Read Proverbs 14
Solomon gives us more pairings of wisdom: wise and foolish, rich and poor, man and woman, upright and devious, pride and prudence and some mixing and matching with the personification and the dichotomous qualities. Let’s jump to verse 23.
All hard work brings a profit,
but mere talk leads only to poverty.
I have or had a cousin who talked big. He was always going to conquer the word with his next endeavor, if he ever got around to it.
His parents had both died while he was in his late 30’s. He shacked up with a woman who could support him, at least they could afford some sort of shack. It often had no water or electricity, but they lived indoors.
The extended family—mostly my aunt—took care of unexpected expenses and offered him work so he could have some money that he could call his own. He wasn’t much interested in labor.
He was going to be long-haul truck driver. You need a CDL to do this but he never got around to that part. He could, however, talk your ear off about how he was going to make it big hauling those loads cross country—big loads and big bucks.
We wouldn’t hear from him for a while, then he would call and he was on to something else. Underwater welding was one that he could talk about for an hour without taking a breath. He could neither weld nor was he SCUBA qualified, but this was the thing that would give him his big break.
Then he was going to be a pastor, and then something else, and then something else.
A few years ago, one of the local television stations and the Oklahoman did a short piece on him as a homeless Marine veteran. He had been a sniper in Desert Storm and done 20 years as a Marine. He couldn’t tell you what units he was in or how he could be homeless after 20 years of service, but the journalist set up a Go Fund Me account for this homeless vet.
He never spent a single minute in the service of his country. The closest he ever got to military service was getting a military field jacket from the Salvation Army, but found that he could talk some of the talk.
He could spin that yarn so long as people didn’t check his facts. He was more than willing to tell whatever tale people wanted to hear. Facts only got in the way of the story.
I’m not sure if it bothered me more that he was claiming to be a pastor, a combat veteran, or that people believed the latter enough to send a few hundred dollars to help him.
I have no reservation about helping the poor. I do not like to see people being scammed, especially by someone pretending to be a Marine.
He had received plenty of help from his family over the years, but he had claimed the reward that Solomon promised for mere talk—poverty.
Work brings profit. Mere talk brings poverty.
I don’t know where he is now if he is still alive. He could never hold a real job for long. His talk about becoming an underwater welder or a pastor or driving a big rig didn’t fool anyone other than himself.
Our extended family has a young gal who works frequently with the OKC homeless alliance. She keeps her eye out for him, but we have not heard from him in years.
He probably doesn’t want to here from us. We always bring up that 4-letter word: work.
He talked his way into poverty and wouldn’t listen to anyone who would help him step out of it.
Let’s look at the other side of the coin. Hard work brings profit. I will read to you a short portion of one of the shortest books ever—A Message to Garcia by Elbert Hubbard.
In all this Cuban business there is one man stands out on the horizon of my memory like Mars at perihelion. When war broke out between Spain & the United States, it was very necessary to communicate quickly with the leader of the Insurgents. Garcia was somewhere in the mountain vastness of Cuba--no one knew where. No mail nor telegraph message could reach him. The President must secure his cooperation, and quickly.
What to do!
Someone said to the President, "There’s a fellow by the name of Rowan will find Garcia for you, if anybody can."
Rowan was sent for and given a letter to be delivered to Garcia. How "the fellow by the name of Rowan" took the letter, sealed it up in an oil-skin pouch, strapped it over his heart, in four days landed by night off the coast of Cuba from an open boat, disappeared into the jungle, & in three weeks came out on the other side of the Island, having traversed a hostile country on foot, and delivered his letter to Garcia, are things I have no special desire now to tell in detail.
The point I wish to make is this: McKinley gave Rowan a letter to be delivered to Garcia; Rowan took the letter and did not ask, "Where is he at?" By the Eternal! there is a man whose form should be cast in deathless bronze and the statue placed in every college of the land. It is not book-learning young men need, nor instruction about this and that, but a stiffening of the vertebrae which will cause them to be loyal to a trust, to act promptly, concentrate their energies: do the thing- "Carry a message to Garcia!"
My children have read this book many times. It will take you about 10 minutes and is a worthwhile investment.
