How Not to Disgrace Your Folks


I chose to hunker down in the book of Proverbs for 2013. The wisdom promised as a result motivates me. Anything considered more valuable than jewels and incomparable to anything else I may desire (Prov. 8:11), that I want to acquire in greater quantities.

Recently I progressed in my reading to Proverbs 10, the second table of Solomon’s writings. The wise king’s starting place intrigued me. In one respect, it did not surprise. By and large this book of the Bible exists for young people and their benefit. Just read the first table in chapters one through nine to see quickly what I mean.

In the second table, where the writer moves on to a wide variety of proverbial sayings, he focuses on wisdom as it applies to a son or daughter from a unique perspective. He considers the prospect of a youth’s choices in terms of their impact for good or for ill on the parents. Here’s the text:

A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother. 2 Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit, but righteousness delivers from death. 3 The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry, but he thwarts the craving of the wicked. 4 A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. 5 He who gathers in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame.

Now take it from a father who knows. Parents can do all kinds of things to bring shame on their kids. That’s a different post. This article deals with the other side of the equation. And make no mistake about it, Mr. Middle or High School student, your choices can have enormous ramifications on the Ma and Pa’s psyche. You should care about that. Check out the fifth commandment if you think otherwise. If you turn out wise, you make them glad. If you go the way of a  shipwrecked fool, you bring sorrow and shame. Which do you want? Settle the matter early. Choices you make today impact the kind of person you become tomorrow.

Please note the acid test Solomon immediately goes to in terms of measuring a youth’s wisdom or folly quotient – his or her approach to wealth. No surprise here. Jesus said you can’t serve God and money (Matt. 6:24). As my sidekick in ministry likes to say: time and money tell all. What you do with your time and your money reflects the idols of your heart. The heart always worships what it desires most. Never, never, never, dear teenager, doubt the significance of your disposition toward the almighty dollar.


Solomon cites two virtues related to wealth and its accumulation  that, embraced by the child of a parent (presumably wise as well), will ensure a glad-hearted  response on the part of that parent – integrity and industry. Kids, you can fall off the horse in at least two directions in this money thing. First, you can resort to evil in the name of making a profit. Good luck with that. Deception, fraud, embezzlement, or any other wicked means to line your pocket with Benjamins will not help you on the day you die – only righteousness will. God is not mocked. You sow what you reap (Gal. 6:6-10). Think I heard that preached somewhere recently.


Second, you can care less about acquiring wealth by perfecting the art of laziness. The writer talks about summer and harvest and the like because that connected with the way folks made their living those days in an agricultural society. You can make the jump on your own to our industrial/service age. The issues don’t differ. Diligence is a virtue. As a rule, it makes one wealthy (Prov. 13:4). The Hebrew word for “diligent” is used in Isaiah 41:15 of a threshing instrument that winnows grain well because of its sharpness. Sloth makes you dull. It will lead to poverty. Industry, hard work, showing up on time at your place of employment, laboring hard throughout the day, giving 110% effort – these things, because of your prudence, will see you well taken care of AND make your folks proud rather than ashamed.

So, what’s it going to be? Integrity or shadiness? Industry or sloth? Death or life? It’s not the most important aspect of these questions by a long shot, but it still matters. The difference in your choices will make for deliriously happy parents or dreadfully sad ones. Determine by God’s grace and the power of the gospel of Jesus to do all you can for the former.

Hope for the Lazy Man

One of our Oxford Club brothers sent me an intriguing article on the gospel and responsibility.

The author shows how the gospel can make a difference in one’s motivations when it comes to work of all kinds.

For example:

God’s action to save the world was born out of His love for the world. The lazy man will have a hard time loving others rightly if he does not understand how he has been loved. He must be affected and empowered by love before he can genuinely and energetically love others. Otherwise, his love will be various forms of self-interest. Until a man has been changed by the Gospel he will not be able to model the Gospel in his life. Rather than being motivated by the Gospel he will be motivated by behavioralism. He may do good deeds, but he has not been rightly affected at the level of his motivations. For example, the Gospel-centered man gets up in the morning and says, “I get to serve God today because He is happy with me.” The behavioristic man gets up in the morning and says, “I have to serve God today so He will be happy with me.” The former is motivated by love, while the latter is motivated by either guilt, fear, shame, duty, or self-interest.

Check it out by clicking on here.

And brothers, hope to see you tomorrow!

Hustle & Give in the Workplace

Richard D. Phillips makes a strong case in his book The Masculine Mandate for industry as part of a Christian man’s godly identity.

In chapter three, Man’s Sacred Calling to Work, he writes:

In our fallen world, shadowed by the curse of death and futility, we either work hard or our families suffer. According to the book of Proverbs, industry is an essential characteristic that men should cultivate: “A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich” (Prov. 10:4): “Whoever is slothful will not roast his game, but the diligent man will get precious wealth” (Prov. 12:27). Yet I sometimes hear pastors or Christian psychologists tell men they should never be late for dinner or have to travel away from home for work. I disagree. It’s true that men should not pursue their work so single-mindedly that family duties are excluded or consistently compromised. But in our fallen world, men have an obligation to hustle and give their all in the workplace–and this may involve some late nights and business trips. Of all men, Christians should work especially hard, giving more than an honest day’s work for a day’s wage (p. 19).

This Saturday morning from 7 AM to 9 AM at the church office we will continue our discussion of Phillips’ book in this very chapter. To access the pdf study guide click on The Masculine Mandate – SG #3. Remember to bring your own breakfast.

We’re still getting started in this new resource, so don’t hesitate to join us if this might be your first time!

