Looking back over Ecclesiastes 10:1-20, the passage of the Sunday sermon, you may notice that there is a common theme in all the self-destructive characteristics of foolishness. What do promoting the unqualified, failing to prepare, being full of useless words, and going after pleasure all have in common? A fundamental contempt for and avoidance of hard work. Fools don’t want to spend the time and effort necessary to make sure that only qualified persons receive important positions, that tasks receive proper preparation, that mere talk does not dominate, and that pleasures are enjoyed at the proper time. Instead, because of their exalted view of themselves, fools expect that they should receive everything they want without pain or labor. When this inevitably does not happen, the proud fool does not consider his ways and change but instead blames others and God (Prov 19:3).
Really, a fool’s hatred of work is not just rebellion against the reality of our broken world but also against God’s good design from the beginning. Poignantly, God commissioned man to work before the fall and even designed that the fruit of good labor would not come immediately but only after time and effort. Admittedly, we do not have many details about the pre-fall world, but man’s commissions to “fill the earth, subdue it, and rule” and even to “cultivate” and “keep” the garden of Eden do not appear to be one-and-done tasks (Gen 1:28; 2:15). As any gardener knows, even without weeds and pests getting in the way, the growing of plants takes ongoing, faithful work in order to see a good result. God always designed mankind to enjoy good both in the process of work and in the patiently obtained result of work. Even though the fall brought pain and futility into work, the basic good principles underlying work still remain true for our world (Eccl 5:18-20).
Therefore, we should not be surprised that the Bible, and especially Proverbs, so insistently teaches us about the wisdom of hard work and the folly of laziness (e.g. Prov 10:4; 12:24, 27; 13:4; 21:5; 2 Thess 3:6-13). By resisting both reality and God’s design, a lazy fool only afflicts himself and others, while the wise and diligent one, who recognizes reality and embraces God’s design, blesses himself and others. If you’re looking for a fundamentally wise person, maybe as a companion, ministry partner, or business leader, look for someone who works hard, for that person is more likely to have many other sectors of his life in order. I have always found it profound that, of the many commending descriptions of the Proverbs 31 wife—she who appears almost as Lady Wisdom incarnate—the most repeated is that she is a hard worker. By contrast…
Ecclesiastes 10:15 (NASB95), The toil of a fool so wearies him that he does not even know how to go to a city.
Questions to Consider:
1. Consider the popular cultural and political movements of our day: do these encourage or discourage hard work?
2. How is procrastination a form of self-destructive foolishness? What is the biblical solution to procrastination?
3. Where in your life do you avoid hard work and difficulty? How does your thinking need to change?