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Work or laziness

By Jim Killebrew

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[December 16, 2013]  In our society we have seemingly established a dichotomy of categorical entities that causes more divisiveness than anything else. Our economic system seems based on having enough resources to live comfortably and is conventionally gained by working to earn those resources. From our perspective, as a Western society, we value the competitive spirit of the marketplace; we indulge ourselves in our earning power and place premiums on those who accumulate by labeling them as "successful."

The distinction that has made our experiment in a self-governing economy so enviable around the world and in other societies is the exceptionalism that has granted us freedom and independence to take the risks necessary to propel our personal fortunes far beyond what would be granted by even the most benevolent dictator. With our efforts to carve out our fortunes, whether large or small, we must maneuver ourselves through a maze of roadblocks and hazards that threaten to bankrupt our purpose before the rewards can be realized. When we invest in hard work, strong effort, frugal living, consistent and forward movement toward our goals, we sometimes reach the golden ring with the fruits of our efforts. The process presents us with a choice we must make.

Regardless of our own ethnocentric heritage, the concepts and practices of gaining economic means have been around for centuries, even before our own forefathers. What our forefathers likely knew, however, was the writings of the Scriptures that, among many other things, serve also as a history of thought from which they learned, and from which we, too, can continue to learn.

A very wise king of Israel, King Solomon, penned a series of life principles he learned through observation from his vantage point as king, and of course, from his God, Who supplied him with much wisdom. The principles of living that he penned are as relevant today as they were when he wrote them. In the book that is called Proverbs, Solomon writes: "Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit, but righteousness delivers from mortal danger."  Proverbs 10:2

People gain wealth in many ways. Some are wealthy because family members before them worked hard or invented things that made them wealthy; some may not work very hard, but instead try to gain wealth in ways that are less than honest. In this historical nugget we see the word "wickedness," and we can say instead, "dishonesty." When we acquire anything dishonestly, there will be consequences. Think of it: Our laws are based on a right way of earning and a wrong way of earning. A principle that Solomon learned by observation thousands of years ago remains just as true today as it was then. A person who gains treasure by dishonesty does not bring profit.

Profit is reserved in the long term by gaining it righteously; a term that could be termed "honesty." If a person has all the money or wealth in the world, it does not shield him from being unhappy, experiencing mental illness, being sick, being lonely and even dying. But when the treasure is gained through honest means, it protects the individual from mortal danger.

Mortal danger could mean much more than simply dying. It means losing freedom, being taken from society and isolated in a prison for many years without the pleasure of experiencing life as a family member, community member, participant in commerce, worship with others, experiencing travel and being deprived from relationships. Ultimately, of course, death may occur, but being ruined of reputation and scorned to isolation is a mortal danger that is experienced by those who fail to live by following the rules of honesty.

Solomon continued with his writing to provide us with this bit of history: "The Lord satisfies the appetite of the righteous, but he thwarts the craving of the wicked."  Proverbs 10:3

Something beyond our simple ingenuity is at play here. It is the universal principle of doing what is right and what is satisfying. Regardless of personal belief in a Creator God or a belief of an atheist who proposes there is no God, when a person does a job, earns a living, works diligently and lives a wholesome life, there is a higher degree of satisfaction and personal dignity in living in the right way than a person who continues to cut corners, lives with a thumb on the scale, cheats others and slips by on the underside of the spirit of the law. That person always sees the shadow behind him and always looks over his shoulder, fearing he is going to be caught. The righteous have appetites for doing things the right way, helping others and  living by the rules, and that appetite is satisfied by doing right.

By contrast, the craving, or desire, to gain at the expense of others, bringing them harm through loss by the wicked person's methods, is blocked and left unfulfilled. The person suffers loss, shame and eventually the sting of guilt when caught. We often see people who are "sorry" for the methods they have used to separate innocent people from their money, but most often, they are sorry for being caught, not for what they did. Theirs is a life of unwholesomeness that brings guilt and shame, and of course, a lack of enjoyment of the riches they have gained through such methods.

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Most people over 30 years of age have learned the adage, "Work is a virtue." In our society today, we have turned to a point in the road where many have learned a word "entitlement" as being almost a "right." Although there are many legitimate needs in the governmental entitlement programs, there exists another group of people who take advantage of those programs and use the assistance to refrain from the necessity of work. Government has grown to such proportions that it has taken over many of the charitable functions that used to be provided by the generosity of faith-based organizations, family and friends. Consequently, many look toward the government to provide them with resources that others in need could actually use instead. This has created a lot of wasted resources for people who are receiving the entitlement dishonestly.

The historical account from Solomon speaks to our society today. "The one who is lazy becomes poor, but the one who works diligently becomes wealthy."  Proverbs 10:4

When one's work is the work of getting out of work, it is counted to him as being lazy. When a person can work and decides to take advantage of a system of entitlement to avoid having to work with his hands and mind, he becomes a cheater against those for whom the entitlement is meant.

Without even realizing it, the "slacker" who thinks he is outsmarting the officials who administer the entitlements is only accomplishing one thing for himself: the distinction of becoming poor and remaining poor. The only thing that person has gained for himself is the distinction of being in poverty. His sleight-of-hand schemes of cheating the officials have only sentenced him to a lifetime of poverty. That poverty is not just the poverty-level of sustenance the entitlement offers, but the loss of opportunity for a better life, loss of the challenge of seizing the American dream, loss of his own motivation, loss of dignity and self-worth, and most of all, loss of being a positive, righteous role-model for the rest of his family.

Again, the historical account that Solomon gives us in today's society is the contrast to the poverty-stricken slacker who cheats the government for a small sustenance of entitlement. It is the diligent worker who uses his entire resources of mind, body and spirit to find work, be consistent in that work, achieve excellence by bringing his best to his work, and achieves the consequences of consistent salary and resources for himself and his family. Richness may not be the accumulation of wealth in the sense that our culture pants after affluence and privilege, but riches that bring self-fulfillment and self-worth. A person who is a diligent worker, doing the very best job he or she can, taking the responsibility for family, and fulfilling the role of good citizenship, becomes rich in dignity and worth.

Finally, the wisdom of the writer Solomon and his observations thousands of years ago bring a freshness to the ills of our society related to economy and personal responsibility. He writes: "The one who gathers crops in the summer is a wise son, but the one who sleeps during the harvest is a son who brings shame to himself."  Proverbs 10:5

Wisdom is more than simply knowing a set of facts. Wisdom is using those facts to synthesize experiences and knowledge into a lifestyle and worldview that is proactive, meaningful, balanced and productive for future provisions. Using time wisely, establishing meaningful goals of life, creating an active, consistent life of completing career goals while the strength is still present, is wisdom in action.

If one fritters away the time in the "summer" of life and accepts the dole of the government to maintain a level of poverty, he or she assumes the position of one who sleeps during the most important time of life. This brings dullness to the senses and lulls the individual into a state of laziness that robs him or her of seeing the importance of the needs of the times. As in the fable of the ant and the grasshopper, the winter of life soon appears, and the lazy one will likely suffer, while the wise one will likely prosper.


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