Breakfast with Solomon - Proverbs 19:15
"Laziness cast into a deep sleep, and an idle man will suffer hunger"
This proverb is interesting in a number of ways: First, because of the thought connection to the verse above it; second, because of sophisticated psychological insight it explores; third, because of its additive phrasing; fourth, because of the powerful truth it shares that few in our culture hear about; fifth, the practical advice the proverb gives.
First, this proverb is connected in a thought rhyme with the proverb before it which states that house and wealth are an inheritance from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord. A prudent wife is a goal-directed wife; a woman who is active and busy and moving forward with accomplishing a righteous agenda for herself and her family. She is the opposite of a lazy person. Perhaps Solomon saw some lazy wives who just sank deeper and deeper into non-activity until they were unable to act; they were in some kind of laziness trance. A wife has a huge number of things to accomplish but also has usually complete control over her schedule. They must be industrious and goal oriented or they will not accomplish the important things even though they will have been extremely busy. Don't let laziness capture you.
Second, this proverb says that laziness or sluggishness moves a person into a state of existence like a deep sleep. It becomes its own plane of existence. You move into this place where it is impossible to put out maximum effort. It is almost like a drug-induced stupor in that you have a coating over your initiative and industry where you can't break free. This is the tragedy of many in our culture who do little except eat, watch television, ride around in the car, and look for the next low-energy pleasurable thing to do. It used to be suggested that this was a teen pursuit, but whole sections of our culture have this state of laziness covering them. The point of this proverb is to be very careful that you do not allow yourself to be injected by this drug called laziness. You may not be able to escape the place your inactivity takes you. It will mess with your whole life and redirect your potential and impact.
Third, this proverb has a very interesting additive phrasing rather than the usual contrastive or parallel phrasing. Laziness cast into a deep sleep is a strong statement and then it is followed by an idle man will suffer hunger. The word idle is the word remiya which means slackening and is less severe than lazy. In other words, the proverb describes the condition before the trance of laziness kicks in. It is backing itself out of the world of the lazy person. The lazy person lives in a trance where all work seems hard or impossible. Right before you get there is the person who is slack or does not complete his work with the required effort. That person will not have enough to meet their basic needs. They are not lazy completely, they are just not diligent and disciplined to finish things the way they should. In fact, in some cases the person described in the New American Standard Bible as idle is a hard worker but does not finish or work hard on the right things. They are slack when they should be tight. This is a very interesting insight because it suggests that this is how a person moves to the lazy final step. If a slack person works but still suffers hunger or does not have their needs met, then they may conclude that it is not worth it to put out the effort and moves into full laziness.
Fourth, a powerful truth about doing nothing becoming a state of existence which destroys our lives. In our culture, we do not hear enough about the value of hard work and industriousness. It is important to regularly point out that working hard is good medicine for your life. It is crucial that you learn to work hard on the right thing, but it is crucial that you learn how to work hard even when you cannot see the finish line. Hard work is a gift from God that we need to make sure that our children explore. Sometimes we need rest and recreation, but we must also realize that there is a drug produced from hard work that comes from no other activity or inactivity.
Fifth, the practical insight from this proverb: God is trying to get our attention and let us know that if we do not have the basic needs for life, it may be because we have been slack in some crucial aspect of our work. Look for it and stop being slack. Also, do not enjoy the wonderful feeling of oversleeping or over-resting or you will be caught by this drug. You can potentially sleepwalk through life because you allowed yourself to be injected by the drug of laziness.
Don't be afraid of hard work. Don't be afraid of having your children work hard. It will be good for them and for you. There are choices that come from hard work that don't appear until after the work has been performed. In the same way, there are choices that appear after laziness that don't appear until you have been lazy for too long. Go for the good choices and throw yourself into your day with gusto and intelligence.