Plowing Provides Plenty

 

Brother David Green

Proverbs 28:19 states, "He that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread: but he that followeth after vain persons shall have poverty enough."

Hard work is necessary and to be desired. The desire for abundance of wealth is not. Nevertheless, through Godís ordained design, a plentiful provision of our needs is most certain. In preface to attempting to unfold the meaning and application as delivered in this text in Psalms 28, let us observe that it is only natural, and in this context correct, to understand this holy directive to be regarding our gain of such substance that affords sufficient livelihood to some degree of abundance. But as in every case where the blessings of corporeal advantage are provided to the Lordís people, the earthly supply is given to the child of God for heavenly growth and Godís glory. And so, I pray we can explore and understand the same spiritual directive in this verse as well.

Now, the scriptures do furnish examples and instruction that to be rich, very wealthy, alone considered is not a sin. In fact, God at times, not typically, but nevertheless at times grants it as a great blessing to his saints. We know Job was extremely wealthy prior to his trials. And after losing all that he had, at the end of Job's trials the Lord restored his material wealth to more than the original. Abraham had vast holdings of land, provisions and servants. Christ's body was laid in the new tomb of Joseph "a rich man of Arimathaea...who also himself was Jesus's disciple" (Matt. 27:57). Solomon's wealth was unparalleled at that time and he was known almost as much for his wealth as he was his wisdom. David, as King, naturally possessed the wealth of a monarch.

However, David, whose riches were bestowed upon him virtually by God's appointment of him to the throne of Israel, declared the same ordained principle of our text under consideration that "...the hand of the diligent maketh rich" and that same hand "...shall bear rule, but the slothful shall be under tribute." Simply stated, God intends to bless hard, honest work and not the opposite. And even though we all might readily agree with this principle, I fear it is maybe easy for our nature to place too much confidence and desire in wealth and plenty as well as to feel perhaps too safe and secure that if we were to have enough in riches that we could eliminate having to "work" for our lively hood and most, if not all, of our problems would be solved and life in general would be better. Not only that, but we may be strongly convicted that with more than ample wealth we could do so much more ďgoodĒ for others than what we currently are able. At least that is a logical and ethical claim to be made to justify the desire and I know I've thought the same thing. It is possible for some or all of this to be absolutely true. We can and should do much with much wealth. After all, to whom much is given much is required (Luke 12:48). And many problems could be solved with more substance. Not withstanding all the good intentions and well-placed desires to have more and possibly work less, Proverbs 28:19 addresses how the Lord intends for our menial labor of life to be performed with effort. A vital principle is found in this passage which God has ordained regarding "work" ("work" more particularly meaning to labor in employment for the normal provisions of living) in this life for all of mankind and it's useful blessing both materially and spiritually and which also helps us to possess our vast wealth, if we should ever have it, or any amount of substance in honor.

This Proverb is first introduced in Prov. 12:11. We should always note that when Divine inspiration repeats itself, something is being emphasized that we should take particular notice for instruction. From the beginning of creation tilling the ground seems to be a blessed duty. It was Adam's privilege and employment before his fall into sin to "dress," tend and cultivate, the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:15). No doubt labor without sin was a time of blissful work and useful obedience to the ordered assignment from God. Adam experienced hard work and toil without the conflict of drudgery and hardship to the mind and emotions in so doing. Alas, when Adam sinned, labor became a curse and a penalty of life to all men: "Cursed is the ground for thy sake, in sorrow thou shalt eat of it all the days of thy life..." "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground..." (Gen. 3:17,19).

