Proverbs 13:4

The Sluggard and the Diligent Worker


1. This is a theme mentioned often in Proverbs.

2. We just saw this principle in the last chapter: 12:24

3. Each time the principle occurs, it appears with a slightly different emphasis.

4. In 12:24, the emphasis was on the relationship between diligence bearing rule—or slothfulness and being under tribute.

5. In 13:4 the emphasis is on the SOUL of man.

6. The principle of diligence vs. sloth is the same—but applied to different areas of life.

4a The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing…

1. The SOUL: self; person; appetite; mind; desire; emotion; passion; the inner longings; the inner life of a man, woman, or child.

2. All human beings have a soul.

a. Hence, all men have thoughts, desires, wishes, passions in life, inner longings…

b. Male or female… rich or poor… old or young… diligent or lazy… all people have a soul… complete with a full list of longings and desires.

3. SLUGGARD: used 14 times in the Old Testament, translated “slothful” 8 times; and sluggard 6 times. (used only in Proverbs)

a. Means: lazy; sluggish; slothful.

b. This speaks of the man or woman who has a lot of chores to do, but somehow never gets around to it.

c. This is the person whose motto is: never do today what you can put off until tomorrow.

d. This is the person who always has an excuse for not doing the chores he ought to be doing. (I’m too tired; it looks like rain; my back hurts; there’s a lion in the street—22:13)

e. This is the person who loves his/her sleep. (Prov. 6:9)

f. This is the person who always tries to leave the work for others.

g. Maynard G. Krebs: he could never get himself to say the word “work.” He always had to spell it.

h. This is the person who always says “That’s not my job!” That’s someone else’s responsibility.

i. This is the person who is always “overwhelmed” by the mountain of work he has to do, and hence, never attempts to tackle it… and his mountain just keeps piling up.

j. This is the person who seems to find plenty of time to do the things he WANTS to do… fun and games… pleasure seeking… sitting on the sofa watching TV… sleeping… sipping lemonade under a shady tree and watching the clouds go by…

k. But for work, he never seems to find the time.

l. Is that you? I hope not!

4. He ends up with NOTHING.

a. Prov. 20:4 – he is too lazy to plant a garden… and when harvest time comes, he has nothing.

b. He had his usual excuses (It was too cold to plow!)

c. But somehow his neighbors managed to work in the cold. His neighbors ended up with a good crop. He ended up with nothing.

d. You reap what you sow. If you DON’T sow, you won’t reap. You will end up with nothing.

e. The man that is too lazy to mow and care for his lawn won’t have a nice lawn.

f. The man who is too lazy to paint his house won’t have an attractive looking house.

g. The student that is too lazy to his/her homework and study for the test will have NOTHING—none of the colleges you apply to will accept you. Other kids who worked hard will have some letters of acceptance… but not you.

h. The housewife who is too lazy to clean the house will live in a mess. Other families will have a neat, clean, attractive home, but she won’t.

i. The office worker who is lazy and always puts off doing his work will have nothing when it comes time for a raise or a promotion. Others will… but he won’t. In fact, he may not even have a job! He may end up with nothing.

5. But the real tragedy Solomon describes here is his “soul’s desire.”

a. DESIRETH: desire; incline; covet; crave; wait longingly; wish; lust; to be greedy; prefer.
• The sluggard will WANT all these things… but will not have them.

b. It would be one thing if a person could be lazy and happy… a slothful person and content.

c. But here, Solomon states that there is no such thing.

d. Lazy people are unhappy people.
• They live in a vicious circle…
• They don’t do their work… and the pile gets bigger and bigger… overwhelming…
• They develop a defeatist attitude…
• Some become depressed.
• Jay Adams suggests strongly that in cases of depression that the counselor dig deeply into this area of work ethic…
• Very often the person is depressed because he doesn’t do his work—and feels lousy about it—guilty—overwhelmed—like a failure—
• Solomon says that the SOUL of the sluggard is not at rest… there are insatiable desires that cause him to be down in the dumps… or worse!

e. Lazy people DESIRE things that others have… and those desires are never satisfied. That’s their real punishment!
• The lazy man will not have… but will DESIRE to have!
• He will lust after things that other hard working people have…
• He will crave for the good things others possess…
• He will jealousy eye what others have and will long on the inside for them…but will have nothing.
• Prov. 20:4 – says he will reduced to BEGGING…

f. We have a problem with homelessness in our country.
• There are some who are homeless through no fault of their own… but they are a minority.
• Most are there either because of addiction or laziness—and usually it is a combination of the two.
• They drink or drug because they are too lazy to go to school or to go to work…
• This is not politically correct speech, but it is an accurate and biblical description of fallen human nature.

