"The way of the lazy is a hedge of thorns, but the path of the upright is a highway"
Solomon is trying to get us to see what we all understand but often don’t internalize. We think we are saving time and energy by being lazy but we are not, we are really making our life harder than if we did the task the right way, right away.
The Hebrew word translated lazy here is the word asel, which means sluggish, lazy, sluggishness, to delay. We would call this person a procrastinator, a professional delayer. They have every intention to get to the things that are important, but they never actually do.
Solomon is pointing out to the young person who is being tempted by this lifestyle that they will create all kinds of problems and difficulties for themselves. We all think that not doing something that we know is right will save us time and energy. It is especially tempting to the naïve, the young, the simple-minded. But those who have been down this road before or have watched what happens when you skimp on what should be done have seen the price be paid.
It seems like if we just toss our clothes in the corner or leave them on the floor that we are saving time rather than going to all the trouble of hanging them up properly. It seems like if we ignore the “check engine light” in the car, we can save time rather than go to the mechanic and have it checked out. It seems like it is way too much trouble to get a will prepared for who will take care of our children and our estate. It seems like it is easier to just be frugal with our money rather than go to all the trouble of making a budget and sticking to it. It seems like it is way too much hassle to think about every word you say when you are talking to your spouse and/or children. It seems like it is a lot of work to write that letter or reply to that notice we received; it is easier to put it off until tomorrow.
hedge of thorns
This is picture of a literal hedge of briers and thorns as the path that the lazy person is making their way through. Their laziness creates an obstacle course for themselves that pinches stabs, cuts, and hurts. When we don't put things away, when we don't get to things in a timely manner, when we do not do the hard work of doing something right, it comes back to bite us.
There is also a subtle message about habit patterns and doing things the right way until it is just the way we do things. If a person in ancient days had a briar patch on the path or as the path that means that they had not gone down that path very often in the last month. Any path that is repeatedly walked on by numbers of people is worn smooth and does not have thorns and briars in it. One of the things that Solomon is saying is that if you neglect to do things the right way, you not only have to go to all the work of undoing and redoing what you should have done, you also do not have well-worn habits and well-used tools to help you. If you don’t walk on a path, it gets overgrown with thistles and thorns. If you skip things because you are lazy, the things you have to do later are harder because you have not practiced them and you don’t have the right tools.
When you know something is the right thing to do, then do it even though it will take a little longer initially. A little time invested in the beginning will gain easy and great dividends in the end. Wear a path of doing something the right way at the right time so that it will be easy to keep following through.
What have you been putting off? What needs to be done for the job to be done right? What can you delegate to someone else that you will always put off?