Proverbs on Prosperity: How Long Wilt Thou Sleep, O Sluggard?

Courtesy LDS Media Library

I remember finding these verses in the Bible years ago while serving a mission. They made me laugh out loud then. They still tickle me now. “How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: so shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man” (Proverbs 6:9–11; compare Proverbs 24:33–34).

The word sluggard, which indicts the habitually lazy person, appears only six times in holy writ. And all six instances are found in the Book of Proverbs (KJV).

A sluggard is a stark contrast to a diligent person. Often lacking positive role models, a sluggard, I am sad to report, has little vision, purpose, direction, motivation, ambition, or hope. He is sometimes selfish and often unhappy, may project a sense of entitlement, is focused on physical indulgence, tends to manipulate people and circumstances to maintain the status quo, that is, a state of idleness and ease. He finds ways to avoid work, watches way too much television and way too many movies, may play endless video games, and eschews any form of culpability or responsibility. He is the ultimate slacker. And one last point, there’s that emptiness that goes along with it.

The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat. (Proverbs 13:4; compare Proverbs 21:25.)

I’m actually a recovering sluggard. I don’t think I’m alone. Oh, I never liked video games much, but other than that, yeah, I’ve been crawling out of my sluggardliness since my youth. Okay, I try. But still there’s that sluggard in me, that natural me who is an enemy to God. It doesn’t feel good or right. I fight that imp daily.

Similarly, the word slothful (inclined to sloth, indolent, from the South American mammal) appears 12 times in the Old Testament, 11 times in Proverbs alone. A sluggard, if anything, is slothful. (Sloth is by tradition one of the seven deadly sins.)

I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; and, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down. Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction. (Proverbs 24:30–32.)

The slothful man (or woman) is preoccupied with anything except effort or work. He doesn’t take care of his vineyard which provides his sustenance. In our times, he doesn’t take care of his home or yard, he has a hard time holding a job, or wanting to, and he squanders his money.

Now I understand that some of these inclinations can be due to mental illness and emotional distress. I am not talking about that. I am talking about the capable who opt out, the able but unwilling, who are caught in a web of gratification, the haze of laze. The true sluggard is a rare find, but most of us struggle with elements of his character. 

In other words, it’s not such a great thing to be lazy. I don’t mean there’s never a time to rest, relax and even veg out. There is. There has to be. It’s even scripturally mandated. We just shouldn’t be at our leisure 85 percent of the time (or you pick the number). I mean, what’s rest if you have nothing to rest from?

One more thing about the slothful, and then I’ll quit talking about this thoroughly depressing topic.

The slothful man saith, There is a lion without, I shall be slain in the streets. (Proverbs 22:13.)

Always dreaming up a reason why he (or she) can’t, why he won’t, do a thing. Too many obstacles in the way, not worth the effort, because he is intoxicated with laziness and momentary pleasures and the delirium of (digital) distraction. In time, his intoxications bring him to ruin. You’ve seen it. I’ve seen it.

We were created to get up and do something, if only with our minds if physically unable, because we are all born creators. And you can’t create sitting in a heap on your sagging, overburdened couch, watching hours of what President Hinckley called “inane and empty television.” We are not here to indulge the natural man but to overcome him.

Let’s step up now, you and I, to higher ground. I’ll do that by sharing part of a post called “22 Vitals Habits of Successful People.” These habits take motivation, vision, hope—the opposite of the sluggard manifesto. Brandon Gaille’s list makes me feel happy and hopeful. I trust it will help lift your spirits as well.

Here are a few things you’re almost always going to find [that successful people do]:

1. An ability to track their progress. 

2. An ability to learn from mistakes. 

3. A burning desire to succeed in everything they do.

4. A desire and willingness to take risks.

5. A tendency to create and follow to-do lists.

6. A reputation for being humble.

7. A willingness to accept responsibility for their failures.

8. An ability to embrace change.

9. A willingness to share data and information with others.

10. An ability to create and carry out goals.

11. A reputation for complimenting others.

12. An eagerness to engage in an exchange of ideas with others.

This list moves the needle back toward the diligent side of the scale. I feel better already.

