means, spend wisely, be properly insured, invest prudently, avoid cosigning, and all such like.

Parents! Crush laziness early in a child. The future pain to a spouse, family, and others is great. Show and teach the duty and joy of hard work. Encourage them with rewards, but only when they work. Praise a job well done, but make sure you require all assignments to be fully and rightly done, and on time. And remember well, meals are not a right!

God has set the bar high for both you and him. Not only should you work hard enough to survive, you must also earn enough to give back to God (10% of gross), to save (10% of gross), and be able to give to others in true need, for God will bring them across your path. These are duties, not options (Pr 3:9; 6:8; 30:25; Eph 4:28). This is part of your sanctification as a Christian, which the gospel teaches (I Thess 4:11-12; Rom 12:11).