Proverbs 12:24

The Hand of the Diligent


1. This is a frequent theme in Proverbs: diligence and hard work.

2. Here once again, is another of Solomon’s great contrasts:
• Two kinds of people: the diligent vs. the slothful
• Two results: bearing rule vs. being under tribute

3. This principle is just as viable and practical today as it was when written many centuries ago.

24a The hand of the diligent shall bear rule

1. Diligent: sharp-pointed; sharp; diligent. 2 strict decision; decision. 3. Gold.

a. The term translated “diligent” is an interesting term… with interesting roots.

b. It is translated as “diligent” consistently in Proverbs.

c. Elsewhere it is translated “gold” or “sharp” as a threshing instrument.

d. It is also translated “decision” (valley of decision in Joel)

e. Diligent is the proper English term in the context in Proverbs.

f. But consider how “sharp” applies to the other translations:
• Decisions; decisiveness—those making decisions need to be sharp and decisive
• This kind of sharpness includes an intellectual sharpness… also connected to the concept of HOW one works.
• Diligence = sharp workers…

g. Thus the term “diligent” fits well here—with the added shade of meaning missing from the English word. The added shade of meaning seems to include the idea of a “smart” worker too.
• He is not just a diligent hard worker, but a good, smart worker.
• He is contrasted to the fool—the slothful man.

2. Sharp workers…

a. It came from the practice of sharpening tools… weapons… knives… axes…, etc.

b. A good, productive worker will sharpen his tools…

c. A lazy worker might not sharpen his ax, and as a result will not get much work done…

d. A diligent worker will sharpen his ax, and as a result will produce much more.

e. It is in this sense that the term “sharp” is translated diligent in all 8 of its occurrences in Proverbs.

f. Of course, this worker is sharper intellectually too—it makes good sense to sharpen one’s tools.

g. We use the term “sharpening one’s skills” today—

h. This worker excels because he is SHARP…
• Sharp intellectually—a smart worker.
• Sharp in his work ethic—a diligent worker—geared toward productivity… hence he sharpens his ax.
• The term seems to imply these two qualities about a worker.

3. Hand: hand; strength; power (fig.); part; portion (metaph.) (fig.)

a. This word is used of the diligent, but is omitted in the other half of the contrast…

b. It obviously is IMPLIED in the second half of the contrast.

c. The contrast is between the HAND of the diligent and the HAND of the slothful.

d. This fact helps us hone in on which definition Solomon hand in mind here…
• It is not the literal hand of a man…
• Nor does the term “strength” fit well… at least not directly.
• It is best to understand the term in a figurative sense of “portion.”

e. Thus, Solomon is contrasting the “portion” of the diligent with the “portion” of the slothful.
• Portion here in the sense of their “lot in life.”
• Their part or portion shall be either bearing rule or being under tribute.

4. The hand or “portion” or “lot in life” for the diligent is bearing rule…

a. “Bearing rule” = to rule, have dominion, reign.

b. Gen. 37:8 – Joseph’s brothers said: “shalt thou have dominion over us?” (same word as “bearing rule”)

c. Sharp/hard workers will advance in life…

d. Sharp/hard workers will become leaders…

e. Prov. 22:7 – the rich rule over the poor; and the borrower is servant to the lender.
• Rule over = same word as “bear rule” in Prov. 12:24.

5. Applications to today:

a. The diligent tradesman who sharpens his tools…
• The tradesman—will keep his tools in tiptop shape… so that he can do his best. When he proves his diligence and his ability to work smart, he will end up becoming the foreman… the boss.

b. The student is also to be a “sharp” worker.
• The student who applies this passage will use all diligence in doing their schoolwork.
• They will not be studying or writing a term paper while watching TV…
• They will use all avenues available to do their best—extra help after school hours; extra credit assignments; take advantage of the library; use the computer wisely—for research and not for video games…
• This student will, in the end, bear rule over the students who did NOT do their best… but goofed off.
• When they get out into the world, they will be the boss… and the students who did not do well because of laziness will be UNDER them.