At one point, all Marines were required to read this book. I hope they still are.
It talks about the one who just does the thing—whatever it is—with purpose and passion and without looking for the first excuse to wimp out.
There is value in work. There is profit in work. Work is good.
To which many of you say, Duh! That’s obvious.
No, it’s not obvious. It’s obvious to you because you have realized this paradigm. You navigate within this framework. You expect to work in order to make it through this world and provide for your families.
You receive satisfaction in work.
Some have no such expectations. Some expect that they will be cared for and all their needs met. I am not talking about those who cannot work but those who will not work.
Solomon tells us they are headed for poverty. If all you can do is talk, there are few jobs to be had and the jobs where they pay you to talk usually require some life experience that involved work.
Yes, there are people who get paid to talk—football commentators, talk show hosts, and preachers. In my defense, preachers also have to know how to listen because people are compelled to tell me which toilets are broken and when we run out of paper towels.
Solomon is talking about idle words. Words that take you nowhere. Some words inspire or instruct but those that only consume the time lead to poverty.
Some people are good at talking and can get a job where what they do involves a lot of talking. Good for them. They found a livelihood that they enjoy.
I spoke to a young girl in Walmart who was pushing around one of those carts with 10 or 12 bins on it. This whole pandemic thing has made a real market for letting the store do your shopping and you just pay and pick up.
I said to this young lady, “Did you ever think that you could find a job shopping?”
She said, “No but this is great!”
Sometimes we find just what we want to do and it doesn’t feel like work. Some find jobs talking too, but Solomon is talking about talk without purpose or production—talk that produces no fruit.
He is talking about words that take you nowhere, well, except down the road to poverty.
Solomon is talking about substituting talk for action. Sometimes talk precedes action, but sometimes people just get addicted to talking and never take action. They talk instead of work and Solomon says they are headed for poverty.
Much like my cousin who had great aspirations but never took one step forward to achieve them, we have many in this nation who will never get around to it. We have many who will talk their way into poverty.
For some, talk is action. There are those gifted in this area. For most, talk is an excuse not to act. Talk is just another excuse.
Work—especially hard work—brings a profit. It’s worthwhile, but talk in lieu of work leads to poverty.
Solomon presents the destination of one who says why work why I can make an excuse.
This brings us back to one of my favorite quotes that I have shared recently.
A coach can help you with your mistakes, but nobody can help you with your excuses.
Some say, Work smart not hard. That’s good. If you can work smart, then you can work hard at working smart and produce even more than those who just work hard. Whatever you are working at, work hard at it.
Hard work produces good fruit. Hard work is profitable. Hard work brings satisfaction.
Fifty years ago, we would have spent two minutes on this proverb and moved on to the next one.
That’s a big 10-4 on that one Solomon. We get it. We need to work.
You betcha. Hard work brings profit.
Hey wise man, you hit the nail on the head, but it’s all too obvious. It’s MOTO—Master of the Obvious.
Today, you see this proverb played out all around you and what once seemed obvious eludes so many in this age.
We could despair at the current situation or we could see opportunity for the one who will work and work with purpose and passion. This life still offers good things for the one who will work hard at what they do.
When I talk with people who are starting a new job, I tell them to stick it out no matter what for the first six months. After that, they will be the old timer. They will be the one with experience that the boss doesn’t want to let go.
The state of affairs in a world where people prefer talk to work seems bleak until the one willing to work sees the opportunity before him. He or she have great value in an age of do-nothingness.
Let me wrap up A Message to Garcia.
My heart goes out to the man who does his work when the "boss" is away, as well as when he is at home. And the man who, when given a letter for Garcia, quietly take the missive, without asking any idiotic questions, and with no lurking intention of chucking it into the nearest sewer, or of doing aught else but deliver it, never gets "laid off," nor has to go on a strike for higher wages. Civilization is one long anxious search for just such individuals. Anything such a man asks shall be granted; his kind is so rare that no employer can afford to let him go. He is wanted in every city, town and village- in every office, shop, store and factory. The world cries out for such: he is needed, & needed badly- the man who can carry a message to Garcia.
Take 10 minutes and read A Message to Garcia. Stick to your weekly reading of the Proverbs. Know that work has value.