Proverbs 14:23

In all labour there is profit: but the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury.

Play Audio:

Slinging French fries for minimum wage is better than hearing another business plan for making a million. If you resent the statement, this proverb is for you! Dreamers and promoters fantasize about being successful; diligent and godly men go to their same old jobs with thankful hearts and find success through hard work. They do not sit around talking with speculators and making spreadsheets of imagined wealth from a new fantasy business. See other proverbs (Pr 1:32; 12:11; 13:4; 13:11; 13:23; 14:4; 14:15; 27:23).

Some men always talk of new businesses, new investments. They are full of ideas how to make money, but their own success is always just around the corner. Solomon warned his son against the distractions and delusions of moneymaking schemes. He knew about the exciting “business opportunities” and “investment secrets” of slothful fools and lying promoters. “Son, overtime at the fryer would be better than listening to these losers.”

In all labor there is profit. Take an average young man, who diligently and faithfully works hard at a minimum wage, fast food job. In one year, he will be shift supervisor. In another year, shift manager. In two more, store manager. After managing faithfully for a year, he will get a piece of the action. In five more years, he will own half the business. In five more, he will buy out the owner. Simple, certain, and successful! No better ideas here – just faithful hard work! Not bad for slinging fries at minimum wage, eh?

In all labor there is profit. Take another young man, who diligently and faithfully works hard at ordinary factory or office jobs. Such efforts will make his raises and promotions above average. Saving and investing part of his weekly pay, he will accumulate much in 40-50 working years. He will retire on schedule with significant company benefits, considerable Social Security, and a sizeable estate. Simple, certain, and successful! No better ideas here – just faithful hard work! Not bad for an office or factory stiff, eh?

In all labor there is profit. A third young man by wise counsel settles on a profession requiring a master’s degree. The proverb works as well with a vocational education or a doctoral degree. He completes his studies as quickly as he can with excellent grades and the least amount of debt. He enters a professional field with a transferable skill, works hard in it, and should earn more than the previous two examples over their working lives, other things being equal. Simple, certain, and successful! No better ideas here – just faithful hard work at academic studies first and a career later! Not bad for a student, eh?

But the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury. Watch the man craving the lifestyle of the rich and famous: he hates his boring job working for others. Work to him is driving a Lexus, checking investments by cell phone, and flashing his Rolex in fine restaurants. He reads and listens to every harebrained scam. He drools at “guaranteed” returns of 50%, and he invests heavily to “take advantage” of his “insider information”! The Ponzi scheme takes him down to penury, and the laboring stiff has to loan him money for food!

But the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury. Watch the man always changing jobs and always in a new “business opportunity.” He attends rah-rah meetings where beautiful people with leased cars, pyramid schemes for businesses, and imitation Rolexes tell him he can be rich – easily! He is fascinated. He made up his mind he would never be a working stiff, and each new “business opportunity” and investment scam are potential saviors from real work. But for some reason he never finds the promised mother lode.

Young man, forget your dreams when you get up in the morning and wash your face. Now it is time to work, not sleep and dream, or dream and sleep. Dreaming is not ambition. Optimism is not ambition. Business plans are not ambition. Working harder and more faithfully than anyone else is ambition. Forget the lottery mentality. You are not going to be the next NBA superstar. Today is a blessed privilege – use it to do more, and do it better, with a more cheerful spirit, in a real job, than anyone else. You will win.

Here is divinely inspired financial wisdom from the richest and most successful man who ever lived. Wishful thinking is for losers; only consistent labor will produce results. Exceptions are lies, and they never last anyway (Pr 13:11). Talk is cheap. Talking about making money in any other way than hard labor at a boring job is confusing, deceiving, distracting, foolish, and vain. It will rob your soul of the ambition necessary to succeed.

Many companies squander their profits by spending more time talking about saving money and enhancing revenues than actually producing and selling their product or service. The cost per hour of high-level meetings with numerous participants is enormous. They may soon be filing for Chapter 11 protection. Governments do the same: analyzing, debating, and meeting with little productive effort to truly solve the problem.

Minimum wage is not bad. It is more per hour than nearly all “distributors” in multi-level marketing make for the hours spent hearing and talking about getting rich. It is more than the “investors” make in Ponzi schemes and other investment scams that relieve fools every year of their money in the foolish and vain hope of getting rich enough to avoid having to work a real job. In all labor there is profit, even at minimum wage.

Not all business talk leads to penury, for there is safety in wise counselors (Pr 11:14). But wise counselors are never the ones soliciting you, selling you an investment, offering you a product, or promoting an “opportunity.” Beware! Justified conversation not condemned by this proverb must be objective, based in fact only, and with uninvolved, third-party, critical and successful, wise men. They will tell you the truth, not what you want to hear.

Be thankful for your job. Be thankful for your given abilities. Be thankful for the opportunity to work hard. Be thankful for this proverb. Get to work, now! Be early to work; stay late. Exceed the job expectations. Be cheerful; be respectful. Work zealously as unto the Lord. Work patiently with your eye on heaven’s reward. You will succeed!

Wishful thinking is what foolish children do on Santa’s knee. Anything that sounds too good to be true is not true! It is a deceitful vanity to steal your focus from real labor. Plow your field, and reject the illusion of greener pastures elsewhere (Pr 28:19). Avoid and ignore all sources of “business opportunities” that promise more than your job. Do not listen to them. Do not read their promotional lies. Apply yourself to what is before you.

You should also realize that talking about your relationship with God is not the same as having a real relationship with Him. Instead of talking about how much you love Jesus or listening to those who want to tell you, get to work seeking His face and keeping His commandments. John wrote, “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (I John 2:4). Make it your daily goal to emphasize His word, prayer, His worship, and His people. You will profit by it.