Proverbs 20:4

The Sluggard


The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold

1. Sluggard defined:

a. A person who is slow to take any action, suggesting a lack of discipline or initiative; it suggests a moral failure.

b. A person who is habitually lazy and inactive, because of a lack of initiative.

c. This is one of the personalities we have seen several times in Proverbs so far.

d. We have seen him in chapters, 6, 10, 13, 15, and 19.

e. He will be seen several more times after this chapter too.

f. The sluggard is mentioned often in proverbs because it is a common problem among men… women… and children.

2. Solomon highlights one more characteristic of the sluggard here: he refuses to plow when it’s time to plow.

a. The cold, rainy season in this part of the world is the time when the fields need to be plowed.

b. The cold rainy season isn’t ideal, but it IS the time to plow. That is the only opportunity he has.

c. If you wait until the cold, rainy season is over, it might be more comfortable outside to plow, but it’s too late.

d. By then, the window of opportunity is over. You won’t have time for your crops to grow.

e. Some jobs have to be done when they have to be done.

3. This sluggard makes excuses for his laziness: it’s too cold outside to plow today!

a. Sluggards come up with all kinds of excuses.

b. When the heart is not in the work, the slightest problem will be seen as a hindrance to DO the work.

c. The same is true in the work of the Lord too. If your heart is not in it, almost anything becomes an excuse not to do it…

d. A minor headache will keep you away from the chore… two snowflakes will keep you away… the slightest difficulty is enough to convince a person who doesn’t WANT to work that he should stay home.

e. Prov. 22:13 – There is a lion without! I can’t work today. It’s too dangerous.

f. A lazy man doesn’t really need a GOOD excuse. Any old excuse will do.

g. The sluggard in chapter 20:4 uses the weather as an excuse… but it really isn’t an excuse.

h. Actually, when the cold season comes there, it was actually God’s reminder to them that it is TIME to get out and plow!

i. When the cold, rainy season begins, that was nature’s alarm clock that it was now time to get out and plow…

j. Everyone else got out and plowed. All the other farmers knew what the cold, rainy season meant.

k. And all the other farmers took advantage of this season.

4. This is a major thrust in this proverb: Wisdom demands that we take advantage of opportunities while the window is open… for it may soon be shut.

a. Col. 4:5 – They redeemed the time… walk in wisdom—redeem the time.

b. There is a connection between wisdom and taking advantage of opportunities. That’s what wisdom does!

c. Prov. 6:6 – Laziness is a lack of wisdom… (Not even as wise as an ant!) A refusal to employ wisdom.

d. There is a direct connection between wisdom and diligence.

e. It is wise to be diligent and redeem the time.

f. It is foolish to be lazy and let opportunities slip away.

g. And yes, the farmers in Prov. 20:4 got wet out there in the fields. And they got cold too.

h. But they didn’t complain… and they didn’t use that as an excuse NOT to get to work.

i. They chose instead to bite the bullet, go out in the cold rain, and DO what had to be done. That’s wisdom.

j. What the lazy sluggard did was a foolish waste of time and opportunity.

k. Prov. 26:16 – Fools THINK they are wise.
• When all the other farmers were out getting cold and wet plowing their fields, the sluggard was sitting at home before a warm fire.
• There in the comfort of his home he thought to himself: “Those men are fools! I’m the wise one. I’ll wait until the cold, rainy season is over before I plow.”
• Lazy fools always think they are smarter than everyone else.

l. BUT—In postponing the plowing season would prove to be too late to reap a bountiful harvest.

5. Conditions in the cold rain were not ideal.

a. But the diligent workers didn’t live in an idyllic, dream world. They lived in the REAL world.

b. And conditions are not always ideal in the real world. In fact, conditions are hardly ever ideal in the real world.

c. So although the wise, diligent farmers would have much preferred warmer, drier weather, they knew that the cold, rainy season was the time to plow… so they plowed.

d. The lazy sluggard wasn’t living in the real world. He was living in an imaginary world of his own making… a dream world… which was really a slothful, lazy, and morally reprehensible world!

e. And when harvest time came, he would only be able to DREAM about a bountiful crop!

f. His lazy dreams would not feed his family.

