4A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. Proverbs 10:4
“Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have.” Phillipians 4:11
The selection from Proverbs offers a garden variety of wise sayings from ancient minds. Understanding them as wise sayings also places these lines in proper place. In other words, they are not promises from God. God does not promise that “a slack hand causes poverty” or that dilience makes one right. Verses like these have, however, been preached in this way. They formed the basis of a Protestant Work ethic, fortifying the middle class in Modern America. Evidence that this verse and others from Proverbs are not promises are found in the lives of those born to money, like King Solomon. Born to wealth, one need not work too hard at all to continue on in riches. In addition, how many small businesses fail because of factors beyond control? Diligence does not guarantee riches.
All of that to say, the meaning is plain to see. Work hard and you’ll keep failure at bay. Put work in your relationships, your marriage, your family, and you’ll see that diligence pays off. Put work into self care and you’ll your waste line decrease, along with your stress. Put work into managing your money, and your future self with thank you. It’s a wise thing to acknowledge that the good things of life do not merely happen, but take time and diligence to cultivate.
The Apostle Paul shows how riches can be understood differently. He writes in today’s passage that he has not been in need. What an astounding statement! He writes from prison. Certainly, Paul needs freedom? Or a good hot meal? a bath? Has the apostle cracked? What could he mean? Paul shows us what it means for us to have the way we view the world reshaped by Christ. He has been given a new set of lens from God, that sees the world in abundance, even when abundance in typical terms is not present. Christ sustains him, mysteriously, in both plenty and in want. Paul has attained the most sought after thing, contentment.
As far removed as we are from a Roman prison cell, I wonder if the the strength we need from Christ, in America, is the strength to live with plenty? The desire for more lurks behind every ad, commercial, and trip to the store. In our consuming, we risk our own soul’s consumption by desire for more. It is a hungry beast, never satisfied with enough. Call it greed, call it whatever you like, but it will keep you from experiencing peace. For there is no peace, if the desire for more is always driving you. It leads to more debt, more hours at work, robs of sleep, and it leads to more stress. and mental health issues.
Paul reminds us today to seek Christ. Only Christ will satisfy our cravings . There is never enough for our greed, never. In Christ, there is enough to sustain one in life. May Christ strengthen us to withstand the world of plenty so as to live content in God.