Proverbs 26: 27 – “Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and a stone will come back on him who starts it rolling.”
The law of sowing and reaping is as real as the law of gravity. The writer is not making any moral statements about digging pits or rolling stones. He is simply reminding his readers that there is this thing that exists and is applicable to all mankind in all times in all places. Put simply, you will reap what you sow.
Honestly, this should be intuitive; but unfortunately for many of us, the “reaping” part often comes as a complete surprise. We act bewildered when the fruit of our choices causes us pain. We find ourselves perplexed when the consequences of our decisions lead to hurt and isolation.
- We watch porn and then feel disconnected from our spouse and complain about how our marriage isn’t what we’d like it to be.
- We eat way too much of the wrong kind of food and then blame our genes on high blood pressure, sore joints and skyrocketing medical costs.
- We overspend on our children to compensate for our lack of presence and then become frustrated when their character is more self-centered and entitled than others-focused and grateful.
- We refuse to live within a budget and then develop ulcers about our ever-growing consumer debt.
- We podcast & read the “health and wealth preachers” who falsely proclaim that God wants us healthy, wealthy and wise and then become disillusioned and blame God and our “lack of faith” when the reality of life in a fallen world punches us in the nose.
And on and on and on. Sowing and reaping.
See also, Galatians 6:7-8 – “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life
Proverbs 23:19-21 – (19) Hear, my son, and be wise, and direct your heart in the way. (20) Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, (21) for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags.
We get to overhear some advice from a father to his son. This father encourages his boy to listen and make the choice to direct his heart. Implied is that his son can choose to ignore and not take to heart the wisdom of his father. So, as we eavesdrop in on this fatherly exhortation we ought to remember that all of us have an opportunity to respond to things we hear – we can consider and ignore if we find the content irrelevant, unwise or not applicable. Or we can consider, take to heart and apply if we find value in the message or if we have a high degree of trust in the messenger.
On this day the father’s advice centers on the company his boy keeps. Be not among drunks or gluttons. You might know them. You might interact with them. You might cross paths with them. You might know their names. You might play sports with them. You might be around them a lot…but being around someone is not the same thing as being among them.
> Be friends with them? Sure.
> Engage them in meaningful conversation? Absolutely.
> Be kind toward them? Without doubt.
> Be ready to step in to help them in a pinch? Yes, of course.
But these guys should not be your closest friends. These are not the folks you invite into your inner circle. These aren’t the men to stand by your side on your wedding day.
Why? Because of the principle (really, the law) of sowing and reaping. The trajectory of the drunkard and the glutton is down and to the right. The outlook isn’t bright. Follow the path of the drunkard and the glutton long enough and it ends in ruin. Yoke yourself to those folks and you may find yourself at the bottom with them. Because the reality is that, more often than not “bad company ruins good morals” (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:33).
Who you count as your close friends matters. And this father wants to see his boy prosper and not suffer. And this father knows that our inner circle has great influence in our behavior; so it’s best to ensure your inner circle is walking the same path that you are or that you want to be on.
See also, Proverbs 13:20 – “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”
Proverbs 22:13 – “The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion outside! I shall be killed in the streets!'”
Dear Lion Fearing Sluggard,
First, let’s just get this out of the way right off the bat – there is NO lion in the street. Lions don’t tend to wander around Israeli towns and villages. It’s just not their native environment. So, let’s be honest – you are not going to be eaten by a large African mammal if you leave your front door this morning.
The reality is that you are just lazy. You are looking for an excuse…ANY excuse to get out of having to exert any effort. And so you reached into your bag of lame excuses and came up with “I’m afraid I’ll get attacked by a lion” option.
But I want you to know that I get it. And while I’m calling you out I’m also fully aware that I have a bag of lame excuses too. And though I think I reach for it less and less as I get older I know it’s still there tucked away in the corner of my closet. Ready in the event I want to employ it to help me avoid doing something I don’t want to do.
And while I “get it” I want you to know that the better path is paved with diligence. It’s the day in and day out “work by the sweat of your brow” that produces something great…something meaningful…something lasting.
There are no shortcuts.
Do you want to be good at golf? You’ve got to swing the club. Again and again and again. You’ve got to putt and putt and putt and putt. You’ve got to get the right kind of clubs for your swing and make sure they fit you. And you’ve got to be prepared to get blisters.
