Talk is Cheap
“In all labour there is profit: but the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury”
The wise man, Solomon, in this portion of the proverbs, gives some vital instruction to his son to help him develop into a God honoring young man. There are two principles given which are meant to stand in contrast to each other. Both principles are true on their own but are best seen when set against each other. When a young boy understands these two truths, it will help to move from childhood to manhood.
The first of these is, “in all labour there is profit”. Children often tend to view labor as something to be avoided. Work is hard and requires effort, so it is something we don’t necessarily want to do. Often when a task is to be done, a child will think of all the things which he would rather be doing, therefore he views this task as a hinderance to his pleasure. Seeing the difficulty ahead and the pleasure that could be had by engaging in some other activity, the child will seek to put off the task rather than setting his hand to the work. The reason he pursues this course is because the child has failed to recognize the value of this life principle which Solomon has given. In all labor there is something to be gained, and it will add to your life something that you did not have before. For a child to understand this truth, he must understand two things about the nature of profit.
First, not all profit comes in the way of money gained. When people typically think of profit, they think of being given money in exchange for service. This is certainly one form of profit, but profit isn’t limited to just money gained. Profit is when we gain something we did not have before. It is the addition of something which adds value to our lives. When we labor there is always something gained by our endeavors. This gain, however, isn’t always a growth of financial substance. Sometimes profit comes in the way of experience. When we work to accomplish something, we have never done before, upon completing the task, we gain the valuable knowledge of how to do something. We gain the knowledge of what to do and more importantly what not to do. Such knowledge saves us both time and resources by accomplishing the task the right way, rather than the wrong way. When we save time and resources, we can then use those in a way that is beneficial to our lives.
Another form of profit, which isn’t a financial gain, is the respect and recognition we gain from our peers. When we work hard and accomplish our task in the right way, people will take notice. They will recognize our diligence and honesty, and this will in many ways tend to our benefit. Hard work and honesty are something of value among men. Men carry very little respect for those that shy away from difficult task and will not trust those who cut corners in their work. People who respect you for your work ethic, will often show up in your life when you fall into a hard time. Others who see your diligence will be quick to recommend you for hire to those who need help. While respect from our peers is a profitable thing, gaining that respect should never be the motivation for our work. We labor hard because in doing so we bring honor to God (romans 12:11).
Lastly, when a man works hard, he gains a peace of mind that others don’t have. This peace allows him to have a good spirit, a clear mind and to live life at its best. Consider the words of Solomon in Ecclesiastes 5:12a, “The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much:”. Solomon rightly observes that a man that is diligent in his work can lay his head down at night and sleep peacefully because he has gained the satisfaction of a task accomplished. This man has something that those who avoid hard work does not have, the absence of which causes them much sorrow and restlessness. Notice, this man is able to be at peace even if money and food isn’t immediately gained from his endeavors.
The second principle a child needs to understand about profit is that not all profit comes immediately. When a child does some task, there is a desire within them to have a benefit from it immediately. If a parent tells a child finish your dinner and you can have dessert, the child will want to see a big bowl of ice cream as soon as he takes the last bite of his meal. A man, however, is someone who understands that not every benefit appears as soon as the task is accomplished. In fact, the most satisfying work can often take years to see a substantial gain. Take a farmer for instance, the farmer is one who works hard. He tills his land, rids it of weeds, plants his fields, waters the seed, feeds the plants, but will not see the fruit of his hard work until the plant is fully grown. Someone that expects immediate results will be prone to shy away from this work and will miss the great gain that would come if he set his mind to the task (Psalms 126:5). Farming is just one example of this principle. The same applies to things such as marriage, raising children or pastoring a church. In every one of these areas there is often very little profit seen immediately from hard work. However, if someone recognizes that if they are diligent and consistent, then eventually they will see a substantial gain. Their marriage will flourish, their children will grow to be stable people, and their churches will grow. Even the world recognizes this principle as true when they use the phrase, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
The next portion of this piece of wisdom is equally true. Those who simply talk of things they need or want to do will end up in poverty, both naturally and spiritually. Many people can talk of great things, but when you view their life, little is ever accomplished. As the saying goes “talk is cheap”. It is a characteristic of children to talk about what they want to do; it is a characteristic of men to do what needs to be done. It is wise to talk of what needs to be done and how it needs to be done for, “in the multitude of counselors there is safety” Proverbs 24:6b. After someone works out all the details of the task, it is necessary to immediately pursue its accomplishment. Any delay or procrastination will ultimately always end with the task going undone. To make promises to people and then to fail to make good on those promises, will always be a mark which will stain a man’s good name.
To recognize that all labor is beneficial in someway and at some point, and that doing rather talking about something is a key ingredient in moving from being a child to becoming a man which honors God in all that he does. If you follow this principle, it will eventually be said that like Joseph, “the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all that he did to prosper in his hand.” Genesis 39:3.