Work is Good and Biblical. Here's Why!
I. The Benefits of Work
First, lets look at the benefits Proverbs says comes from work. Solomon's wisdom was not high and mighty platitudes which have nothing to do with the real world. The benefits of work, this wise man explains, include that which is most basic.
Turn and read Proverbs 16:26 It reminds us of the bumper sticker which reads, “Fight Poverty – Work” In it’s typical, clear, down to earth style Proverbs gives us the most basic motivation for work. Are you hungry? Work. This is obviously physical hunger--satisfying that desire in the belly. But there are other desires which are also satisfied by work. You desire a new car? Desire a VCR? Do you desire to serve God? Do you desire to build his church? Do you desire to establish a strong Bible believing church in your town or city? It takes work. Proverbs 16:26 covers the most basic benefit from work: satisfying the desire of physical hunger. Admittedly, this is not a very noble incentive, but realistic for some who have no strong self-motivation to work.
Solomon mentions more positive motivations and benefits to work. There is profit. Read Proverbs 14:23 the word for "labor" here refers to labor, toil, or physically hard work. It is also used in Genesis 3:16 to describe the pain and work of childbirth. In Psalm 127:2 it is associated with sun up to sun down labor. When Solomon mentions “work” he isn't just talking about dabbling in something. He means hard, difficult, exhausting work. That's why it's "work". Even if not physical, effective work of the executive can be just as draining and exhausting.
The word for "profit" in our verse indicates abundance and gain. It is not merely financial gain--although that is certainly involved--but general advantage of any kind. In Ecclesiastes 3:19 and Proverbs 21:5 this word also describes general advantage. Contrast this with the last half of the verse. The person who is full of hot air, who just talks about all the things he is going to do, is impoverished.
Finally, notice here that physical work is the primary focus. We may despise tedious, menial tasks, but God is much wiser and approves of such work and effort. The Lord's approval should affect our work product, or our supervising or management techniques. We are to treat our workers with the same respect God does, for they are doing what God says is of great profit to them.
Another benefit of work is promotion. Not all of us are born millionaires with a silver spoon in our mouths. Not all of us went to the best schools, or rub elbows with the elite people. Proverbs addresses us: the average, everyday person who has to work (Of course, you millionaires have to work too!). We don't have a certain diploma (whichever one that is) to open those doors, or know the people in prominent positions to pull us in. If we are not born a Kennedy, or Hunt, or Nordstrom, we can improve our position by our skillful conduct in business and work. Read it for yourself in Proverbs 22:29. The skilled worker does not go unnoticed. When God gives us a job, we are to do it (that alone is difficult for some!), do it right, and do it well. Always work hard at the work the Lord provides' for you, and more likely than not, you will be promoted and gain prominence. After all, someone has to mow the lawn at the White House. It might as well be you.
I have a friend I graduated with from High School. In high school he was a box boy at the supermarket. He worked there his sophomore, junior, and senior high school years. When many of us went off to college, he didn't, but stayed to work full time at the store, now in the produce department. After a couple of years I saw him again. He had bought a house in Seattle, and had become the manager of the produce department. I was looking to go on to three more years at law school.
By the time of our 10th high school reunion, he had a cabin on an Island in the Sound, was renting out his first house, buying another, and was manager of the store. I was three years out of law school, planning to go to seminary. My high school friend reaped the benefit of good, steady, hard work--promotion (which allowed him his goodies as well).
Another positive motivation of work is the acquisition of wealth. Read it for yourself in Proverb 13:11.
There are many advantages to wealth. Proverbs 10:15 tells us that in wealth there is protection. However, this protection is not absolute. In wealth there is also power, Proverbs 22:7. The danger with wealth is that it becomes one's preoccupation. Money is a great servant, but a cruel master. Jesus said you cannot serve it and Him (Matthew 6:24).
Because of wealth's limitations, Proverbs 23:4 warns against engaging in wearying and exhausting effort to gain wealth for its own sake, to the exclusion of all other goals. The next verse (23:5) tells us why--it vanishes. Ask countless former millionaires who have personally lost great fortunes. Wealth easily vanishes. So, Ironside said, "Earthly treasure is often dissipated far more easily than collected. Riches seem possessed with wings. Like eagles, they fly away, leaving him whose mind was set upon them, disappointed and heart sick."
With work can come wealth, and with wealth can come many good things. But even the protection afforded by wealth is incomplete. Just as it is true that governmental or societal problems can't be solved with money so it is true for us personally. The danger of wealth is that too easily we exaggerate it’s protective power and consider it impregnable against attack, Proverbs 18:11. Rather than trust the Lord, Proverbs 18:10, the rich may think their wealth is omnipotent. But it is not. Ultimately, wealth cannot save, Proverbs 11:4, 28.
Proverbs describes many benefits of work. We can satisfy our desires, be they as basic as hunger or our desire for things. It provides profit. It provides prominence. It provides a limited degree of power and protection. All this can come from work.