Longtime commenter on this blog Dan Kempin has posted on his church’s website these reflections on Proverbs 23:4: “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; Have the wisdom to show some restraint.” (NIV)
Ask the young what they want their life to be in ten or twenty years and you will hear a great variety of hopes and dreams and aspirations with one thing in common: “Oh, and I want to be rich.” (I know, because I ask the young that question every chance I get.) We live also in a land of great opportunity where work is rewarded and where those who are gifted and bold can literally build a fortune. It is the American Dream because it is the dream of the human heart. (And because it is possible in America.) And so we study. We work. We dream. We work. Sometimes we even buy lottery tickets or stop by the casino because, you know, it just might be our chance to get rich.
But the proverb warns us here, and the interesting thing is that it does not warn us against wealth. It does not denigrate the rich or even say that it is wrong to pursue riches. It says, “Do not wear yourself out . . .” Don’t wear yourself out to get rich. It’s not worth it.So, then, let me pose a few questions: How have things been in your life lately? Hectic? Busy? Are you feeling a bit . . . worn out? Do you feel, at times, that there is not enough time in the day and that you are stretched too thin by your commitments? (Or do you just feel that way ALL the time?)You see, I think our culture is in real trouble about this. For some reason we have gotten to a point where we fill our lives up to the point of bursting. Work, school, sports, friends, facebook, family, bills, church, clubs, hobbies . . . everything is an OBLIGATION, and it is relentless. Whether blessed with a highly successful career, or struggling to make ends meet, there seems to be no difference in this regard: We are so BUSY that we are wearing ourselves out. . . .
We can accomplish so much more so much more easily than previous generations with all of our labor saving devices. I seem to recall that those devices were invented so that we would have time to relax. Yet every minute we save, we quickly fill with something else! It is almost a cultural compulsion. Is this really good? Does it really serve God to rush through life at maximum speed by devoting ourselves to so many different things that we are too worn out to truly enjoy any of them? (And by our example teaching our children to do the same.)Or perhaps we deprive ourselves of that joy because in some way we feel guilty doing so. It is a guilt that we accept without thinking by letting someone else set our agenda of expectation. I have to be THAT mom; I have to provide THIS standard of living for my family. I have to say YES to everything that is asked of me. I can’t let THAT person down. I need to be a starter in ANY sport I pursue. Do we devote ourselves to these things because we truly love them? Or do we, perhaps, wear ourselves out chasing them because we think that they will fulfill our deeper need to be accepted and approved? Yet even as we choose voluntarily to overburden ourselves, we paradoxically long to be free of the very things we choose to pursue. . . .
Have the wisdom to say no. Have the wisdom to be less than perfect. Have the wisdom to not be a hero without feeling like a failure. Have the wisdom to settle for less than your maximun potential. Have the wisdom to, you know, do nothing every now and then, and instead of chafing at your idleness or the things that are not done, remember that everything you see in creation was provided by God without your assistance. He didn’t need your reminder to send fall, even though you nearly missed it for being so busy. And your place in His kingdom was purchased and prepared (without your assistance) long before you became so important.And it will be ready for you when it is time for you to set all of this busy-ness aside and come home.The question is whether we will arrive at that day by collapsing in a heap of miserable exhaustion, or whether we can discover the Lord’s own command of “Sabbath.” Rest. Do you have the faith to be idle?