Proverbs 14:23 – Profitable toil

In all toil there is profit,
    but mere talk tends only to poverty

Hard work pays off

It’s a known fact that if you do nothing, nothing will come of it. There are no get rich quick schemes, no magic wands to wave and there no winning formulas that don’t require hard work. Everybody knows hard work pays off, but the silly thing to do with a proverb like this is to boil it down to being merely about our vocational habits. Profit and poverty are words often associated with money, yet they are also widely used across all other kinds of areas of life. If you want your marriage to come to poverty, simply don’t put any effort in. If you want your garden to become overgrown and full of weeds. Put no effort in. If you want your body to become unfit and overweight, put no effort into right eating or exercise. It’s a well know fact, anything worth having comes at a price. You and I both know that there is something worth having, then it’s hard work & toil that are going to ensure it’s worth keeping. A relationship, your health, finances, your job, your house, your friends, your car or your fish tank. But what about Grace? Does grace need to be worked or does grace just work all by itself?

Putting grace to work

As a Christian, the easiest thing in the world to do is talk about what I claim to believe. It requires very minimal effort. I can talk about grace, I can talk about loving my neighbour, I can talk about leading my family and raising my kids in church, I can talk about the importance of forgiving people who hurt or offend me. I can talk all day and not break a sweat. But as the writer of the proverbs reminds us, mere talk tends only to poverty. The riches of God’s grace need to be at work and outworked in our lives in order for us to truly reap the benefits, or profit, of having grace to start with. But it’s no walk in the park. It’s hard work.

Jesus tells us to speak a certain way, but just think for a moment about some of the things Jesus commands us to do:

But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:39-45)

And then James, the Lords brother reminds us just how much faith without work is really worth,

For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. (Ja 2:26)

Then there’s the Apostle John, reminding that love, in mere words, is hallow and powerless,

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him… (1 John 3:16-19)

The promise of profit

The incredible thing about God is that he has placed his reward into the process of our obedience. Let me say that differently; God rewards our hard work by ensuring that it is profitable to obey him. Being slapped on both sides of the face is not rewarding, but scripture declares that there is profit in the toil. To speak about forgiveness and patience but not practice it leads to poverty in relationships, but practicing the hard work of obedience reaps the profit of a happier, healthier and stronger relationship in the long run. Faith in the promise of God leads to faith filled obedience to the commands of God, and Hebrews 11:6 tells me that God is a rewarder of those who seek him. But carrying your cross is not without pain or sacrifice, forgiving your brother 7 times 7 times 7 times is not easy, denying yourself is hard work, but the grace of God is available to you so that you will not only endure all things but reap a profit from all things in due season.

God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. (2 Cor 9:8)

Keep going & don’t stop expecting

Set your eyes on the faithfulness of God, work hard at your job, work hard at your marriage, work hard to parent your children, work hard in your ministry and calling – laziness and apathy amounts only to mere talk that leads to poverty. Work hard and seek God knowing that his faithfulness will be revealed in your life.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58)

It begins in family

Jesus said we would be known as his disciples by the way we love one another. I am convinced that the only thing that can ever hold back the growth and health of any local church is when believers decide to fall out with each other and refuse to reconcile. A divided house cannot stand, and that is why Jesus encourages us, no, He commands us, to love one another (John 15:17) for if we commit to the hard work of brotherly love and kindness, there will be a kind of profit and reward that no eye has seen, nor has it entered into your imagination what God wants to bring into your life as a result of your abiding in Him. Hence Paul urges us to not only work hard and trust in the grace of God to bring about a good reward, but to ensure that we give careful attention to prioritising working hard on maintaining relationships and service towards our local church family.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:9-10)

The alternative of course, is to just talk about it…