Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Proverbs 6: To Strive in Work and Love

In Proverbs 6, there is a sudden emphasis on "slacking," or doing things with a noticeable lack of effort. This arrives first in some verses in which Solomon warns people about getting into financial vows they know they cannot fulfill. If you jump into a deal and now find yourself on the hook for something you can't pay, Solomon's advice is to "go humble yourself, and plead with your neighbor."

While these opening verses would seem to be merely about managing one's finances shrewdly, Solomon inserts a line telling the reader "don't give sleep to your eyes or slumber to your eyelids; escape like a gazelle from a hunter, like a bird from a fowler's trap."

The problem with disadvantageous deals stems, arguably, from people lacking the initiative and drive to explore all options and engage in the necessary due diligence prior to signing an agreement. The admonition about not sleeping then affords a transition from the discussion of poor financial deals to other problems that arise from lack of energy: laziness, malice, and then the seven things the Lord hates: arrogant eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that plots wicked schemes, feet eager to run to evil, a lying witness, and one who stirs up trouble among brothers. Some of these issues seem not to be directly connected to laziness, but they are in one sense. It is often a desire to get easy rewards without making the necessary sacrifices, which lead to these forms of vice.

The malicious man "winking his eyes, signaling with his feet," seems to want to cut corners and get deals through improper corruption. But the link to the rest of the chapter is that hard work, if done earnestly, will allow someone to prosper without cheating. And often the due diligence necessary to reap the fruits of hard work is itself more work we like to avoid: balancing one's checkbooks, doing research on what the better deal is, haggling, bargaining, etc.

Many of the other vices are also indirectly connected to idleness, which is the twin evil of laziness. There is always work to do, but when we loiter and malinger, we end up replacing necessary work time with idle time, and in idle time we drift into gossip, plotting, and even, as the chapter closes, adultery.

Keep busy.