Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth.

Proverbs 10:4


Our life is dependent on our industry.  It is good for man that he should have to labor.  By the “diligent” we are to understand the nimble-handed--those who are active and agile, who will lose nothing for want of rising early and peering about in the darkness if they may but catch a glimpse even of an outline of things.  The persons referred to in the text are those who take account of microscopic matters--they are particular about the smallest coins, about moments and minutes, about so-called secondary engagements and plans.  The true business man lives in the midst of his business.  We are not far from the sanctuary of God when we are listening to such proverbs as these. (J. Parker, D.D.)

Idleness and industry

I.  The hand of the one is “diligent,” the other is “slack.”

II.  The soul of the one seizes opportunities, the other neglects them.  The industrious man makes opportunities.  He does the work of the season.  The other lets opportunities pass.  He “sleepeth in harvest.”

III.  The destiny of the one is prosperity, that of the other ruin.  The man in the gospel who employed his talents got the “Well done!” of his Master and the ruler-ship over many things.  Laziness everywhere brings ruin.  “Drowsiness clothes man in rags.” (D. Thomas, D.D.)

Diligent in business

This rule applies alike to the business of life and the concerns of the soul.  The law holds good in common things.  The earth brings forth thorns instead of grapes unless it be cultivated by the labour of man.  A world bringing forth food spontaneously might have suited a sinless race, but it would be unsuitable for mankind as they now are.  The fallen cannot be left idle with safety to themselves.  The necessity of labour has become a blessing to man.  The maxim has passed into a proverb, “If you do not wait on your business, your business will not wait on you.”  That diligence is necessary to progress in holiness is witnessed by all the Word of God and all the experience of His people.  It would be a libel on the Divine economy to imagine that the tender plant of grace would thrive in a sluggard’s garden.  The work is difficult, the times are bad.  He who would gain in godliness must put his soul into the business.  But he who puts his soul into the business will grow rich.  When all counts are closed he who is rich in faith is the richest man. (W. Arnot, D. D.)

Slack hand

Lazy hand.  Sloth is the mother of poverty.  Or the words may be rendered the hand of deceit.  Without diligence honesty can scarcely be expected.  Next unto virtue let children be trained up to industry, for both poverty and fraud are commonly the effect of sloth. (B. E. Nicholls, M.A.)

Diligence and prosperity

A connection exists between the bounty of God and the duty of man.  All things are of God, and our dependence upon Him is absolute and imperative.  There is a perfect accordance between the established law of nature and the law of grace.  The former of these combines a dependence upon God for daily subsistence with the necessity of effort to procure it.  The latter tells us, and insists upon it, that while by grace we are saved through faith which is the gift of God, we are nevertheless to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.”

I.  Apply sentiment of text to the ordinary affairs of life.  With respect to temporal blessings.  The purposes of God are never carried into effect without the use of those means by which they are intended to be accomplished.  The application of these means is indispensable to the attainment of the end.  If we neglect these, it will be worse than folly to hope for any blessing.  What are the appointed means by which a beneficent providence supplies the temporal wants of man?

1.  Diligence or industry.  An unoccupied and idle man countervails all the laws both of his animal and intellectual frame and wages war upon every organ of his material structure.  The law of industry is a benevolent law.  If you would make a man miserable, let him have nothing to do.  Idleness is the nursery of crime.

2.  Economy.  He who wastes what providence gives him may not complain of it being with-held or withdrawn.  Nature and observation are constantly reading us this lesson.  In all that God does there is nothing lost, nothing thrown away, nothing but what is designed for some useful purpose.  Every natural substance that does not retain its original form passes into some other that is equally important in its way.  There is no example of the entire destruction of anything in the universe.  The Lord Jesus did not deem it mean to be frugal.  Meanness is more justly chargeable to waste and prodigality.  He that is regardless of little things will be very apt to be careless of those that are greater.

3.  A sacred regard to the Lord’s day.  If a man would make the most of human life, to say nothing of the life to come, he must be a conscientious observer of this consecrated day.  Other collateral means are, a sacred regard to truth, honesty in every transaction, rectitude and integrity of character.

II.  Apply sentiment of the text to the interests of the soul.  Many events may transpire which will frustrate the most diligent in their enterprise.  Sickness, infirmity, calamity, treachery.  But it is never so in the case of the soul.  There is an opulence in the Divine benignity which satisfies the desire of every praying spirit.  Note there is a certainty in the promise.  Labour for the meat which endureth unto everlasting life shall be rewarded in the issue to the extent of our largest expectations.  And at the last his joy will be full.  He has gained the true riches and is rich indeed. (J. Everitt.)

Advantages of virtuous industry

I.  The industrious man accomplishes very many things which are profitable to himself and others in numberless respects.  How many of his own wants and those of others does he not thus relieve! How many sources of welfare does he not open to himself and others!

II.  If the industrious man executes many useful matters, he executes them with far more ease and dexterity than if he were not industrious.  He has no need of any long previous contest with himself.  He understands, he loves the work; has a certain confidence in himself, and is more or less sure of success.

III.  The industrious man unfolds, exercises, perfects his powers; not only his mechanical, but also his nobler, his mental powers.

IV.  The industrious man lives in the true, intimate, entire consciousness of himself, and of that which he is and does.  He actually rejoices in his life, his faculties, his endowments, his time.

V.  The industrious man, who is so from principle and inclination, experiences neither languor nor irksomeness.  Never are his faculties, never is his time, a burden to him.

VI.  The industrious man has a far greater relish for every innocent pleasure, for every relaxation, that he enjoys.  He alone properly knows the pleasure of rest.

VII.  The industrious man alone fulfils the design for which he is placed on earth, and may say so to himself, and may in the consciousness of it be contented and cheerful. (G. J. Zollikofer.)

Text Courtesy of


Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Proverbs 10:4". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.