“Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.”
We live in an age of infinite distraction, and it’s killing our faith. As I interact with people, young adults in particular, I’ve noticed amazing amounts of time being given to what I believe should be described as, at best, worthless pursuits. Spending an hour scrolling through a Facebook feed, pinning images of the household you wish you had (a post about Pinterest and coveting is something for a later date), watching movies three or four nights a week, playing enough video games to make it a part time job, sleeping in until noon, and many more of the pursuits that are considered commonplace among people of our day are what the Biblical writers would call worthless.
It’s my firm belief that God has placed in every Christian a desire to do something of worth. Those of us who are Jesus followers have been born again to a living hope that is meant to bear fruit that re-shapes the world. However, our both the devil and our fleshly nature delight to keep us satisfied with passing time in passing pursuits. Proverbs 12:11 talks about two types of people and I want to connect those with Christ’s commands for his disciples today.
The field worker
The first person we meet in Proverbs 12:11 is a man who works his field and recieves the reward of a plentiful harvest.
He works hard. Field work in the time when Proverbs was written didn’t include sitting in an air-conditioned, GPS-guided, gasoline powered tractor. Field laborers in Israel rose at dawn and spent the day with their hands and feet in the dirt, laboring for the food that would keep them and their families alive. They didn’t take days off because they were tired or needed some “me time,” and they couldn’t allow the pursuit of entertainment to keep them from their labor. Rather than shying away from difficulty, the field worker presses into the heavy stone and uses all of his strength and ingenuity to move it in order to plant his crops.
He works faithfully. Rather than being frustrated and giving up when the crops seem to not be growing, the field worker continues his diligent labor, knowing that the Lord is faithful to produce a harvest. Regardless of his own mental, physical, or emotional state, the field worker continues onward, knowing that ultimately it’s about more than him. He works faithfully.
He feeds himself. As a result of his faithful tending of his land, the field worker’s harvest is plentiful and he is able to feed himself and his family, with extra left over to share. He wasn’t completely dependent on others for his sustenance, and was a blessing rather than a burden.
The senseless fool, on the other hand, spends his time chasing worthless pursuits rather than diligently working with what the Lord has given him. He is lazy, seeking his own pleasure and avoiding anything that would bring discomfort, settling into the rut of sleep and entertainment rather than pushing himself. Even when the fool feels the burst of motivation to work he doesn’t have the self-discipline to continue after the motivation fades. Because of his laziness and pursuit of worthless things the fool is completely dependent on others for his livelihood. If he has well-off family and friends he mooches off of them. If he doesn’t, then he will inevitably become a beggar, barely getting through life on odd jobs and the charity of others.
The Jesus follower
Proverbs 12:11 is talking about a physical reality, but Jesus makes it clear that the principle applies in the spiritual realm as well through illustrations like the parable of the talents. The disciple of Christ is to be the field worker, not the fool. We are to work faithfully and with all our strength in the harvest fields of Christ’s kingdoms, availing ourselves of the means of feeding ourselves that he has provided. The faithless fool of a servant who merely slides by and buries rather than diligently working with what the master has given him will be thrown out into darkness.
My fear is that many of my generation and my friends spend most of the lives in the fool category rather than the field worker. We must not allow worthless pursuits to consume the time that Christ has given us. We should be men and women who cast off everything that hinders us and are diligent in fostering our own spiritual growth rather than waiting around for someone to come and carry us to the place where we are called to be. We need to stop making excuses about the difficulty of getting up earlier in order to read the scriptures, of finding time in our schedule to pray, of speaking about Christ in our workplace.
We have been born again and indwelt by the Holy Spirit who has (past tense) given you all that you need to be the disciple who takes up their cross and follows Jesus no matter the difficulty. The grace to change is already yours, you need only take hold of it. Jesus called us to be field workers, not fools, and what Jesus calls us to he will empower us for. Get up and get working.