Proverbs 21:25-26

The Desire of the Slothful

25The desire of the slothful killeth him; for his hands refuse to labour. 26He coveteth greedily all the day long: but the righteous giveth and spareth not.


1. We are going to look at both verses 25 and 26 together here, because they really go together.

2. In this passage, the verse numbering breaks it up into two separate proverbs, which is unfortunate, because it is really one.

3. It is one antithetical proverb in which two things are contrasted: The slothful man who covets and the righteous who gives.

4. Dividing the proverb up into two separate proverbs obscures the contrast Solomon intended here.

The Slothful Man

A. The Slothful Man

1. Slothful defined:

a. Slothful, sluggard, lazy,

b. slow to take any action, suggesting a lack of discipline or initiative, as a moral failure.

2. Solomon has mentioned the slothful man several times in this book.

a. Solomon is describing a person whose life is characterized by laziness.

b. However, this stands as a good warning to ALL of us, because we can ALL be lazy at one time or another…

c. And while we may be diligent in most things, there may be one area of our life where diligence is lacking.
• We may be diligent in the upkeep of our home, but we don’t take care of the car.
• Or we may be diligent in keeping the inside of the house clean, but let the outside go to weeds… or vice versa.
• We may be diligent about paying our bills on time, but not so diligent about setting money aside for taxes.
• We may be diligent about reading the Word, but are slothful when it comes to prayer… or witnessing… or vice versa.

d. Hence, this proverb (and others like it) can be like a GOAD to stir us up into diligence in a particular area concerning which the Holy Spirit may be convicting us.

B. He Refuses to Labour

1. The particular area that Solomon seems to focus on here is being lazy concerning that four letter word that Maynard G. Krebs could only spell: w-o-r-k.

2. Note that Solomon is not describing a man who IS not working, but the man who REFUSES to work.

a. Often men are unemployed because they cannot find a job… or they were laid off.

b. Others are unemployed because of an injury.

c. They would love to work, but due to circumstances beyond their control, they are not presently working.

d. That is NOT the situation described here.

e. Solomon speaks of a man who is ABLE to work, but he refuses.

3. REFUSE: Resist; i.e., be in a state of defiance or rebellion; the rejection of an offer; to utterly refuse. It is a strong term.

a. This is not the person who is lacking energy one day and is having a hard time kicking into gear.

b. II Thess. 3:10 – Here Paul states that if “a man WOULD not work, neither should he eat.” (He was able, but unwilling).

c. This is a committed, dedicated, defiant sluggard.

4. LABOR: This is kind of a broad term which means to do, to make, to accomplish, to complete.

a. It speaks of the man who refuses to DO virtually anything. He doesn’t like action. It’s too tiring. He prefers to sleep.

b. It speaks of a man who refuses to MAKE. This is the guy at the widget factory who refuses to make widgets. This is the carpenter who refuses to make the tables he’s supposed to make.

c. The term speaks of the man who refuses to ACCOMPLISH anything.

d. He refuses to COMPLETE anything. He may start a few projects, but never brings them to completion.

e. He refuses to labor, to work, to do or finish almost anything.

5. While the author probably had in mind laboring with his hands at the farm or at the factory, application can easily be made to other areas life as and to our spiritual lives as well.

6. Slothfulness isn’t restricted to our 9-5 jobs. Laziness is a blight that can settle in on ANY area of life… especially our spiritual life.

C. His Desires Kill Him

1. Desire:

e. Strong’s: Desire – either in a good or evil sense; a good desire: Wish, longings of one’s heart—or an evil desire in the sense of lust; appetite; covetousness (bad sense).

f. The term is a bit ambiguous, since it can be used of both good and evil desires.

g. Solomon may well have intended for its use to be a bit ambiguous here… to cause us to stop and think.

h. The slothful man would have a natural desire for good things like food; shelter; clothing; good health. He may have a desire for a nice family with well trained, well groomed, well educated children. He may have a good desire for friends and a social life.

D. He Covets Greedily all the Day Long (vs.26)

1. In verse 26 Solomon implies that the lazy man also has a desire for that which is not good and wholesome, but is pure covetousness.


a. This is not the same term as is translated “desire” in verse 25.

b. This term means: Desire; covet; wait longingly; wish; sigh; want; be greedy; to crave; to long for; lust after (of bodily appetites).

c. This is the term used in the 10th commandment “Thou shalt not covet.” (Exodus 20:17)

d. Clearly this term is used in an evil sense in verse 26.

e. The slothful man covets what other hard working people have.

f. He sees the nice family they have; the well trained and well groomed kids. He sees their well maintained homes and yards. He sees their large herd of camels, and their bounteous harvests.

g. He sees it all, and covets it. He wishes that HE had all that for which they labored.

h. His hands refuse to labor, but his heart continues to desire the fruit of such labor.