Nevertheless, in the Just execution of God's penal curse against the human race, God amazingly established, out of His ineffable mercy and kindness, a most substantial source of happiness and blessing within the ordained penalty. This Proverb teaches us that man, even in a perfect state, is not meant to be a lifeless object with no industry or energy. That is, he is not meant to seek or desire to be so. The soul of the sluggard, though it desire much, will have nothing and come to poverty in a most sever manner (Prov. 6:9-11, 13:4). There is much of happiness and prosperity that is only realized when our duties are executed by an active habit of diligence. From such habit, the effort and work of an honest employment will bring forth abundant fruit. The earth, because of the curse of sin, only brings forth thorns and thistles. There are no longer any Gardens of Eden for us. But, here is the blessing, "he that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread." Not just some bread, but plenty of bread, sustenance, provisions for living. The removal of labor, however, would have the opposite effect. This would be to follow after vain persons. That is, it is vain to think God will bless slothfulness which He hates. And, so, the result according to our text is "to have poverty enough."

Again, the blessing does not come by seeking a life without labor, or devising ways to gain advantage from another's diligence, nor is it expected to come from a miracle. If our hope, focus and design is to get rich quick, God has a stern warning: "he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent" (go unpunished), and "he that hasteth to be rich hath an evil eye" (Prov. 28:20,22). Notice very carefully the descriptive terms of action, hasteth and maketh haste. They import the idea of being consumed with the desire that all else is left behind in importance and it just can't happen quickly enough. There are most certainly instances where individuals become instantly wealthy. But just as certain, if this was accrued with the total absorption of seeking these riches with little or no concern of God's will and blessing in the matter, if we are not seeking the Kingdom of God first and His righteousness, if the Lord becomes second and our wealth is our first interest and passion, then our riches will prove to be our poverty in more ways than one before ere long we possess them. Even in circumstances where the need for a substantial amount of money is of great and legitimate need, let us look first to God our great and perfect source of all our provision.

The greater significance of this blessing in giving our diligence to industry is doing so in the work of God. Industry is a virtue of grace as seen in the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31. How rich is the harvest of wisdom, understanding and direction of life for the diligent student of the scriptures! How victorious is the praying warrior who wrestles with the angel until he receives the blessing! Let us take heed to the kind exhortation Paul gave young Timothy, "give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine...Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them." Those moments that we do set apart for prayer, study and pondering the things of God, let it be done wholly. That is, of what we can control, let that moment be made complete or whole with the Lord and unshared with anything else. I know I find this very difficult to do too often. The natural man is much like the natural ground. It only bears thorns and thistles. Our old man has no propensity to labor in God's vineyard. It is an effort. This is why Paul exhorts Timothy to give attendance, give thyself wholly, meditate. But, God blesses so richly when we till the land of our prayers and study that we have plenty of spiritual mana to feast our souls upon. May we desire, as Isaac, to make all diligence to go out into our field of meditation at the eventide to engage in penetrating thoughts of a heavenly nature; a place and a time we purpose to go to and away from the conflicts and distractions of life for a moment to seek God. And though to do so often times is fraught with many distractions and challenges, think it no strange thing that while we are exercised in this spiritual labor that God brings to us blessings unexpected. In fact, we can expect that during such times that we toil and plow away in the field of our soul that the Lord lifts up our eyes from our soul-work and behold, a wonderful blessing greets us! Just as Isaac while meditating in the field lifted up his eyes and saw Rebekah, "whom he loved," we too will see our Savior whom our hearts delight in and love as He visits us in our prayer, or becomes the object and felt presence of our meditations, or reveals Himself as the embodiment of a text of Holy Scripture we are reading. Oh, our labor to till the ground and care for our soul will indeed bring us bread and plenty of it. It provides nourishment for comfort and a covering of peace for the very worst moments of our life. Isaac went out to meditate in the field, a place born of labor, and lifting up his eyes he saw Rebekah, and he loved her, and was comforted after his mother's death (Gen. 24:63-67). So shall it be with God's people as they are found laboring with the most grave difficulties imaginable, that while they faithfully cultivate the charge of their soul's well-being, even during times of hardship, our God according to His promise will supply us with plenty of what we are in need. And they too will look up from their labor, see their Savior, love Him all the more, and be comforted with all comfort.