When you were a child, how concerned were you about whether your behavior would bring honor or shame to your family? How concerned about such things are you as an adult? From a biblical perspective, your answer should be “very concerned.” As we see in texts such as today’s passage, the Bible teaches that what we do inevitably has consequences for those who are close to us, and it is clearly a bad thing if our actions bring shame to our families.
Proverbs 10:4–5 sets up a contrast between those who work hard and those who are lazy, commending the former and condemning the latter. In fact, we see that idleness brings shame to parents. This proverb assumes the creational order that God established when He made the world. We were created to work unto His glory (Gen. 2:15), which means that labor in itself is a good thing even if in the present fallen state of the world it contains many thorns and thistles, or complications that introduce hardship, pain, and frustration into our labors (3:16–19). Since the Lord commands us to honor our fathers and mothers (Ex. 20:12), it makes sense that the degree to which we obey our Creator’s law (that we labor diligently) corresponds to the degree of honor or shame that we bring to our parents and, indeed, the rest of our families. We can even apply this more broadly to the church, which is our spiritual family. Hard work brings honor to the church, while laziness is a cause for shame in the body of Christ.
Consequently, God calls us to be concerned with how what we do reflects on others. We do have to be careful here. Those around us may not have the right categories of honor and shame. Sometimes, what we do might bring honor to God but others will feel as if it brings shame to them. In such cases, we must do what is honoring to the Lord regardless. And what is both honoring to Him and rightly honoring to others is hard work. Diligent, careful labor at the right time will bring blessing to us and to our families (Prov. 10:4–5).
Finally, with respect to the riches that hard work may bring, Matthew Henry comments that this teaching applies to spiritual matters as well. He writes, “Slothfulness and hypocrisy lead to spiritual poverty, but those who are fervent in spirit, serving the Lord, are likely to be rich in faith and rich in good works.” Let us endeavor to serve our God faithfully and carefully, and we will be blessed in doing so.