I have been trekking through Proverbs in my personal devotions this past month. The book of Proverbs was chiefly given to help parents train their children, especially fathers and sons. Since work is one of the most substantial areas of adulthood, it is no surprise that many of the proverbs give advice on work—who it is really for, how it is to be done, and how to cope with challenges when others do not do what they say. Here I want to draw out a few key thoughts of godly wisdom as applied to work.
All these proverbs should be taken together. It is possible to overextend a proverb and bend it into something foolish. Wisdom is the ability to weigh principles in the balance and to know which one carries the most weight in a given situation.
1. Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed. (Proverbs 15:22)
It is easy to feel that checking out our ideas with others slows down the process. Additionally, no one likes to get their ideas torpedoed by realities they have not considered. However, the cost of adjusting, improving or even scrapping a plan is much cheaper in the preliminary stages. This act of pursuing wise advisers is a humble step that can save much grief in the long run.
2. With all labor there is profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. (Proverbs 14:23)
My friend and former employer used to say, ‘Anything will work if you will.’ They are basically the same sentiment—that we can often formulate great ideas, but they fail for lack of execution. Some people fail to plan. Others are endlessly planning. We need to avoid the tempting ‘paralysis by analysis ’ that can get us stuck and cause us to fail by never beginning.
3. Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox. (Proverbs 14:4)
Relationships are messy. Working together creates problems, which then have to be cleaned up. The point of this proverb is that it is worth the trouble. While it is tempting to want to settle for a simple and quiet life without all the hassles that people provide, it is precisely by persevering through those hassles that the most wonderful things come.
Putting It Together
So how does wisdom come together? Consider the mission of Jesus. Jesus formed a plan of redemption in counsel with the Father to rescue humanity. (John 17:4-5) At the proper time He implemented the plan by becoming a man and entered into a broken world. (Galatians 4:4) He loved us and endured great opposition in order to redeem men. It has been and continues to be a mess, but Jesus, ‘for the joy set before Him, scorned the shame of the cross and sat down at the right hand of God.’ (Hebrews 12:2) The wisdom of the Proverbs carried out in the plan of redemption gives us the hope that our labors are not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58). So then, as the proverbs advise, we can seek counsel, get to work, and trust that if we labor for God and His glory, the final outcome will outweigh all the trouble we are now experiencing.
‘In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’ (John 16:33)