If you are struggling with your get-up and gumption, pick just one thing off this list—the easiest one for you, and the easiest one for you to start, and work on that. (I need to start working on #1, myself.)

If you feel discouraged, I understand. So do I. All the time. But I keep taking that step up, that one that’s right in front of me, and try to not look back at the stairs I’ve already climbed. (At least not stare at them.)

I am innately lazy. But I know there’s a better me. And so I go forward. And I happily confess that I’m less lazy than I used to be. That is the trajectory of triumph, one marked by almost imperceptible progress. No other trajectory seems within my reach.

Proverbs on Prosperity: The Hand of the Diligent Maketh Rich

Courtesy LDS Media Library

Diligence is key to earning self-respect, respect from others, wealth, and security. When responsibility comes your way, handling it with diligence will win you peace of mind.

The Book of Proverbs itself grants this virtue high praise. The word diligent occurs seven times in the King James Version of the book, more than any other book of the Old Testament, and is the only place diligence occurs in all the Old Testament.

Before we begin exploring what Proverbs says, here’s a verse I memorized many years ago, a simple and concise reminder of what is required to be truly successful:

All victory and glory is brought to pass unto you through your diligence, faithfulness, and prayers of faith. (D&C 103:36.)

So what does Proverbs say about diligence? Here’s a good example:

The Lord will not suffer the soul of the righteous to famish: but he casteth away the substance of the wicked. He becometh poor that death with a slack hand: but the hand of the diligent maketh rich. (Proverbs 10:4–5; see also Proverbs 13:4.)

As the proverb says, “the hand of the diligent maketh rich.” The diligent get good jobs and “bear rule” or find freedom in their work:

Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men [low-ranking officials]. (Proverbs 22:29; see also Proverbs 12:24.)

The ant is called out several times in Proverbs as an exemplar of diligence:

Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest. (Proverbs 6:6–8; see also Proverbs 30:25.)

Wealth obtained easily or casually can quickly vanish, but labor—good, honest work from the heart—will make anything grow stronger and larger. It will enlarge the soul and all it possesses, both in a spiritual sense as well as in the physical.

Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished: but he that gathereth by labour shall increase. (Proverbs 13:11.)

It’s not only the actions but the thoughts of the diligent that make a difference. Diligence renounces a mad rush toward wealth. Like any good thing, prosperity takes time to develop and when it does, it is appreciated more. And what happens when you are hasty to follow a get rich scheme?

The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness; but of every one that is hasty only to want. (Proverbs 21:5.)

Compare this take a few chapters later:

A faithful man shall abound with blessings: but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent. (Proverbs 28:20.)

A hasty lunge at wealth leaves much to be desired. Wealth gained by fraud and deceit will eventually evaporate. You can never hold for long what you do not truly love, and you don’t truly love what you covet or lust after. Without the investment of wholesome thought, good planning, and diligent effort, you cannot develop trust or a long-term relationship, with either a person or with money. It just doesn’t work. And it won’t last.

Be diligent, Proverbs exhorts. Take care of what God has given you. Watch over it, carefully and prayerfully, and it will surely grow—and stick around.

Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds. For riches are not for ever: and doth the crown endure to every generation? The hay appeareth, and the tender grass sheweth itself, and herbs of the mountains are gathered. The lambs are for thy clothing, and the goats are the price of the field. And thou shalt have goats’ milk enough for thy food, for the food of thy household, and for the maintenance for thy maidens. (Proverbs 27:23–27.)

Lastly, keep diligent watch over your heart, for that is where life and wealth issues from (see Proverbs 4:23). It’s all about your heart—your desire and intent. It’s the master controller of your thoughts, which is how you create your life.

Proverbs on Prosperity: Honor the Lord with Your Substance

To me, the first law of wealth, the first and foremost principle of prosperity, is to truly honor the one from Whom our wealth comes, our Heavenly Father. As the Lord said to Moses:

And [if] thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth . . . thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day. (Deuteronomy 8:17–18.)