g. Do you think that the bums who sleep on park benches are happy and content? Think again!

h. This verse tells us that they have souls. Their souls have desires. And those desires are NEVER ever fulfilled.

i. They DESIRE… they WISH they had a nice, warm, clean place to go home to at night… but they have nothing.

j. And it is RIGHT that he should have nothing.

k. If a man will not work, neither should he eat! (II Thess. 3:10)
• I know it sounds cruel—but this is a GOOD thing.
• It is good that lazy people go hungry.
• God has designed this HUNGER as a motivation to get up and work!
• If there are no consequences to laziness—and if people could be content being lazy—the homeless problem would be FAR worse.

l. This is God’s design: a built in consequence to laziness: hunger; having nothing; desires and an inner longing that is never satisfied.
• God won’t let people be content with laziness.
• God makes life miserable for them… until they come to their senses and repent… and get up and go to work and make something of themselves!
• We do lazy people no favor by reducing the consequences of their laziness… and giving them something for free… without having to work for it.
• Some folks think the Protestant work ethic is cruel. I disagree. I think the welfare system is cruel. It may be well meaning… but knowing human nature—it is an awful thing to inflict upon a people.

6. Prov. 26:14 – one of the built in consequences of laziness is an uneasy spirit.

a. The slothful man is like a door on hinges in his bed at night.

b. The door swings back and forth… which pictures a man who tosses and turns at night.

c. The lazy man does not get a good night’s rest at night.

d. Perhaps because he was lazy and slept during the day…

e. Perhaps in part because of a guilty conscience…

f. Perhaps because his soul is being eaten away in jealousy… he wishes he had what others had… but he has nothing…

g. Perhaps because he was hungry and couldn’t sleep…

h. Perhaps a combination of several of the above…

i. But for whatever reason, he tosses and turns back and forth… like a door on hinges…

j. An uneasy spirit is the result of slothfulness…

k. A hard working man sleeps like a baby. That’s his reward. You don’t know what a blessing that is until you can’t sleep at night!

4b But the soul of the diligent shall be made fat.

1. In contrast to the sluggard who shirks his responsibilities to work… and consequently ends up with nothing but an unfulfilled, unsatisfied soul… the soul of the diligent man is made FAT.

2. FAT: to be fat; become fat – it speaks of becoming prosperous.

a. In those days, poor people were usually thin… and wealthy people were fat. (Ancient kings were often fat: they had servants to do all their work, and they could eat all they wanted… read about Solomon’s table!)

b. It evidently did not have the stigma that our culture puts on it. (In the days before people had to worry about cholesterol levels or heart disease…)

c. Fat is meant in a good sense here –
• It speaks of prospering… doing well…
• The context indicates that it also speaks of being content…
• The lazy man has nothing and is unhappy—longing for what others have… discontent.
• But the hard worker is fat and happy! Content.
• This man can sleep at night.
• This man or woman feels good about him/her self.
• A job well done carries a certain amount of built-in gratification… satisfaction. This is the way it should be.
• Prov. 12:11 – The hard worker is satisfied.
• Just as the guilt and uneasy spirit, and unfulfilled desires are the built in penalty for laziness, so too this sense of gratification and accomplishment are the reward for hard work.

3. There is nothing like tackling a big job that has been weighing heavy on your shoulders… doing a good job at… and getting it finished to bring about a sense of accomplishment… fulfilled desires… satisfaction.

a. Have you been down in the dumps lately? Maybe slothfulness is the problem!

b. Try cleaning out your cellar… fixing up the yard… paint the house… clean the refrigerator… straighten out that messy closet that’s driving you crazy… tackle a big job that you have been avoiding… and get it done!

c. It feels good to get things done…

d. And if you are overwhelmed with a MULTITUDE of such jobs to do—just tackle one at a time… and do it… and then go on to the next one.

e. The progress will be rewarding…

f. It might even cause you to lose weight—and that is not a contradiction to the passage. The point of the verse is CONTENTMENT… not weight!

• Being a “sharp” worker (diligent; smart) is a GOOD thing in the Scriptures. (12:24)

• Gen. 2:15 – In God’s perfect environment, man was made to work.
• Gen. 3:23 – and after the fall, God STILL expected man to work.
• These 2 passages speak of the MAN working.
• But the virtuous woman in Prov. 31 is also described as a sharp and diligent hard worker.
• Advancing is GOOD—as long as it occurs from the right motives and by the right methods.
• Here Solomon tells us what the right METHODS ought to be: hard work… and smart work—sharpening one’s tools; keeping sharp.
• Solomon says that the sharp worker bears rule… he’s on top… the slothful man is on the bottom.
• And this is stated about the sharp worker in a GOOD sense here.