I’ve really been challenged by Proverbs 12:27 recently, and so I thought I’d write out a couple of reflections. First, it should be said that I have been reading the NASB and that there is some disagreement over how to translate it. I will give you the NASB translation and in parenthesis I will put the alternative meanings.
“A lazy man does not roast(catch/pursue) his prey, but the precious possession of a man is diligence. (the diligent gain precious wealth OR the substance of a diligent man is precious)”
The first line is fairly clear despite the differences. The lazy man either is too lazy to go hunting/catching prey, or they are too lazy to prepare it and cook it once they have caught it, and so it spoils. Either way, laziness is wasteful. The second line is a little tougher and I don’t have any Hebrew study sources right now, so feel free to help me out. I think either translation is possible, and there are multiple variations of each which can be summed up thus:
1. Diligence leads to precious possessions
2. Diligence is the precious possession (with a slight variations stating that the character of a man who is diligent is precious, not necessarily the diligence itself, but the full substance of the man).
I think the first option for the second line is better as a parallel with the first line regarding the lazy. It could look something like: The lazy get nothing, the diligent gets wealth. OK, not bad, makes sense. This might be where looking at the Hebrew would be useful to see if it structurally is a parallel as many proverbs are parallelisms, but many are not. So, on the other hand, the second option could be drawing attention to the lazy and then stating, not a parallelism, but a broader truth…namely that diligence is a quality that is unimaginably valuable. In that case, simplified, it looks like this: the lazy end up with nothing, but there’s no end to how diligence can bless. Of course, the 2nd option doesn’t mean that the first option isn’t implied. If diligence is a precious possession, one of the reasons it is so is because it provides possessions for the diligent man and his family.
I really didn’t intend to look at the text this way, but it’s useful I hope. The NASB often leaves phrases vague/ambiguous if they feel the original is vague, intentionally or not. And I think in this case, it is helpful to do so. So, now that our text criticism is finish…
Now, why me and why this proverb? Why has this once caught my attention amidst hundreds of other Solomonically wise sayings. For some reason it was seared into my brain the other day when I read it. I’ve read it a few times before, but never once glanced a second time at it, but this time it struck a real chord. I’m sure it’s my season of life and where the Lord has me, but in reflecting, here’s three short points that have come up, especially as regarding how precious diligence itself can be.
1. Diligence is precious because it does allow you to maximize opportunities. An entrepreneur would agree, as would a pastor. If I use the time in my day to it’s fullest potention through good planning and organizing, then voila more stuff gets done. That’s good and true.
2. Deeper than that, diligence is precious because it CAN provide opportunity for those things that are truly precious, and it can do so in amazing ways. To the first point here, if I am diligent at the wrong things, or even just good (as opposed to the best) things, then diligence is not that precious. But, if diligence is directed towards eternal things, things that are in themselves precious, it is infinite in it’s own preciousness. For example, if I diligently plan out my days in order to maximize opportunities to be with and bless and disciple my children, then diligence is unfathomably precious. If I diligently labor to finish my work day within 8 hours instead of dragging work home with me, allowing it to cut into my time with my wife, then that diligence is exceedingly valuable. Or, if I plan the first moments of each morning to be spent in the presence of God and I diligently guard that time and diligently wake with the alarm’s first ring, then that diligence will reap eternal rewards.
3. All that leads me to the final point: Pursue diligence not for diligence’s sake, and not primarily to maximize/organize, or to gain possessions, but because diligence allows you to maximize your interaction with and enjoyment of those possessions which you already have and which are eternally precious, namely, your relationship with your Heavenly Father and the people that He has given you charge of and life with.
Hope that makes sense. I’m feeling a bit rusty at this blogging thing! But, may these things sink deeper into my heart, may you be encouraged, and may God be glorified!