3. GREEDILY: This is a form of the same term in verse 25 translated “desire.”

a. In other words, he covets their goods and things with a great longing desire of his heart.

b. It is a bit redundant, but is added for emphasis.

c. He longs for what they have. He wishes he had it too.

d. He lusts after it. He sighs because he does not have it.

4. All the day long…

a. Here Solomon notes that the slothful man does not have just a passing thought every once in a while that it would be nice to have what his neighbor has.

b. We have all seen beautiful, stately homes… or fun mountain chalets and thought that it must be nice to own such things.

c. We have all had such passing thoughts… but then the Lord convicts us and we return to being content with such things as we have.

d. Not so with the slothful man. These are not just rare, occasional, passing thoughts. This is the covetous desire of his heart ALL DAY LONG! Day after day!

e. He is never content. He is never happy. What a miserable life. All day long he greedily covets and is never satisfied.

f. I can’t help but thinking that Hell must be like that… burning in desire for that which others have… for that which could have been obtained… but is now beyond reach. That is a life of torment!

5. It kills him… (vs.25)

a. This is the normal term for kill, murder, cause to die.

b. Again, this term is also a bit ambiguous.
• It could refer to a literal death. The lazy man may starve to death.
• It may also refer to a figurative death – in a sense similar to our expression today, “The price of gas is killing me,” or “It’s killing me to see what’s happening to my country.”
• We don’t mean that in the literal sense, but in a figurative sense.
• What we mean is that “it is torture… it is agonizing… it is painful...”

c. The laziness of the sluggard could literally kill him. He could starve to death… or freeze to death.

d. The laziness of the sluggard could also (in a figurative sense) condemn him to a life of inward agony and emotional torture as he watches what others have and he cannot have them.

e. Greedily coveting after those THINGS all day long results in one miserable life.

f. Prov.13:4a: “The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing.”
• He COULD have something if he went to work!
• He could improve his lot in life if he wasn’t so lazy.

6. And it is all because he refuses to work.

a. FOR his hands refuse to labour. (vs.25)

b. His life of misery and torture could be avoided… but he still refuses to do anything about it.

c. He would be so much happier if he simply got up and went to work!

d. Yes, going to work does involve a certain amount of pain and suffering.

e. But Solomon’s point in this proverb is that the pain and suffering involved in going to work is FAR LESS than the amount of pain and suffering involved in not going to work and greedily coveting what others have!

7. Apply this to our spiritual lives.

a. There are men who LONG to have self control.
• They see others who manifest temperance and covet it… long for it for themselves.
• Their lives are miserable because they DON’T have it.
• Prov. 25:28 – His life is miserable because he does not have it.
• BUT—he’s too lazy to read the Scriptures… to come to Sunday school… to study the Bible on his own… too lazy to become a DOER of the Word and not a hearer only.

b. Those are believers who LONG for a happy home life…
• But are too lazy to DO what the Bible says is necessary to obtain it: love your wife as Christ loved the church --- obey and reverence your husband in everything…

c. There are many believers who want to win a crown…
• But they are too lazy to give their all in running the race.
• They want a crown, but are not willing to give up anything in this life in order to obtain it.

The Righteous Man

A. The Righteous Man

1. A righteous man is one who does that which is RIGHT.

a. Here we have an interesting contrast.

b. Normally the righteous man is contrasted to the wicked man.

c. And we would normally expect that Solomon would contrast the slothful man with the diligent man.

d. However, here the contrast is between the slothful man with the righteous man.

e. The implication is clear: the slothful man is the doing the opposite of that which is RIGHT.

f. Laziness is not only the opposite of diligent; it is also the opposite of righteous.

g. It is WRONG and unrighteous to be slothful.

h. This is not just an innocent difference in personalities. This is a MORAL failure.

i. The lazy man is morally wrong.

2. Of course, this also implies that a righteous man will NOT be lazy, but will be DILIGENT.

a. Because the Bible commands us to be diligent and hard working, being lazy is a moral issue.

b. It is outright disobedience… defiance against God and His Word… rebellion.

3. Interestingly, Solomon doesn’t even mention the fact that the righteous man is hard working.

a. It is however IMPLIED in the passage.

b. The righteous man does that which is RIGHT.

c. He OBEYS God’s command to be diligent and hard working.

B. He Gives and He Spares Not

1. Here is the FRUIT of his labor.

2. He is righteous not only because he works and earns money and provides well for himself and his family.

3. He is righteous also because of what he DOES with his goods.

4. He is GENEROUS. He gives and spares not.

5. This stands in stark contrast to the lazy man.

a. The lazy man covets and wants things for himself.

b. The righteous man works and gives things to others.

6. And keep in mind what the Lord Jesus said: “It is more BLESSED to give than to receive.”

a. Of course Solomon did not have that revelation, but he did know the truth of it.

b. He was aware of the contrast:
• The lazy man who greedily covets things for himself all day long is miserable and unhappy!
• Solomon also knew that true satisfaction, happiness, and blessedness come from working hard, and sharing with others.

c. The lazy, greedy man is miserable.

d. The diligent generous man is blessed and happy.