Proverbs 19:24

A slothful man hideth his hand in his bosom, and will not so much as bring it to his mouth again.

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Lazy people love comfort and hate effort. They avoid work even for food. They want you to work and feed them. Solomon used sarcastic hyperbole to ridicule lazy men. They fold their arms to keep their hands from work, for they are too lazy to feed themselves. They hope food will fall in their mouths. An exaggeration? Yes, but he made a powerful point.

So necessary is the lesson for some men, Solomon repeated it in similar terms (Pr 26:15). He altered it slightly to say lazy sluggards are grieved to have to raise their hands again to their mouths to eat. It bothers and hurts a slothful man to put forth any effort, even for himself. Welfare programs and thinking of modern, socialist nations encourage this sin.

You have heard, “That bum sits around with his arms folded.” With arms folded, hands are held against the bosom by the opposite arm. You have heard, “He stands around with his hands in his pockets.” Lazy people dislike exertion, so they put their hands away from work. David even asked the Lord to take His hand out and use it to help him (Ps 74:11).

A great work ethic did not originate with man. God worked six days in creating the world, and His example should be good enough for you. He wisely ordained that work is good and should be done with diligent zeal. Before Adam sinned, God had given him the work of dressing and keeping the garden (Gen 2:15). Work is not a curse; it is a blessing.

Starvation will cure laziness. Welfare checks encourage laziness. Paul ordered that those who did not work should not eat (II Thess 3:10), and Solomon warned that lazy men would beg at harvest and get nothing (Pr 20:4). Christian charity does not include sluggards. When a man is denied food and comfort long enough, he will work (Pr 16:26).

Wise parents apply this wisdom. Children and teenagers do not deserve to eat unless they have worked in school, a job, or chores. Why create lazy adults? Fixing meals and snacks when they do not work hard is not love; it is cruel hatred. Train them to work hard, to work fast, and to enjoy a job well done. They will be successful and have plenty to eat.

Set wise priorities for your children. A godly work ethic is more valuable than the highest grades possible. School is not like the real world. Academic regurgitation is not a good predictor of life success. Teachers are paid to flatter and promote; but employers pay and promote only those that produce more than expected. A 3.90 GPA versus a 3.50 is marginally wasted compared to extra-curricular creativity, diligence, and responsibility.

A favorite place for lazy people to hold their hands in their bosoms is in bed. The pleasure of self-cuddling for an unnecessary hour of sleep is just too much to resist. The wise Preacher saw this love of sleep and ridiculed it (Pr 6:9-10; 24:30-34; 26:14). Snooze buttons on alarm clocks are foolish. Get up, sluggard! Get up! The day is wasting!

Once a person starts down the path of laziness, work becomes harder and harder. A lazy attitude toward work will make you sleepy (Pr 19:15); obstacles will seem much more difficult (Pr 15:19). Diligence begins in the heart and mind, when you choose to enjoy work. The best way to tackle a job is to start now, with intensity. Do not think about it. Hard work is its own reward, but you only know this blessing by getting to work.

Ever heard, “I’m too tired to fix anything tonight”? Virtuous women do not say this. A woman would feel better and less tired, if she ran to the kitchen and creatively put supper together. The words themselves, and the thoughts generating them, are mentally and physically disabling. Do not make excuses. Work! You will feel better and sleep better.

Lazy people have blessings, but they are too lazy to take advantage of them. They may take game in hunting, but they are too tired to dress it when they get home (Pr 12:27). An opportunity is frightening to them, for it likely involves more than sleep. What a shame!

Of course, sluggards always have excuses for not getting much done. They tell of dangers on the job (Pr 22:13; 26:13) and of unfavorable circumstances (Pr 20:4). And their arrogant slothfulness will resist even seven wise men giving good answers (Pr 26:16).

Solomon could spot a sluggard by checking his field (Pr 24:30-34). Dear reader, how clean is your car? Your house? Your closets? Your desk? Is there clutter anywhere? Why? Is there a lion in the way? Is it too cold? Or is folding your hands too exciting? Do not let anything distract you from the important goal of diligence where most needed.

Christians should hate slothfulness (Rom 12:11). Their assets and reputations must reflect a godly work ethic. Instead of holding hands in the bosom, hands should be put to good productive labor (Acts 20:34-35; Eph 4:28; I Thes 4:11-12). Instead of idleness that ruins women (Ezek 16:49), let them match the virtuous woman (Pr 31:10-31; I Tim 5:13-14).

King Lemuel’s mother described the virtuous woman in detail (Pr 31:1-2). The most important measure of this perfect woman was her diligent labor. She works willingly with her hands (Pr 31:13). She rejects shortcuts (Pr 31:14). She gets up early (Pr 31:15). She does more than domestic duties (Pr 31:16,20,24). She strengthens her arms to do even more (Pr 31:17). Her hands are always busy (Pr 31:19-20). She is not idle (Pr 31:27).

The Bible sets the bar high for men also. Solomon promoted Jeroboam, because he was industrious – or diligently productive (I Kgs 11:28), fulfilling the reward of diligence (Pr 22:29). Pharaoh asked Joseph if he had any exceptional brothers – men of activity – that could manage his large herds (Gen 47:6). Wise men will appreciate work, for it is their purpose and pleasure in life, and a reason to dislike death is its lack of work (Eccl 9:10).

The Lord Jesus Christ was intent on the work God had given Him (John 4:34; 9:4; 17:4), and you should be thankful for Him and His diligent faithfulness in saving your soul. God promoted Him over the universe and rewarded Him with joy and pleasures at His right hand. You have opportunity to be spiritually diligent for Him (Heb 6:11-12; II Pet 1:10).