A Needed Fork in the Eye

Once again tomorrow my Tuesday early-morning prayer group will dive into C. J. Mahaney’s convicting article on biblical productivity.

Thus far we have wrestled with the hindrances to biblical productivity (procrastination, laziness, and the tendencies of the sluggard). Now we get to consider practical helps toward the end of becoming more diligent, faithful, and fruitful in our lives and ministries.

Mahaney prescribes three things to achieve biblical productivity:

  1. define one’s present God-given roles
  2. determine specific, theologically informed goals
  3. transfer goals into one’s schedule

This means planning. Some of us would rather stick a fork in our eye than do any kind of planning, but Mahaney insists on the absolute necessity of this discipline if we are to be productive.

The problem for those of us with this fork-in-the-eye approach to planning is that during each day the most urgent requests will compete with and distract from the most important goals and priorities of our lives. Each day the number of requests we receive normally outnumber the time allotted for the day. My experience confirms that if I fail to attack my week with theologically informed planning, my week attacks me with an onslaught of the urgent. And I end up devoting more time to the urgent than the important. And at the end of the week there is a low-grade guilt and dissatisfaction in my soul, because I’ve neglected to do the truly important stuff. I want to have as few weeks like this as possible in whatever time remains for me to serve the Savior. I’m thinking you do as well.

I do indeed. Do you? Stay tuned for more, or better yet, read the article for yourself!

An Expanded Definition of Laziness

Tomorrow morning following intercession our staff and weekly prayer group will gather around the breakfast table and discuss, among other things, our ongoing reactions to C. J. Mahaney’s provocative article on biblical productivity.

For this week I assigned sections five through seven of the article for our consideration. I found the content on the neglected wealth of Proverbs, particularly as it applied to the repeated subject of the sluggard, especially convicting.

Mahaney attributes his reading of Dr. Derek Kidner’s commentary on Proverbs to contributing to what he calls movement from a narrow and limited understanding of laziness to an expanded definition of the subject.

Here are the words from Dr. Kidner’s commentary that did the trick:

“The sluggard in Proverbs is a figure of tragi-comedy, with his sheer animal laziness (he is more than anchored to his bed: he is hinged to it, 26:14), his preposterous excuses (“there is a lion outside!” 26:13; 22:13) and his final helplessness.

(1) He will not begin things. When we ask him (6:9, 10) “How long…?” “When…?”, we are being too definite for him. He doesn’t know. All he knows is his delicious drowsiness; all he asks is a little respite: “a little…a little…a little…”. He does not commit himself to a refusal, but deceives himself by the smallness of his surrenders. So, by inches and minutes, his opportunity slips away.

(2) He will not finish things. The rare effort of beginning has been too much; the impulse dies. So his quarry goes bad on him (12:27) and his meal goes cold on him (19:24; 26:15).

(3) He will not face things.
He comes to believe his own excuses (perhaps there is a lion out there, 22:13), and to rationalize his laziness; for he is “wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason” (26:16). Because he makes a habit of the soft choice (he “will not plow by reason of the cold,” 20:4) his character suffers as much as his business, so that he is implied in 15:19 to be fundamentally dishonest…

(4) Consequently he is restless (13:4; 21:25, 26) with unsatisfied desire; helpless in face of the tangle of his affairs, which are like a “hedge of thorns” (15:19); and useless—expensively (18:9) and exasperatingly (10:26)—to any who must employ him…

The wise man will learn while there is time. He knows that the sluggard is no freak, but, as often as not, an ordinary man who has made too many excuses, too many refusals and too many postponements. It has all been as imperceptible, and as pleasant, as falling asleep.”

-Derek Kidner, Proverbs (IVP, 1964), pp. 42–43.

Anyone care for another muffin?

Busy But Lazy

Our staff and prayer group partners begin tomorrow morning to work through an excellent article by C. J. Mahaney entitled Biblical Productivity.

The author hits hard right out of the chute with his own personal realization at some point in his journey that just how often my busyness was an expression of laziness, not diligence.

That struck me as a most provocative notion. It also intrigued me as I qualify, I think, as a pretty busy person. It also scared me as I began reading knowing that the article would shine the light on my habits of schedule and work and perhaps reveal that I too might fall into the category of a hectic sluggard. Not a pleasant prospect.

Mahaney takes aim at sins of procrastination in this thoughtful, biblical, and practical article. He challenges the reader to examine the sins (pride, fear of others, laziness, pleasure seeking and escapism) that potentially lie behind not just being a procrastinator but also a work-around-er. That is to say we might actually buzz diligently around a room or office doing this or that, while the one thing most needing to be done sits unheeded in the middle of it. Underneath procrastination, says Mahaney, more than likely lies a sinful heart, not so much a busy schedule. Convicting stuff.

To make war on these sins, among other things, Mahaney keeps a copy of this quote by the Scottish preacher, Alexander MacLaren (1826–1910) posted under his computer monitor for daily reflection:

No unwelcome tasks become any the less unwelcome by putting them off till tomorrow. It is only when they are behind us and done, that we begin to find that there is a sweetness to be tasted afterwards, and that the remembrance of unwelcome duties unhesitatingly done is welcome and pleasant. Accomplished, they are full of blessing, and there is a smile on their faces as they leave us. Undone, they stand threatening and disturbing our tranquility, and hindering our communion with God. If there be lying before you any bit of work from which you shrink, go straight up to it, and do it at once. The only way to get rid of it is to do it.

I think the first thing I will do when I get into the office tomorrow morning is print out my own copy of this quote and post it at my work station. How about you?