Proverbs 24:33-34

Laziness and Poverty


1. This proverb is connected in thought to the previous three verses. Verses 30-34 constitute one proverbial thought about laziness.

2. In the previous verses, the author gave the setting.

a. Vs. 30-31 – The author walked by a field and made some initial observations.
• The field was overgrown with thorns and nettles.
• The stone wall was broken down.
• His property had fallen into disrepair. No upkeep had been done in quite some time.
• His initial observation was that the owner was slothful and a man void of understanding.

b. Vs. 32 – The next thing we are told in this proverb is that the author considered it well and received instruction.
• There were some good lessons to be learned from this observation of life.
• There are always good lessons to be learned by observing people and the way they live.
• Sometimes we observe things we want to add to our life.
• Sometimes we observe things that we don’t ever want to see in our own lives.
• This is such a lesson: the author observed a lazy man’s homestead and determined that’s NOT the way he wants to live.

33 Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep:

1. Now the author shares with us the results of his observations.

2. The first result of his observation has to do with the SOURCE of the man’s troubles: he sleeps too much and doesn’t work when he should!

a. The stone wall was broken down, but it was not to be attributed to a recent tornado or hurricane.

b. The field was overgrown with thorns and weeds, but it was not to be attributed to some deviant who snuck onto his property and planted thorns and nettles.

c. Nor was his property fallen into disrepair because he had been out of the country on a long journey.

d. The author observed ONE reason: the man was a lazy slob!

3. The author makes some editorial comments about the thinking of this man.

a. When it’s time to get up in the morning, the man thinks, “Yet a little sleep… a little more slumber.”

b. When it’s time to go to work and put his hands to something productive, the man thinks to himself, “just a little more folding of the hands.”

4. These expressions are illustrative of several moral failures:

a. Laziness… first and foremost.
• They know what they have to do; they just don’t do it.
• They aren’t lacking physically or mentally; they are just lazy!
• The problem is not that there is no opportunity to work; the problem is they don’t avail themselves of the opportunities. They just don’t WANT to work.
• They are unwilling to get up, unfold their hands, and go to work.

b. A lack of self control… giving in to his bodily impulses. (I just need a little more sleep; a little more slumber…)

c. Procrastination… (Prov. 6:6-11)
• This is in many ways a parallel passage.
• However, in chapter 6, the laziness is described as procrastination.
• The lazy man here was obviously not doing the summer planting in the summer and was not doing the fall harvesting when it was time.
• He put it off… and ended up with nothing.
• Procrastination is often accompanied by good intentions… but the point is that good intentions don’t get the job done.
• Good intentions are often a cover for laziness.

d. Poor planning… Even the ants are good planners.
• They prepare their food ahead of time.
• They have planned for the jobs that need doing in the summer and then the chores that need doing in the fall.
• They know that the winter is coming and they plan ahead.
• Lazy people don’t plan ahead.

e. Wastefulness… (Prov. 18:9) “He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster.”

34 So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth; and thy want as an armed man.

1. Much is said about laziness and its results in the book of Proverbs.

2. This proverb simply lists one result of laziness, namely, poverty.

a. Poverty: a lack of the necessary needs of life.

b. Laziness results in poverty.

3. We should point out here that the author is not condemning poverty.

a. He is condemning the laziness that leads to poverty.

b. There is nothing wrong with being poor or having needs.

c. Many godly people have been poor. (Christ and the apostles)

d. Many godly people have been rich. (Abraham; David; Solomon)

e. One’s financial status tells us nothing about their character or their relationship to the Lord.

f. It is not sinful nor is it a failure on the part of an individual to be poor.

g. For the most part, that is all part of God’s sovereignty in the universe He rules.

h. None of us chose to be born in America. We could have been born in poverty in Yemen or Vietnam.

4. We should also note that the author is not stating that ALL poverty is the result of laziness.
a. This proverb is citing a specific example.

b. There are millions of people in the world who live in poverty through no fault of their own.

c. They may be diligent hard working people, but because of economic, political, and social issues surrounding them, there is nothing they can do to change things.

d. Ecc. 9:11 – Remember Solomon wrote that “bread is not always to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding…”
• Time and chance affect everything in a cursed earth.
• Ordinarily running swiftly will cause you to win the race…
• Ordinarily diligence and wisdom leads to riches…
• But in a sin cursed earth, there are many OTHER issues working against you.
• Ill health, war, earthquakes, fire, ghetto condition that can trap people, economic downturn, collapse of a currency.
• Normally, proverbially, diligence leads to making a good living, but not always.
• We should never assume that someone is poor because they are lazy.

