Proverbs 15:19

The way of the slothful man is as an hedge of thorns: but the way of the righteous is made plain.

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Has your life been rough or smooth the last year? What is your outlook? Does the future frighten you, or welcome you? There is a reason for your answers to these questions. Lazy people have two problems in life – things do not work out well for them, and they are afraid of the future. Diligent men find life is smooth and easy, and they rejoice in the opportunities it provides. How many thorns are in your way? You can remove them!

There are two similes – or identified comparisons – in this proverb. A lazy man’s life is like a hedge of thorns, which is a difficult and painful obstacle hindering progress or travel. He has a hard time going forward, and he dreads the effort and trouble. A righteous man’s life is like a smooth, paved highway, which makes his travel comfortable and fast. He finds progress in life to be easy, and he looks forward to the future.

The proverb contrasts slothful men and diligent men, wicked men and righteous men. The slothful man is contrasted to the righteous man to teach that slothful men are wicked and righteous men are diligent. God and good men despise lazy men, for slothfulness is a sin (Pr 6:6-11; 10:26; 18:9; 24:30-34; 26:16; Gen 3:19; Matt 25:26-28; Rom 12:11; I Thess 4:11-12). God’s solution for lazy men is to starve them (Pr 20:4; II Thess 3:10).

How is a slothful man’s life like a hedge of thorns? By his procrastination and neglect of things needful for his progress and success! Laziness creates numerous hardships that make life much more difficult than God ever intended. By procrastinating and excusing himself from preparing for the future, he arrives at the future without assets, credit, skills, or reputation. He is defenseless before adversity; he has no capital to invest in anything; he is worthless in the job market; and he has no friends to vouch for him.

How is a slothful man’s life like a hedge of thorns? By his negative and wicked attitude! Laziness steals his energy, perverts his heart, and blinds his eyes. He thinks he is too tired to work (Pr 19:15). He grieves at the very thought of work (Pr 26:15). He scorns every opportunity to work in spite of excellent reasons from seven wise and successful men (Pr 26:16). Suggest a job. He will claim it is too cold to work (Pr 20:4). Suggest another. He is afraid of lions in the street (Pr 22:13; 26:13). He will imagine and argue for any excuse imaginable to avoid facing the thorns his own laziness has planted!

How is a diligent man’s life made plain? By his past efforts that make the present much easier! By careful planning and hard work, he has provided those things necessary for his progress and success. He knows where he is going, and he has taken the steps to get there. He accumulates assets, credit, skills, and reputation. He can handle adversity, invest in offered opportunities, obtain replacement employment if necessary, and call upon any number of excellent references to help him.

How is a diligent man’s life made plain? By his cheerful and righteous attitude toward work! Hard work is a joy to him! He rejoices at the opportunity to work. He is thankful for his job. He offers to work overtime. He enjoys helping a business. He appreciates and respects his employers. He sleeps well, but only at night (Pr 6:6-11; Eccl 5:12). He looks forward to rising and going to work in the morning. He dives into projects and finishes them, better than anyone else. He is committed to outworking others (I Cor 15:10).

He looks for opportunities to work more, for he knows that rewards and riches will follow (Pr 10:4; 12:24; 22:29; 27:18). He finds a reward in labor itself (Eccl 9:10). He sees the future full of promise and reward. He does not see anything that scares him: the road before him is smooth and made for speed. He is optimistic about life, because he has faced difficult projects before and watched them melt away before his diligent efforts.

All other things being equal, God can give afflictions and troubles to the best of saints, but He will deliver them out of them (Ps 34:19). Everyone has troubles and gets pricked by thorns from time to time, but the righteous man goes forward and clears the thorns away; he does not hide in his bed or house like the slothful man. He gets up after falling, even if he falls again (Pr 24:16). He never quits or resigns to accept the life of a loser.

If you have been slothful, you know the proverb is true: you know you have a hedge of thorns in your way. It will not go away just because you have read this wonderful proverb by Solomon and agree with its lesson. It will only go away if you get up and attack it with the diligence of a righteous man. If you do not attack it, the thorns will grow larger and larger until the hedge completely chokes your life down to a miserable failure. Get up! Get going! Hate sleep! Hate leisure! Attack your duties with growing thorns in mind!

There is one other little problem. God despises sluggards and will oppose them in all they do. If you have been slothful, then God is your enemy, and nothing is going to work like it should. God will only bless and favor the diligent man. Therefore, if you have been slothful, beg Him for forgiveness before you try to remove the hedge of thorns in your own strength. He will blow against your efforts, unless you repent and beg Him for help.

The same rule applies to your spiritual life. If you are slothful about your religious duties, you will be discouraged and overwhelmed by the Bible, by the religious confusion in the world, and by your own carnality (Luke 8:11-18). But the man who diligently seeks the Lord will easily and surely find Him and His great reward (Jer 29:13; Heb 11:6). Reader! The choice is yours in matters both natural and spiritual. Clear away the thorns today!