I passed by the field of a sluggard,Have you ever just taken a drive down a country road, or a walk in the woods, just to relax? I'm sure you have; I know I have often. The work of the week has taken it's toll and I just need to let my mind at ease. But try as I might, there is always something to capture my attention; inevitably, I do not just find a peaceful place to rest, but become engaged in some observation or activity. I cannot turn off my mind in those situations... I guess that's what TV is for.
by the vineyard of a man lacking sense,
and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns;
the ground was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down.
Then I saw and considered it;
I looked and received instruction.
A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest,
and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
and want like an armed man.
I imagine our author, Solomon, doing this very thing - taking a walk away from the hustle and bustle of life. He is just trying to get away, relax, and get his mind off all that work. But here he is, walking past a farm, a vineyard, and he cannot help but draw something out of what he sees. Someone once said, "Wise men profit more from fools than fools from wise men; for the wise shun the mistakes of fools, but fools do not imitate the successes of the wise." (The Parallel Lives by Plutarch, published in Vol. II of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1914) So, here we read of the wise man harvesting knowledge and wisdom from the thorns and nettles infesting the fields from which the fool harvests nothing.
We know Solomon to be the wisest man who ever walked this earth, save for Jesus Christ, and here we see that his mind is constantly "on". Matthew Henry comments, "Those that are to give instruction to others must receive instruction themselves, and instruction may be received, not only from what we read and hear, but from what we see, not only from what we see of the works of God, but from what we see of the manners of man, not only from men's good manners, but from their evil manners." (Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible) Solomon is taken by what he sees, and applies it to his own life, learning from this farmer's mistakes.
Looking closer at what Solomon takes away from this observation, we read "A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man." What exactly is he saying? Sure, at first glance it's obvious that he is speaking on laziness and slothfulness. But does it mean any more? Notice that he is not talking about just wanton laziness and refusal to do anything. He says, "a little sleep" and "a little slumber", there is nothing here about hopping on a plane to a Caribbean island and tossing off all responsibility. How often do we catch ourselves putting something off until later, and then just constantly putting it off? A little procrastination builds up bit by bit, until whatever chore we put off has now become an insurmountable task, with little hope of it ever getting accomplished.
Solomon describes the field as being "overgrown with thorns" and the "ground was covered with nettles". Remember the curse spoken of in Genesis 3:17-19?
And to Adam he said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, 'You shall not eat of it,' cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field.Sin brought the curse. The ground is cursed, "thorns and thistles it shall bring forth", because sin was unleashed on creation. As man must work the ground through the thorns and thistles in order to eat, so the Christian must work his own soul through trials and temptations in order to reap his reward.
By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return."
It is here that we find the allegory in this proverb: this is not about the lazy man letting his fields get out of control, this is a warning to the wise and understanding Christians to keep vigilant in the tending of their souls. Matthew Henry says on this matter, "Our souls are our fields... which we are every one of us to take care of... that may be got out of them which will be fruit abounding to our account."
There is a camp of thought today that says since salvation is by faith alone in Jesus Christ, and that only by God's grace, that one must almost be idle, lest we stumble into a works righteousness system. However, this false thinking leaves us as babes, longing for milk, instead of mature Christians, craving the solid food of the Word (Hebrews 5:12-14).
We work with what God has blessed us: our talents, our hands, our minds, our money, etc. We are to use these things everyday to bring glory to Him and to work His fields - today. Not tomorrow. Do not put off the things of God until it is more "convenient". As Charles Spurgeon once said, "...for 'now is the accepted time', and it may be now or never. Tomorrow is only to be found in the calendar of fools; today is the time of the wise man".
"...Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation." (2 Corinthians 6:2b)