Do you want to run a marathon? Then you’ve got to start walking and then work up to jogging and then running. And then you’ve got to keep running…day in and day out. When it’s cold & rainy and when it’s hot and humid. You’ve got to invest in some good shoes and research proper nutrition. And you’ve got to be prepared to sweat and be sore.
Do you want to be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you (cf. 1 Peter 3:15)? Then you’ve got to be in God’s word – studying it…mediating on it…taking it in to your heart and your mind. You’ve got to read and read and read. And you’ve got to be prepared to engage your mind and heart in the hard work of focused reading and studying.
Do you want to have a marriage that is the stuff of legends? Then you’ve got to study your spouse to know what makes them tick. You’ve got to know the areas you are weak in and vulnerable and you’ve got to shore them up. You’ve got to eliminate your plan B and commit yourself to the one you swore till death due you part. You’ve got to begin to consider her needs as more important than you own. And you’ve got to be prepared to for change to take place slowly – over months and years.
The bottom line, my fellow sluggard, is that we can keep talking about the hypothetical lion that is going to eat us or we can get busy building something great. The former will lead us to a life of mediocrity, dull living and regret. The latter, though requiring much more effort, will lead us to a life that is worth living and worth holding up as an example to others.
A Recovering Sluggard
See also, Proverbs 12:24 – “The hand of the diligent will rule, while the slothful will be put to forced labor.”
Proverbs 21:3 – “To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.”
Spend enough time in the church and it’s easy to fall into the “check the box” mode.
—> Go to church. Check.
—> Give ___% each month. Check.
—> Read my Bible. Check.
—> Meet with my community group. Check.
—> ____________________________ (fill in the blank). Check.
And on and on the list goes. Disengage the heart…engage the routine. Do. Do. Do. List. List. List. Check. Check. Check.
The argument goes something like this:
—> As long as I do the right things at the right times I will be considered “righteous”
—> If I am “righteous” I will be accepted by the Lord
—> Therefore, I must make sure, no matter what the rest of my life looks like, that I keep doing the right things at the right times.
It is a temptation for us today and it was a temptation for those living in under the Law in the Old Testament.
But that’s not what the Lord was looking for back then and it’s not now. If you read the Old Testament you see that the nation of Israel was repeatedly rebuked for checking boxes with hearts that were totally uninterested and unmoved.
This proverb should serve as a great reminder that the Lord would rather have me live a life of righteousness and justice rather than just checking the box.
—> He isn’t impressed with my Sunday church attendance if I cheat in my business practices on Monday.
—> He’s not moved by my giving if I’m squandering the rest of my resources on ensuring my bed is well feathered.
—> He’s not putting my name on the all-star list if I can quote a bunch of BIble but am constantly short, snippy and disrespectful to my wife and children.
—> He’s not giving me a merit badge of morality because I boycotted Fifty Shades of Grey but I continually give in to the lusts in my heart.
It starts with relationship. My behavior should be informed by my relationship with God; but it is never the basis of my relationship with God.
See also Micah 6:6-8
6 “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?
7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
Proverbs 20:6 – “Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love, but a faithful man who can find?”
It’s easy to be a self-promoter. Not only is it easy…it’s also tempting. How else will people know how awesome you are if you don’t tell them? We toot our own horn…to make sure everyone in the room knows how awesome/loyal/faithful/steadfast we are.
We all know “this guy” and more than likely we’ve all been “this guy.” But here’s the better way – just BE the faithful guy. Don’t get caught up in the self-promotion game. Get caught up in being steady…faithful…diligent…loyal. Be on time. Work with excellence. Show up when you say we will. Do this…and do it consistently (measured in months and years rather than days and weeks).
This approach takes longer; but more often than not, those who focus on BEING faithful end up seeing their stock rise.
See also – Proverbs 22:29 – “Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.”
Proverbs 19:27 – “Cease to hear instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge.”
There is no Biblical concept of “I’ve arrived” (at least none this side of the grave). We need to continually keep our hearts open and teachable. We need to continue to go to The Well for wisdom and instruction. We can’t live on past teachings. If we stop looking at the compass we will begin to stray from true north…it might start as a very minor directional change but eventually that will lead you far from the path. If you stop listening now you it might be a while before you “feel” the drift but that getting off course starts the moment you close your ears.