c. The teacher, engineer, and those with a career in the high tech industry… in ANY career path… will benefit from putting this passage into practice.
• Whatever your position in the workplace, being a hard worker and a smart worker will pay off…
• Like the root meaning of the term “diligent”—sharpening one’s tools… a worker in any field ought to be diligent about honing his skills… keeping up with the industry… working smart… rather than working with “dull tools”… will always be beneficial.
• This might mean going to seminars; taking a course; learning some new software; going the extra mile to stay on top of things.
• That person will bear rule… he will rise up to the top in his company.

d. Perhaps we could apply this to our SPIRITUAL life too.
• We should be “sharp” spiritually as well—even more importantly!
• We are commanded to keep our hearts with ALL DILIGENCE!
• God is a rewarder of those who DILIGENTLY seek Him.
• We are told to be discerning… hence, be aware of the spiritual dangers we face… false doctrine… new evangelicalism… the snares of the devil…
• If we can see the importance of keeping on top of things in the office or workplace, how much MORE do we need to keep sharp spiritually!
• Heb. 5:11-14 – don’t be DULL, but be sharp spiritually. Be skillful in the knowledge of God’s Word… grow in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ…
• The believer who is DILIGENT about his spiritual life will also bear rule… he will NOT be under tribute to the devil or the world. He will not fall into the traps set by our adversary.
• Believers who are careless about their spiritual lives may find themselves under tribute to our spiritual foes… serving the lusts of the flesh… serving the ways of the world…
• I Cor. 9:27 – the diligent believer will bring his body under subjection to God and not be ruled by his body… this whole context is about the diligence required to run the race.
• II Pet. 1:5-9 – How do we “keep sharp” spiritually? By honing our spiritual skills… keeping them sharp by diligent practice.

24b But the slothful shall be under tribute

1. Slothful: lax; slack; lazy; (the term is usually translated “deceit or guile”)… but either slothful or slack in Proverbs.

a. Prov. 10:4 – He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand: (same word as slothful).

b. Perhaps the idea here is that the lazy or slothful worker PRETENDS like he is doing his work…
• He tries to deceive others into thinking that he is working hard… when in fact he’s hardly working!
• He does his job with eyeservice… only when the boss is watching.
• The slothful worker isn’t a SMART worker. It is quite foolish to PRETEND like you are working when you are not.

c. You will NOT be productive… and sooner or later that will be noticed…

d. And your lack of productivity will be the cause of a lack of promotion… a lack of a raise… or even a loss of a job.

e. Being a Christian does not necessarily mean a person is a sharp, diligent, smart worker. I have met some Christian sloths whom I would never hire.
• Some unsaved folks put believers to shame in this area.
• And, this is part of our testimony in the world!
• A poor worker in the workplace is a poor testimony for the Lord.

2. The slothful worker shall be under tribute…

a. The slothful worker will NOT advance…

b. The slothful worker will do just the opposite… he will not rise to the top, but will find himself on the bottom.

c. Under tribute: forced service, serfdom, tribute…
• The NIV translates it “slave labor”
• The NKJV translate it “forced labor”

d. Prov. 22:7 – the rich rule over the poor; and the borrower is servant to the lender.
• Other proverbs indicate that the diligent tends to gather wealth and the slothful ends up poor.
• Hence, the diligent man who works hard and smart and gathers wealth will bear rule over the slothful man who does not work hard or smart…
• The slothful man will find himself with no money…borrowing money… spending more than he makes… and thus becoming a “slave” to his credit card company… or the bank…, etc.

e. And note that Solomon states NOTHING about ability here.
• It is not so much inspiration but perspiration that results in great advances.
• Solomon states that a slothful man will be on the bottom… whether he’s talented or not.
• You may have great intelligence, but if you are lazy—you will not succeed.
• Another person with much less talent, ability, or intelligence, but who is DILIGENT—and just keeps plodding along… will do well in life.
• The hot shot know-it-all who thinks he’s so smart he doesn’t have to do his work… will find to his dismay the truth of this passage.