Proverbs 14:23

Labor vs. Talk


1. This proverb deals with a theme that occurs often in Proverbs: laziness vs. diligence.

2. Every passage that deals with the subject brings out a slightly different shade of meaning… or looks at the subject from a different perspective.

3. Here, Solomon makes a contrast in this proverb—between labor and talk… the hands vs. the mouth… practice vs. theory… diligence vs. laziness…

23a In all labour there is profit:

a. This includes all labor of the head (studies).

• There is profit in laboring mentally: reading; studying; observing; investigating; researching; inventing; writing.
• Students don’t always SEE the profit of their studies in the immediate… and might question this principle.
• What good is studying algebra? Why bother studying Spanish? Latin? What profit is there in learning science? I’m not going to be a scientist!
• The profit is not always seen or appreciated in the immediate… but there IS profit in it all.
• Even if the subject matter itself is not exactly in line with your career path, the discipline involved is good! Stretching yourself mentally is profitable… thinking in ways you would not otherwise have thought is profitable.

b. There is profit in all labor of the hands too (manual labor):
• Building; painting; cleaning; raking; mowing; fixing; repairing; manufacturing; washing; sculpting, practicing music; art; carpentry; landscaping; drafting.
• Therefore, whatever your hands do, do it with all your might! (Ecc. 9:10) Do the work now… and the benefits of it will be enjoyed now. When you’re dead, all opportunity is over.
• Usually, laboring with one’s hands produces concrete results and usually faster than labor of the head.
• But sometimes, laboring with one’s hands seems useless: why do I have to practice the same music scale 300 times? I remember the nuns making us fill both sides of lined papers with thousands of circles in penmanship class. It did help. Though I hated it—it was profitable.
• ALL labor is profitable.

2. Profit: superiority; abundance, plenty.

a. In all labor on a musical instrument there is profit (superior skills gained) Practice makes perfect.

b. Labor produces ABUNDANCE. Much good, hard, labor in the fields produces an abundant crop…

c. 10:4 – the hand of the diligent maketh rich.
• Of course, time and chance affect everything.
• But all things being equal—diligence results in prosperity… in any area.

d. 12:11 – he that tilleth his land shall be satisfied with bread.
• Who gets the best crop? The farmer who tills his field, or the farmer who TALKS about tilling his field?
• Which farmer is satisfied at harvest time?
• Whose wife and kids will be the most pleased?
• Young girls: when looking for a husband, don’t forget this important trait. Is he hard working? Or is he a mere talker? Be careful. If you marry a lazy bum, he’s yours for the rest of your life!
• Young men: looking for a wife? Don’t forget this trait either. Remember, Paul warns that women who are lazy, sit around the house doing nothing but gossiping and being a busybody. That makes for a lousy wife. You have been warned!
• He that is hard working and tills his field will be satisfied—and so will his family be satisfied. The sluggard and his family will be quite UNsatisfied!

e. 12:24 – the hand of the diligent shall bear rule.
• The diligent man will get ahead. He will be on top and not on the bottom… a ruler not a subject…
• This too is the profit of hard work—getting ahead in life. And here it is seen in a good light.
• The diligent man stays on top of his finances. He RULES his financial life. It does not rule him.
• The lazy man spends on credit cards and is a SLAVE to the credit cards.

f. 21:5 – the thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness.
• Note here that Solomon is describing a diligent man.
• This diligent man also THINKS. He plans. He even talks and discusses.
• BUT—his thoughts and dreams and talk are not the end of it. He is diligent and puts those thoughts into ACTION.
• He thinks and then he works. That is a powerful combination.
• By the way, this proverb is not disparaging talk.
• It is not that the diligent do NOT talk; or plan; or discuss things.
• They do. But in ADDITION to their talk is diligence; hard work.
• The result is plenty… profit… abundance.
• The sluggard on the other hand talks and dreams, but doesn’t WORK. It never gets beyond the talk stage.

3. Ecc. 1:3 – Solomon here seems to contradict the proverb.

a. The difference: in Proverbs, Solomon is looking at labor from an earthly vantage point…

b. In Ecclesiastes, he is looking at a broader picture of life. (What profit is it to work hard, gain much earthly profit, and then die and leave it all behind!? Especially if you go to hell!)

c. In Ecclesiastes, Solomon looks at life “under the sun”—as if this life is all there is. If that is the case, then our labors are in vain… all is vanity…

d. Hence, Ecclesiastes is a bit more reflective of life than some of the proverbs. Both are true, but from a different vantage point.

e. So don’t take this proverb to lengths God never intended. This does not justify being a workaholic! Nor does it justify living for profit… living life just to strike it rich.

f. The proverb simply states a fact: hard work pays off.

g. This is an observation of life. No spiritual commentary is given here.

23b But the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury.

