(this transcript has been lightly edited for readability)
Well, there is a whole theology of work in Proverbs. Sorry, it's true for those of you who don't like work. And you can't have a system of wisdom like is in Proverbs without concluding, “To be human is to work.” And again, that's how Proverbs fits so well with the larger narrative of Scripture.
One of the misconceptions of people is that work is the result of the fall; that's not true! God assigned work to Adam and Eve in that perfect paradise, perfect people, in a perfect relationship to God, everything in its right place, everything doing what it was meant to do, in the shalom of the Garden. God assigned Adam and Eve to work the garden, to dress it, to care for it, to manage it. They were assigned work, and so part of the dignity of my place, in God's economy and the way God decided to rule His world, is that I'm called to work. That's part of what defines me and defines the honor of my role. There's a place in the Psalms that says, “The heavens belong to the Lord, but the earth He has given to man.” I'm like God's resident manager; I’m meant to take care of this world. It’s a position of dignity and honor. And you surely see that in Proverbs.
The fear of the Lord, that life of wisdom, is a life of responsibility; of diligence; of willing, hard work. Proverbs 10, 4 and 5 says, “A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. He who gathers in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame.”
I like the slack hand. If your hand is slack, it means you don’t have any tool in it, you're not working. In an agricultural society, that's just such a picture because in an agricultural society, before the invention of the tractor, if you’re going to do farming work, you picked up tools, you didn’t have a slack hand. So, a slack hand is a word picture of laziness, an unwillingness to work, a denial of my work nature as being created by God.
Proverb 10:26 says, “Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to those who send him.” Now, those who send him are his employers; so, saying it's “like vinegar” or like “how smoke hurts your eyes,” to be in the employ of somebody but not want to work. I think we have a culture that actually values doing as little for as much as you can get paid. Rather than finding joy in the gifts and ability that God has given me to work.
A wise worker plans, the Proverb says. The wise worker is a self-starter; he doesn't need a boss. I love this, the Proverbs literally says that if you understand how God has created you to work, you won't need a boss. There are only two theologies of work, again, and this has been a theme in everything we've looked at in the Proverbs. You either work as unto the Lord; you willingly work hard because you understand that God has called you to work, and you use the proceeds of your work for generosity, justice, and to relieve the poor. Proverbs would say, “Don't just work for yourself, you work so you can be a tool of those things in God's hands.”
The Proverbs then says there's the fool's work; it denies God, he works for his own selfish gain, he uses his power to crush the poor, he uses the poor to gain more. So, we always need to ask ourselves, “Do I love work, and for whom am I working?”