Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men.
Hard work works! The diligent man will be promoted above average and inferior men to mingle with the prosperous and successful. Discrimination is an excuse. Education is only a tool. Intelligence has marginal value. Diligence is key – hard and persistent effort applied to one’s professional duties. Here is rich and wise King Solomon teaching how to get ahead professionally and economically in the world. Neglect it to your own poverty!
Diligence is hard and persistent effort. Consider the definition provided by the Oxford English Dictionary. “Diligent. Of persons: ‘Constant in application, persevering in endeavour, assiduous’, industrious; ‘not idle, not negligent, not lazy.’ This word simply means the old-fashioned concept of hard work persistently applied with dedicated focus.
Kings were the highest persons in a nation. Mean men are the lower class of men that make up much of a society. Hard work can take a man from the lower classes to stand before kings. What if he were just a baker? No problem! If he were diligent, it would not be long before he would have contracts to feed the king, his court, and maybe his army!
There is no question whether hard work will make you successful or not. This is not a suggestion or possible method of improving professional trajectory. God’s word declares it, and that settles it (Pr 10:4; 12:24; 13:4; 21:5). King Solomon observed it and rewarded it, and that settles it (I Kgs 11:28). Honest men have seen it fulfilled over and over again.
You should consider the life of R.G. LeTourneau, a Christian businessman who only completed the sixth grade. He made up for the lack of educational credentials with hard and long work, and the Lord rewarded him with a genius mind for 299 U.S. patents for heavy equipment. Governments sought his services, especially during World War II, and he made a great deal of money and completed enormous business and religious projects.
There are several obstacles. Which one hinders you? First, men are lazy. They default to procrastination, put forth the least effort possible, avoid extra work, and seek leisure at the earliest opportunity. They do not get up early, work hard, stay focused, work late, or look for more to do. Solomon repeatedly condemned and ridiculed such sluggards (Pr 6:6-11; 10:26; 12:24; 19:15,24; 20:4,13; 24:30-34; Eccl 10:18). Are you lazy?
Second, this generation promotes laziness in two ways. It pays for time rather than productivity, and it calls 40 hours a week, with lunch breaks, coffee breaks, holidays, and vacations, a job. What would a dairy farmer think? It also allows and promotes “business opportunities” that fleece the simple and pad the pockets of the con artists. Are you tempted by offered alternatives to hard work? Do you think there might be a free lunch?
Third, most sluggards are proud and resent being told they are lazy underachievers (Pr 26:16). They measure themselves by others like them and think they do a pretty good job, but such low standards lead to mediocrity at best (I Cor 15:10; II Cor 10:12). Jesus and Paul taught that only the very best deserve a reward (Matt 25:14-30; I Cor 9:24-27).
Fourth, in an effeminate society, most have been sheltered from hardship, first at home, then at school, and then by the government. They want a handout. This destruction of the pioneer spirit creates fearful, lazy people inventing excuses to avoid a challenge. Solomon mocked them as fearing the cold or lions in the street (Pr 20:4; 22:13; 26:13).
The apostle Paul provided an example to ministers and all other professions. Though he got a late start, he accepted the role God gave him and outworked the other apostles (I Cor 15:8-10). He tirelessly traveled and preached the gospel to any audience he could find that would give him a hearing (II Tim 2:10; Rom 15:18-21; II Cor 10:12-18).
The lesson and rule of this proverb is not just for the Old Testament. Paul taught the same thing, “Not slothful in business,” in the New Testament (Rom 12:11). And he taught it with detail in several places (I Thess 4:11-12; Eph 4:28; Titus 2:9-10; 3:14; Acts 20:35; I Thes 2:9). When will you get up tomorrow morning? How hard will you work? How long will you work? How focused will you stay? Your future with God and men is at stake.
But there is more to life than your natural profession in this world. There is the business of God’s kingdom. Jesus was diligent about that business as early as twelve (Luke 2:49). The family of Stephanas was addicted to the ministry of the saints (I Cor 16:15). How diligent are you in pursuing the will and pleasure of your Father in heaven and the benefit of your church and its members here on earth? Diligence in these matters will bring you into favor with the high King of heaven (Matt 25:31-46; I Tim 6:17-19; Heb 6:10).