5. In Proverbs 24:34, the author is stating the NORM.

a. Prov. 10:4; 13:4 – Normally, all things being equal, diligence leads to riches and laziness leads to poverty.

b. There are exceptions to this rule, but this proverb does not discuss the exceptions.

c. It simply states the proverbial truth from an observation of a specific case… the man who owned that broken down piece of property: a wall fallen over… weeds everywhere… vineyard not pruned or cared for…

6. Not only does this proverb say that poverty will come, but that it will come quickly and suddenly.

a. “Poverty will come as one that travelleth”
• While you are sleeping, poverty won’t just creep up on you slowly and gradually.
• It will come FAST like a roving plunderer… a travelling bandit who suddenly breaks in and robs you!

b. “Thy want as an armed man”
• Here he states the same thing again, using a different expression.
• The result of your laziness will be the same as if you were robbed by an armed bandit.
• When all is said and done, you will be left in “want”—with a great lack of things that you need.

7. The author makes a valuable observation and recorded it for our learning and for our admonition.

a. Wise men will take heed.

b. One man noted, “That wise men profit more by fools than fools by wise men; for wise men will avoid the faults of fools, but fools will not imitate the virtues of wise men.”

c. We can learn from this proverb not to be lazy in everyday life. It is certainly valuable on that level.

d. But it is also applicable to our spiritual lives.
• In a sense, our lives are like a field that needs constant attention.
• Weeds and worldly things will arise and choke our spiritual life if we are lazy and do not deal with those weeds.
• Our life should be like a fruitful field—fruit that redounds to the glory of God.
• But our lives will NOT be fruitful unless we are as diligent spiritually as a farmer is in the natural realm.
• A fruitful field doesn’t just happen.
» The farmer has to get up and go to work every day to keep up with things day by day, or the fields become full of weeds—and the task becomes overwhelming
» If a farmer wants a fruitful field, it requires effort, energy, and a labor of love.
• A fruitful Christian life doesn’t just happen either.
» It too requires sacrifice—a life lived as a living sacrifice.
» It requires getting up in the morning and reading the Word.
» It requires that we UNFOLD our hands and use them as instruments of righteousness in God’s service.
» Instead of sleeping on the couch, it might require getting up to go to prayer meeting and praying for the brethren, for missionaries, and the salvation of souls.
» On Sunday morning, instead of thinking, “Just a little more sleep… a little more slumber”, we ought to get up and make it to Sunday school to learn God’s Word that we might be better equipped to serve Him.
» The cares of this world can be like weeds that can choke our spiritual life.
» Being fruitful requires removing weeds… which is a daily chore!
» We all know Christians who do not take care of their “field.” They are lazy and careless spiritually. Their spiritual lives are overgrown with weeds… the walls of their lives are broken down… their walk with the Lord has fallen into disrepair—and they continue snoozing… they continue to be apathetic to the things of Christ…
» Just as the lazy farmer will be taken by surprise to discover that he is poor, so too the lazy Christian will be taken by surprise at the Bema seat to discover that he has very few rewards… very few heavenly treasures.
» He enters glory, but not as rich and rewarded as he could have been… as he SHOULD have been.

8. Prov. 20:13 – The CURE is quite simple.

a. If you’re sleeping, just open your eyes!

b. If you open your eyes, you won’t go hungry.

c. This might be an intended play on words.
• The lazy man is to open his physical eyes and wake up.
• But Solomon probably also intended for the eyes to represent also the “eyes of understanding.”
• It would be like saying, “Open your eyes and take a good look at yourself. Look at your behavior. Look at your folly.
• Look at your laziness and SEE it for what it is: destructive folly!
• Once you open your eyes, you probably get back to work… and thus have plenty to eat.

d. Rom. 13:11-14 – As Christians, we are also told to stop sleeping, wake up, and open our eyes SPIRITUALLY too.
• When we do, we too can return to feasting on the Bread of Life.
• There is no need for a believer to go hungry spiritually.
• All we need to do is to wake up… open our eyes… and take a good look at ourselves.
• That should stir us to make things right.