“The way of the lazy is as a hedge of thorns, but the path of the upright is a highway.” Proverbs 15:19
Have you ever noticed how nothing seems to find order? By itself, I mean, without any assistance or help. Take a handful of anything… a deck of cards, a stack of papers. Drop them on the floor. What happens? Do you find a stack of cards, a well organized term paper? No, you will find anything but order. You will find chaos, disorder, and ultimately a mess.
The cards may have begun in your hand as a nice orderly stack, or the papers may have been ordered into a cohesive unit, but YOU had to first put them that way. In other words, you had to work to have them so arranged.
Since no one seeks disorder in anything (life, finances, furniture, study notes…the list is endless), then it stands to reason they do seek order. But nothing, absolutely nothing in life, comes to order on its own.
Enter WORK. Yes, it could be argued that is the ultimate reason for work. It’d be nice if everything simply fell into place, but the reality is this: order and structure demand diligence and work.
A pile of lumber is not a house – it’s a pile of lumber. Work, the ordering of the various pieces, makes a home out of it.
A symphony is not a cacophony of noise. That’s just another term for a headache. A symphony is a “concert” of sounds, which has its latin roots in a word meaning to “plan or act together”. And when it is planned well, it is a truly amazing audible effect.
The wise words in the book of Proverbs once again remind us of how these deep concepts of life apply to us as people, individually and corporately. The two character traits of laziness and diligence have vastly different outcomes in the journey we call life.
“The way of the lazy is as a hedge of thorns…” Solomon, the writer of Proverbs, was a brilliant thinker, but he was also an excellent teacher. True to an expert communicator’s ways, he wrapped the concept of laziness in the perfect metaphor.
A hedge of thorns. Where do we find thorns? In a word, we find them everywhere we don’t want to be. If they are there, we want to get rid of them. But we see that in our fallen, cursed world, thorns abound. They don’t need watering, they don’t need trimming. They are resilient against insects and fungi. They grow like a cancer, and are incredibly difficult to eradicate once they’ve taken root.
Yes, this proverb is simple, but oh so powerful. Laziness breeds disorder.
Our society encourages people in their laziness. Much of it coming from an attitude of entitlement, the people thinking of “I deserve it” instead of “I owe it” are constantly looking for an easy way to live, with the absolute minimum expected of them. They want to be fed and cared for but are unwilling to do their part in the process.
Apparently this attitude was prevalent all the way back into history, when Proverbs was written. Laziness among any people is a curse and leaves its tell-tale marks everywhere. But the most important application of this principle is for the individual person – how that lazy person conducts his life and how the attitude evidences itself in interactions with others.
However, Solomon didn’t only comment on the troubles of societies. He also gave solutions. And here, as in most of the written proverbs, he gives the contrast to a lazy man.
“…but the path of the upright is a highway.”
A highway is a road, or thoroughfare, and allows people to travel, products to get shipped, journeys to be made. It enables commerce, it connects people to people – it is a necessary part of any functioning village. A highway is a good, necessary, and profitable thing, but it requires work! This is why the writer of Proverbs used a highway to picture the upright, because in other verses he makes it very clear diligence is a characteristic of the upright person. The opposite of laziness, diligence, creates a highway out of a thorn briar.
And what is the lesson for us? If we want order (and we all do), we need to realize it doesn’t happen on its own. This might appear to be a rudimentary concept and overly simple, but it is obvious so many people expect things to be profitable and in order but are not willing to work to make it happen. God has so designed life that work is an integral and necessary part of human existence. We shouldn’t seek out ways to avoid work – that’s not the way of the righteous, it’s the way of the lazy and unrighteous. We should find ways to work, to work productively, to better not only our lives but even more so the lives of others.
We can start with some leather gloves and a weedwacker.