Proverbs 12:27

Proverbs 12:27 "The slothful man roasteth not that which he took in hunting: but the substance of a diligent man is precious."
Proverbs 12:27 Christian Church Buffalo NY
If you think about it, it wouldn’t be hard to argue that time is our greatest challenge in life.  It impacts everything we do.  Time is the reason we get hungry.  Time is the reason we get tired.  Time is the reason we get old.  Because of sin, time is the now the reason we die.  Our morality is impacted by time as well.  Both patience as a virtue and impatience as a vice are directly defined by time.  Hope is measured by time and longsuffering is connected to time.  Because we know no other way and because God created us as creatures of time, it is hard to grasp what virtue or vice look like outside the bounds of time in eternity.  Fortunately, this proverb doesn’t require that mental stretch.  Time, however, is at the core of this proverb and its moral features.

As usual, Solomon gives us one picture with two characters and two very different character traits.  For the sake of imagining the picture Solomon is painting, let’s imagine that these two men are two neighboring patriarchs, both responsible to feed their families.  Skilled with bow and arrow, they both go out hunting in the fields behind their homes and both bring back a healthy deer.  One man brings his prize home and skins, cuts and roasts the meat while the other man brings his prize home and hangs it with the intention of aging the meat before roasting it.  While the deer is hanging, the hunter gets comfortable in his chair after a long day outside in the fresh air and falls asleep.  When he awakes, the idea of rising to butcher the deer and roast it exhausts him so he decides to cut his losses instead of cutting his animal.  Can you see the backyard of these men?  One yard has skin, bones and inedible scraps next to hot coals where meat has been cooked for consumption.  The other yard has the rotting carcass of an animal still hanging from a tree with no sign of fire or work.  This is the difference between a slothful man and a diligent man.  

Please note that both men took the time to track, hunt, kill and drag back an animal.  Neither man was lazy in the field.  Neither man lacked the work ethic “on the clock.”  The only difference between the two was what they did “after hours” with their time.  One man roasted his catch while the other failed to roast the animal he brought back.  How we view time determines what we do with it.  More importantly, how we view time develops our character.  Our view of time creates either vice or virtue.  Time is at the heart of this proverb.

The diligent man in this proverb isn’t a covetous or greedy man.  The diligent man isn’t a materialistic man as that would be contradictory to the balance of Scripture.  His substance was precious to him, not because he valued things but because he valued time.  It cost him a great deal of time to find that animal, kill that animal and bring it back home.  Not taking the additional time to butcher and roast that animal would have made his hunting time a waste of time.  A diligent man values time and refuses to waste that time.  Diligence is a virtue of time.  We don’t understand diligence without time.  We can’t measure diligence in the absence of time.  Diligence, or constant effort and steady progress, is understood only by time.  The diligent have a healthy respect for time.  They have an eye for the clock and never lose sight of how precious each moment in life is.  The diligent put a value to hours, minutes and even seconds.  

On the other hand, the slothful place little value on time.  Slothfulness, or laziness, is the disregard of time.  Wasted hours doing nothing is not considered a loss to the slothful.  To the slothful hunter, throwing out the uncooked meat isn’t that much of a loss.  The hours that were spent to track, find, kill and bring back aren’t much of a consideration.  The lazy figure there’s always more time.  The lazy assume tomorrow will present plenty of time to get done what wasn’t accomplished today.  The slothful fail to see the value of hours and certainly, minutes.  There’s always another day, another opportunity, another hour.

This proverb teaches us that how we view time reveals our character.  Hard work at work isn’t always a sign of diligence.  Hard work around the clock and especially, after the hours, is a sign of diligence.  If a man works hard when he has to but rarely works hard when he doesn’t have to, he’s still slothful.  If a woman works hard when it’s required by her employer but rarely works hard when she’s on her own, she’s still slothful.  What we do with our time reveals overall virtue.  The wise have a handle on time.  Wisdom is that virtue that values time and that produces diligence.  Throughout Scripture, wisdom is attached to valuing time.  In his psalm, Moses prayed, “Teach us to NUMBER our DAYS, that we may apply our hearts to WISDOM.”  In Ephesians 5:15-16, Paul instructed the Ephesians to walk circumspectly, “not as fools, but as WISE, REDEEMING the TIME, because the days are evil.”  In Ecclesiastes 7, Solomon taught his readers that it is better to go to “the house of mourning” than to the “house of feasting” because that “is the END of all men and the living will lay it to his heart.”  He followed that up by saying, “the heart of the WISE is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.”  
 
While work ethic is on the face of this proverb, how we view time is the heart of this proverb.  Too many people think they’re diligent because they’re good workers or good hunters in the field.  This proverb teaches us that what they do AFTER HOURS when they get home is what really determines if they’re diligent or not.  If time doesn’t have a high value in your mind, slothfulness will plague you all the short days of your life.  We only have so much time in this world and the diligent want to use their time productively.  

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