6. And once the diligent farmers got their work done, they felt good about it.

a. They slept well that night. They knew that the prep work was done for a bountiful crop when the warmer weather came.
• There is a sense of satisfaction that comes from a job well done.
• Don’t you feel good when you finally decide to tackle a job you have been putting off… and once the job is finally done, you feel good about it.
• It is a burden off your mind. There is a sense of relief… and a sense of accomplishment…
• It feels good to check things off the TO DO list… especially the things you’re not too crazy about doing.
• The diligent farmers felt good about having their fields all plowed and ready for sowing.

b. Prov. 26:14 – But the sluggard could NOT sleep well.
• He tossed and turned all night like a door on its hinges…
• He knew deep down inside, that he lost his opportunity for a good crop… and he felt bad about it.
• Perhaps he was now thinking, “I wish I had plowed today. I should have…”
• He was probably worried about going hungry next season…
• His conscience bothered him and kept him awake at night because he KNEW that he should have been out there plowing like his neighbors were doing.
• So while his diligent neighbors were laboring hard all during the day—he was lounging comfortably at home in his favorite, well worn chair.
• But that night, while the diligent workers were sleeping like babies… he was tossing and turning…
• He tossed and turned like a door because his guilty conscience bothered him… he was full of fear and anxiety for the future… he worried about what he would feed his family…

c. On the other hand, the diligent workers knew they could look forward to reaping the fruit of their labors in a few months.
• They knew that you reap what you sow… AND that you can only sow the fields that have been plowed.
• They put two and two together… and the answer was clear: it’s time to plow. If I don’t plow, I won’t be able to sow… and if I don’t sow, I won’t reap.
• The diligent farmers probably didn’t like the cold rain any more than the sluggard.
• But the diligent farmers never even entertained the thought of not plowing. They knew that the job had to be done—so they did it.
• In the cold, rainy season, there was a big difference between the diligent farmers and the sluggard.
» The sluggard invented excuses not to plow: it’s too cold out!
» The diligent workers didn’t invent excuses like the sluggard. They got up and out and did the work.

Therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing

1. Here is another difference between the two…

a. This difference isn’t seen until harvest time.

b. In the time of harvest, the diligent farmer has plenty of fruit.

c. The sluggard is reduced to begging. He has nothing.

d. He DID nothing… so he HAS nothing.

e. He didn’t plow, so he couldn’t sow, and therefore he didn’t reap.

f. There was no surprise here.

g. This was something that he SHOULD have been foreseen. This event was entirely predictable.

h. Prov. 19:15 – Slothfulness casteth into a deep sleep; and an idle soul shall suffer hunger.

i. And therefore, it was very FOOLISH.

2. There is also an element of morality involved here.

a. In time of harvest he was begging food from others.

b. In other words, he expected those who worked hard to feed him… and perhaps his family.

c. It is WRONG for a man who is able to work and chooses NOT to work, to expect others to provide food for him.

d. II Thess. 3:10 – if a man WILL not work, neither should he eat.
• The emphasis here is on WILL not.
• Men who are willing to work but for some reason beyond their control they are unable to do so should not go hungry.
• That’s where Christian charity comes in.
• If we can we should FEED that man. Don’t send that man away hungry.

e. But it is not right to feed the sluggard. That will only encourage his laziness. It is rewarding bad behavior.

f. That only exacerbates the problem and it sets a terrible example. Other sluggards will observe and discover that if they are lazy, they too will be rewarded with handouts. Why plow?

g. It IS right to let them go hungry. That is God’s method of curing the sluggard: hunger! Pain… maybe homelessness… cold…

h. Those who give to the sluggards of the world THINK that they are showing compassion to them.

i. In fact, they are part of the problem. Those handouts are BREEDING more sluggards and perpetuating the problem.

j. As cold as it might seem at first, it is best to let them go without… let them go hungry.

3. Prov. 13:4 – He will desire to have, but will have nothing.

a. And once again, he has made a miserable life for himself.

b. He now sits around and observes others enjoying their plenty… and he sits in need… wishing… dreaming… and empty.

c. And once again, when his neighbors are sleeping like babies… he is tossing and turning on his bed… only now on top of his guilt and anxiety is hunger.

d. The sluggard has a miserable life.

e. Solomon has warned us well here.

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