Proverbs 14:23 - In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.
I recently celebrated the first anniversary of taking a new job. This new position has been the most intense job I have ever had but it has also fit me better than any job I have ever had. In reading my morning devotions on the day of my first anniversary of the job, Proverbs 14:23 jumped out at me.
As I look at this verse, the word toil is important to understand. It literally means painful diligence. It is not activity for activity’s sake. It is diligent, well thought out actions that have a purpose and a plan. Such toil is not easy to do. In fact, at times it is painful to accomplish work that is so thought out and purposeful. Such work costs us something, but the cost comes with a reward.
The reward is referred to as profit in this verse. When we hear that word the first thing that comes to mind is a financial return on an investment. That surely applies in this situation. People who make good plans in their place of employment and then work those plans diligently are much more likely to turn a profit than those who do not. But this verse applies to more than just money.
The concept of earning a profit also applies to one’s sense of fulfillment. When we make a good plan and then work that plan we feel like we have achieved something that was worth the effort it took to achieve it. Profit also applies to earning respect. When we develop a good plan and then work that plan we gain the respect of our co-workers and others in our field. That brings its own rewards to our sense of self.
When I think of the profit mentioned in this verse, I tend not to think so much about money or my own sense of worth or value. What I think about is entering into eternity and hearing the Master say “Well done thou good and faithful servant.” For me, that changes everything. While earthly rewards do come from hard work, it is the heavenly reward that I work for. That keeps my perspective on eternal things, which significantly impacts the types of earthly toil I am willing to engage in. I work hard and I want my work to make a difference, when done with an eternal perspective, my work can be of profit.
The second half of the verse reminds us that if we fail to plan out our work with an eternal purpose, it only leads to poverty. Again, that can apply to the financial side of things. But it can also apply to spiritual poverty. Who wants to work their whole lives doing the wrong things and then hear the Master say "Depart from Me for I never knew you."
We must work hard and keep our focus on the things that matter to God. If we do that, the profits will be great! If we fail to do that, our poverty will be even greater.
Lord, help us toil well so we can provided for our needs our earth, but never let us lose sight of the reality that the greatest rewards for our toils will not come until eternity. Amen.
Dr. Terry W. Dorsett has served as a missionary, pastor and denominational leader in New England since 1993. He is happily married to his college sweetheart and enjoys spending time with his children and grandchildren. He is the author of numerous books including “The Heavenly Mundane: Daily Devotions from Ordinary Experiences.” You can find his complete list of books at: http://www.amazon.com/Dr.-Terry-W.-Dorsett/e/B00405U4NY/