Think about this with me for a few minutes. Did you create your life and can you alone preserve it? Did you create the planet you live on? Did you create apples or oranges or chocolate? Did these things just happen by a chance atomic collision? They did not.

I’m looking right now at my desk calculator. Did that calculator just show up there by chance? How did that little mass of plastic and electronics appear? Like all creation, intelligence and planning went behind it. Though I have a few ideas, I don’t know who created it, where it was created, or how it was created it, but does that mean that is just poofed into existence?

What about that piece of chevron amethyst on my desk. Was that formed by chance? Was there no intelligence behind that combination of minerals? Is is just a fluke? Just because we don’t know exactly where or how it came into existence doesn’t mean its existence is arbitrary. What is intelligence if it is not rooted in choice? What is choice if it is not governed by law?

What happens when we honor the Lord with this world’s goods? What happens when we freely give back at least a portion of what He has given us? Early in the Book of Proverbs we find these words:

Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: so shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine. (Proverbs 3:9–10.)

The Lord asks us to love and honor Him. One way we can demonstrate that honor is by restoring, at least in part, the means or substance He gives to us. And what will He do for those who honor Him from the heart?

Them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed. (1 Samuel 2:30.)

Through the centuries, at least from the time of Abraham and Melchizedek (see Genesis 14:18–20), men and women of God have honored Him by the payment of tithes. We first read of tithing in Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament. We also read of it in the last book of that volume. Through Malachi the Lord promised us abundant blessings when we honor Him with our tithes:

Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts. And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 3:10–12.)

Anyone who has paid tithing by faith has experienced miracles, and those miracles, an interdependence between man and Maker, become a way of life. The Psalmist wrote of such men and women:

Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord, that delighteth greatly in his commandments. His seed shall be mighty upon earth: the generation of the upright shall be blessed. Wealth and riches shall be in his house: and his righteousness endureth for ever. (Psalms 112:1–3.)

This is a principle we can believe in. It is a law of heaven, of the universe, that when we honor God He will likewise honor us. It is a law of reciprocation, a law of the harvest, that what we sow we shall reap (see Galatians 6:7; D&C 6:33; compare Job 4:8).

This kind of wealth and honor do not come by chance: they come by law. If they come by any other way, by any degree of greed, deception, or thievery, they will be fleeting. That is something you can count on.

By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, and honour, and life. (Proverbs 22:4.)

Proverbs on Prosperity: Introduction

Courtesy LDS Media LibraryMoney. It can free or enslave us, devastate and deliver us, distract and deceive us, help us or hold us back.

It can get awfully annoying and confusing. There are so many messages about money and prosperity in the world. It seems that money can be anything we want it to be, depending on the day and the motive. You can have plenty of it and be miserable, or very little of it, but as happy as a blue jay on a Sunday morning. Why?

Figuring out money can get discouraging. It has been for me, honestly, as I’ve tried to figure out how to get it, hold it, make it grow, and share it. I grapple with those ideas on too many days. I’m still working to set aside my anxiety around it, and finding a better pasture for my mind to graze.

Money is more than a good education and a good job. It’s about honesty and courage and wisdom. It’s about trust and risk, being generous and believing in the generosity of heaven. It’s about trying and not giving up. Forgiving yourself, believing in yourself, and trusting God’s ways.

I look for spiritual answers to life’s questions. Those are the one’s that make the most sense to me. Those are the ones I hang onto.

The scriptures contain the wisdom of the ages on wealth and prosperity. One book in the Bible particularly, The Book of Proverbs, has over 80 passages (listed below) on the subject, in 31 chapters. I’ve studied these passages and I’d like to share what I’ve learned from them with you. I am still studying and learning, of course. And I’ll learn even more as I organize and present my thoughts to you.

Some of the topics I’ll cover are honoring God with our means, the importance of diligence and honesty, the plight of the poor, and the sad state of the sluggard.

Proverbs seems like a good place to focus my attention as I look for heaven-grade answers to my questions about wealth and prosperity. I’ve found almost 30 topics discussed on these subjects in this ancient book, parts of which are 2,500 to 3,000 years old. I’ll also cross-reference scriptures throughout the standard works: the Bible (King James version), the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.