He that gathereth in summer is a wise son: but he that sleepeth in harvest is a son that causeth shame.
Opportunity is a blessing – a gift from God. Not everyone has equal opportunity for gain or benefit. Each year will not provide the same degree or kind of opportunity as another year. When wise men see an opportunity, they aggressively and diligently exploit it for profit and honor. Foolish men miss it or squander it to their own poverty and shame.
If God does not provide opportunities for the exercise of your strength or wit, it will go wasted. But when God by providence provides a situation to gather and increase, even those deficient in either or both strength and wit can improve their situation. Napoleon agreed with Solomon when he said that ability is of little account without opportunity.
Wise men see a door of opportunity and rush through it with passionate zeal – they are gripped by the potential of extraordinary advantage or gain. Foolish men miss the door, or presume it will always be there, and head for home with lazy steps – they would rather play or sleep. Opportunities are usually not totally lost; others will take those you miss.
The reason most people do not recognize an opportunity when they meet it is because it usually goes around wearing overalls and looks like Hard Work. Such is the son in this proverb, who dislikes the labor of gathering in a harvest and instead prefers sleep while others work. He does this in spite of the fact that farming has its great payday at harvest.
Opportunity is not guaranteed. Life is a changing scene of prosperity and difficulty. The agricultural cycle of Solomon’s time had great opportunity during summer harvest. Wise men gladly gathered all they could with extra effort and time. Foolish men dreaded the extra demands and could not see the reward, so they minimized time in the hot fields.
King Solomon also wrote, “A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away” (Ec 3:6). His wisdom here is known by different idioms in several languages. Have you heard, “The wise know when to get, and fools always lose!”? Have you heard, “If you snooze, you lose!”? Have you heard, “Making hay while the sun shines”?
When times are good, gather all you can and save some for leaner times to come. God sends adversity and prosperity, but the proverb teaches you how to handle both. Business cycles, prosperity, depression, and promotion are God’s work (Eccl 7:14). Diligently accumulate much when it is easy, and you will have extra to fall back on when it is hard. You cannot boast of tomorrow, so you must provide for it today (Pr 22:3; 27:1,23-24).
In this part of Proverbs, Solomon gave his son rules for success (Pr 10:1), and he began with financial rules. He taught righteousness in business (Pr 10:2), providence in business (Pr 10:3), and diligence in business (Pr 10:4). The rule here is prudence in business – to diligently use opportunities to accumulate, for a lazy neglect of opportunities will bring poverty. Even ants know to work hard and save in the summer (Pr 6:6-11; 30:25).
America has been a land of opportunity for a long time. Wise men have taken advantage of this great blessing, but foolish men have squandered it. Many came to her shores with nothing, but through hard work and frugal savings they built comfortable estates. Others, born in the nation, thinking they were entitled to advantages or that prosperity was easy, squandered the many opportunities in the nation to their own poverty and shame.
Every man, especially in blessed nations, has many opportunities in education, business, and investments for advancement. He must see the opportunity, be prepared for it, and capitalize on it. The Bible says, “Time and chance happeneth to them to all,” but have you exploited the times and chances God has given (Eccl 9:11)? Most opportunities occur in earlier stages of life, as young men have greater drive and flexibility than others; the consequences of youthful sloth are greater, so the proverb is primarily for young men.
Young man, are you running through educational doors to gather knowledge, learn valuable skills, or acquire a trade? Are you using your present income with minimal expenses to accumulate the seed capital for future investments? Are you building relationships with your father’s and other contacts for future references? Young man, are you working feverishly in a company known for promoting from within? Do you know that playing or sleeping now will cost you much more than playing or sleeping later?
You must prepare for opportunities. One secret for success in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes. The son in this proverb should have cleared his calendar, simplified his life, enhanced his strength, gathered his tools, and been mentally focused for maximum effort. Thinking financially, always maintain good asset liquidity, excellent credit, a perfect reputation, and an up-to-date resume, as parts of preparation.
If you waste opportunity, you tempt God (Luke 4:12). He gave you the means to success, but you neglected them. If you have a talent – of any kind, do not bury it. When troubles come, He will not hear, because you wasted His gift (Pr 1:20-32; 20:4; Matt 25:14-30). If He opens a door – of any kind – rush through it with holy zeal. David said, “By my God have I leaped over a wall” (Ps 18:29). Many in the world have few opportunities, so exploit the ones God gives you. To whom much is given shall much be required.
Elisha gave Joash, king of Israel, an opportunity to determine the victories Israel would have over Syria, but the weak king only struck the ground three times (II Kgs 13:14-19). Elisha grieved he had not taken greater advantage of this divinely granted opportunity to exterminate the Syrians. How many opportunities in your life have you squandered by only smiting the ground three times? Confess it. Ask humbly for another opportunity.
When the money tree is blooming, pick it clean, and save much of it. When a personnel change occurs in your office, locate the vacuum, and fill it. When a rising star could be your mentor or sponsor, grab his coattail with both hands. When a successful man offers you a piece of his action, do your due diligence and dive in. When rare overtime is available, volunteer for it in advance. When you are reading God’s word and feel knowledge and pleasure in your soul, read longer to fully capitalize on that special grace.
There are more than financial opportunities, which you also ought to exploit with diligent zeal. How about the opportunity of wisdom in this proverb and its commentary? Are you reading it with fired zeal and holy excitement? Are you intent on accumulating that most precious of all commodities – wisdom? Are you meditating on every sentence? Do you ask God to prosper your efforts to grow wise? Or will He take from you the little knowledge you have and give it to the man who does make such efforts (Luke 8:18)?
How about the opportunity of conviction to please the Lord more perfectly? When these seasons of harvest come to your life by the grace of the Holy Spirit, do you rush through the open door to draw closer than ever before to the living God? Or are you so infatuated with the world that these open doors appear only as empty closets in your rush down the hall of life to the vanity and excess of this profane, perverse, and damned generation?
How about the opportunity of preparing to stand before the King of kings and Lord of lords? If you understand the reality of this approaching event, you have been given a blessed opportunity. You will soon pass out of this bustling world through the darkness of death into the light of His glorious Presence. You should, like the unjust steward, be laying up a good foundation against that time to come (Luke 16:1-15; I Tim 6:17-19).