1. Talk of the lips: Solomon is not saying that talk is bad, evil, or wrong.

a. Rather, he is saying that talk ALONE is vain… it is MERE talk with no action that is spoken against here.

b. We say of this kind of man that he is all talk and no action.

c. Talk of the lips includes: promises; plans; wishes; dreams; boastings; theorizing; philosophizing; (one of these days I’m going to get around to that…

d. Faith without works is dead.

e. So is talk without works dead…useless… empty…

f. Talk is not bad… but if that’s all there is, it is VAIN.

g. Anybody can SAY, “Be warmed and filled.” It is vain without deeds.

h. Talking about all of our good intentions won’t ever get the job done.

2. Matt. 21:28-31 – one boy SAID he would do the work, but did not DO. That kind of an attitude will lead to poverty in every realm… spiritually and in his earthly life.

a. Oh yeah, I’ll take out the garbage…

b. I’ll clean my room…

c. I’ll paint the fence later…

d. I’ll do my homework tomorrow… and tomorrow comes and there is another excuse…and the homework never gets done.

e. It is easy to SAY I’ll do the work. It is another thing to actually DO it.

3. We ought to be careful about the PROMISES we make with our mouths… if we are unable to keep them.

a. Businesses promise service but never produce.

b. We promise to help someone—and never follow through.

c. We promise to do a chore—and a year later it is still not done.

d. Promises don’t help anyone. They don’t get the job done.

4. Talking when you are supposed to be working is wasting valuable time.

a. Sorry boss, we didn’t have time to get to that today. Maybe tomorrow… (when you wasted time talking and goofing off).

b. As Christians, we need to be careful of our testimony at work. If we are constantly talking, we are a poor testimony. The company didn’t hire you to sit around and talk all day.

c. Students can waste valuable time talking in school… time you COULD have used to get your homework done… or to do more thorough studying for a test… wasted on idle chatter.

d. Talking can be means of procrastinating.
• You know a job needs doing, so you gab until it’s too late to begin the project. Mañana!
• Some workers talk in order to LOOK busy… so that someone else has to do the work.

e. Acts 17:21 – the Athenians earned a reputation for doing nothing other than talking about every new thing that came along… (seems to be stated in a negative sense—not highlighting their intellectual curiosity, but rather their idle chatter…).

5. Talk tends to penury: poverty; need; lack; wants.

a. Talk without work leads to poverty… unmet needs… wants…

b. Prov.13:4 – the soul of the sluggard DESIRETH, and hath nothing.
• He has a desire for the profit… but is not willing to work.
• He just TALKS about how nice it would be… how lucky others are who have it… how unfair it is that he doesn’t… etc…
• 21:25 – his unfulfilled desires KILL him! He starves…

c. 28:19 – following VAIN people results in poverty… those engaged in vain, empty talk…
• Notice that persons is italicized.
• It could refer to following vain people: or vain pursuits; following emptiness; chasing air bubbles…
• Following vanity is in contrast to tilling the land (doing your work!)
• This results in poverty. Be careful who you pick for friends… are THEY following vanity? If you follow them, YOU will be following vanity!
• And that does not lead to a prosperous life… it leads to poverty.
• You may think the guys hanging around the mall… or hanging around the corner are cool… but what are they pursuing in life? Hang around with them, and that will be YOUR pursuit in life too…
• And the same is true for us adults too. Following vain things results in poverty… both materially and spiritually.

d. Prov. 21:5 – those who are HASTY end up poor too… taking the quick and easy route…
• Hasty: a careless one who makes hasty decisions and actions without thinking them through.
• Hasty to get rich… wants to make it in life the quick and easy way…without doing the work… without doing his homework… by cutting as many corners as he can… without doing the research…
• The diligent thinker does well. The lazy non-thinker does poorly… and will suffer want.
• There is no free lunch… no easy, painless, labor-less way to succeed in life.
• The same is true spiritually too! Doing well in the spiritual realm requires effort on our part too. “Give all diligence” to add virtue to your life!

Application to our spiritual lives:

1. Those who LABOR in their spiritual lives will be profited spiritually. (II Pet. 1:5-7)
• There is spiritual PROFIT in the effort we put into prayer; reading the Word; evangelizing; ministering to the brethren; service; etc.
• The profit may not be noticed in this life, but will be rewarded in the life to come.
• Heb.6:10-11- God does not forget.
• In ALL labor there is profit—especially laboring in the spiritual realm… labor to enter into His rest! There is profit in that!

2. Those whose faith is nothing more than TALK will be exposed. That kind of faith doesn’t save!
• And even true believers who TALK about walking with God and TALK about serving God and do not DO what He says are building with wood, hay, and stubble…
• But the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury. If we only TALK about God and spiritual things, and are not DOING… and LIVING them… we will be spiritually poor!