Proverbs and Beyond

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“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)

Growing Dominion, Part 59

We have already addressed the fact that Proverbs is full of generalizations, and the fact that they are generally true. We also have to reckon with the fact that the substance of some of these generalizations is repeated over and over again, so as to pound the point into a young man’s head. One of them is that poverty is caused by laziness and that wealth is the result of diligence. “He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand: but the hand of the diligent maketh rich” (Prov. 10:4). Not only does the book of Proverbs repeat this point over and over, but also our experience around us does the same thing. The reason this repetition is needed is that while work is hard, it is not hard to understand. It is hard to do.

But this kind of ethical instruction is grammar school instruction. It is the sort of thing that needs to be instilled in boys when they are young. If they have this as a foundation, it is possible to go on to learn some of the puzzlers that Jesus taught us. We learn in Sunday School (as we ought to) that laziness causes poverty and diligence causes wealth. But we must not remain there. We learn in the gospel that poverty causes wealth-the last are first, and the least are the greatest. How can these things be reconciled? They can only be reconciled by the wise, and the wise build on the kind of foundation we find in the book of Proverbs. So in the world of business we learn that a slack hand is just another way of throwing money out the window. But once we succeed in keeping it inside-what we do then is another story.

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