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Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Wise and Diligent or a Lazy Man of Folly?

Have you ever just stopped in your studies of the word and reflected on a word or two? Have you ever done a word study?  It can be very powerful and enlightening to do so.  Word studies allow us to carefully uncover the meaning of a word but not just for its overall meaning but its specific meaning in the context we find it.  This allows us to find parallels, words with equivalent meanings that open the scripture up to us. 

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Teachings of Hebrew Wisdom On Diligence and Laziness

The dictionary defines diligence as “steady application in business of any kind; constant effort to accomplish what is undertaken; exertion of body or mind without unnecessary delay or sloth; due attention; industry; assiduity.”[1]  It also defines laziness as “the state or quality of being lazy; indisposition to action or exertion; indolence; sluggishness; heaviness in motion; habitual sloth.”[2] Laziness is different from idleness in that idleness is “a mere defect or cessation of action, but laziness is sloth, with natural or habitual disinclination to action.”[3]  Hebrew literature is therefore filled with praise for the diligent and warnings for the lazy and slothful.  The Bible states “The diligent will take control, but the lazy will be put to forced labor.”[4]  In this passage it tells us that those who are hard-working will gain control but the lazy will end up as slaves.  Proverbs also tells us that “Lazy hands bring poverty, but hard-working hands lead to wealth.”[5]  In essence, the hands of the diligent are blessed with the fruit of that diligence and the hands of the lazy are cursed by their laziness.  “The lazy person craves, yet receives nothing, but the desires of the diligent are satisfied.”[6]  Hebrew literature teaches us that the lazy and slothful person may want but can’t get anything because he won’t work for it but what the diligent desires he can have.

In comparison, wisdom is “The right use or exercise of knowledge; the choice of laudable ends, and of the best means to accomplish them. This is wisdom in act, effect, or practice. If wisdom is to be considered as a faculty of the mind, it is the faculty of discerning or judging what is most just, proper and useful, and if it is to be considered as an acquirement, it is the knowledge and use of what is best, most just, most proper, most conducive to prosperity or happiness. Wisdom in the first sense, or practical wisdom, is nearly synonymous with discretion. It differs somewhat from prudence, in this respect; prudence is the exercise of sound judgment in avoiding evils; wisdom is the exercise of sound judgment either in avoiding evils or attempting good. Prudence then is a species, of which wisdom is the genus.”[7]  Folly is “weakness of intellect; imbecility of mind, and want of understanding.”[8]   God’s word tells us that a fool will scorn wisdom when he hears it so we shouldn’t attempt to speak in the presence of a foolish person.[9]  According to our textbook “the Jewish sages infused their literature with an understanding that all wisdom, even things related to everyday practical matters, begins with the fear of the Lord.”[10]  And, “In ancient society the ability to make wise decisions in all of life’s practical matters was highly esteemed.”[11]  Therefore, we can speculate easily how much folly would be despised just as is laziness or slothfulness. 

Corresponding Contrast Between Wisdom and Folly
The correlation between diligence and laziness and wisdom and folly is found in the fact that they are parallels.  Diligence is a sought after character trait as is the ability to walk in wisdom.  In Proverbs scripture after scripture praises these two virtues.  Those of a diligent heart with diligent minds are prophesied to stand before kings and rulers, to reign over others, and to create wealth and profit.  And those who speak with wisdom will be praised, blessed and already have something of far more profit than gold or silver.  On the other hand, laziness (slothfulness) and folly are character traits to look down upon.  They are something to be despised.  In Proverbs we see that laziness and folly are seen in the same light.  A lazy man and a man of folly both think more highly of themselves than they should.  They are so wise in their own eyes that it’s a waste of time to try to reason with them.  Both the man of folly and the lazy man bring harm and lack on themselves through their own stupidity.  They have wants, needs and desires but will not put forth the effort to gain it through the right means.   

copyright Voice From The End of Town

In conclusion, the lazy man of folly and the diligent man of wisdom are portrayed together in my opinion in Proverbs 1:7.  “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.”[12]  The diligent man portrays himself as a man of wisdom as he bows his heart and mind to the fear of the LORD in proper reverence to him.  However, the lazy man shows himself time and time again to be a man of folly and in that lifestyle he despises all wisdom and refuses discipline.


Hindson, Ed, and Gary Yates. The Essence of the Old Testament: A Survey. Nashville, Tennessee: B&H Publishing Group, 2012.
International Standard Version. ISV Foundation, 1996.
Webster's Dictionary. 1828.

[1] (Webster's Dictionary 1828)
[2] (Webster's Dictionary 1828)
[3] (Webster's Dictionary 1828)
[4] Proverbs 12:24 International Standard Version
[5] Proverbs 10:4 International Standard Version
[6] Proverbs 13:4 International Standard Version
[7] (Webster's Dictionary 1828)
[8] (Webster's Dictionary 1828)
[9] Proverbs 23:9 International Standard Version
[10] (Hindson and Yates 2012, pg259)
[11] (Hindson and Yates 2012, pg 259)
[12] Proverbs 1:7 International Standard Version

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