“He who tills his land will have plenty of food,
But he who follows empty pursuits will have poverty in plenty.”
– Proverbs 28:19–20 (NASB)
I don’t know how much experience you have with farming. But I have very, very little. I remember when I was a child I used to go and pick fruits and vegetables on a farm with my parents. My parents loved it. But at the time, I was a lazy little boy who didn’t like to work. And from that perspective it was all work and no fun. But looking back now I realize what a great blessing those farm-picking days were! And I have taken my own children on many similar “adventures” which I hope that they too will one day look back on with fondness.
When we read in Proverbs 28:19 about the individual who “tills his land” we ought to take a minute to think about how this applies to us, here in the 21st century as non-farmers. What does it mean for you and for me to “till our land”?
If you were a farmer, your land would be the source of your income; it would be your livelihood. This would be where you would grow food for your own needs and grow additional food to sell or to barter for other things that you needed or wanted.
So what is it that you do for a living? How is God providing for you? What is your job? What is your occupation? This would be a close parallel for “your land.” And “tilling your land” could be compared to working your job. Being a faithful employee or employer. Working hard. Showing up to work on time. Being a dependable worker. Being a productive worker. You get the point.
And what is the result of this kind of hard work? You will have plenty of food! Your needs will be provided for. You will be able to provide for the needs of your family and for others in need around you. As a result of your hard work, you will be blessed and enabled to be a blessing. (see Paul’s instructions in Eph. 4:28)
In contrast to this faithful individual, we are given a warning about following “empty pursuits” (cf. 28:19-20). This person never gets around to tilling their land. They never seem to find the weather to be just right and then there are all of those wonderful opportunities in different places that keep them from working their land. And so when it comes time to plant the seed, the ground has not been prepared. And at harvest time, they have nothing to reap. And then ironically and sadly, instead of having “plenty of food” they end up with “plenty of poverty.” (you can read of a sobering warning about this in Proverbs 24:30-34)
I don’t think it should be too difficult for us to consider how this negative example relates to our own jobs and responsibilities.
But there are many other applications for these principles that can be made beyond the realm of our finances, jobs, and work ethic. Think about some of the other opportunities that are right in front of you. What are you doing with these? Are you “working the land” or are you following “empty pursuits”?
Just to help you think through some of these opportunities, here are a few categories (not all of these apply to everyone), where it would be good to evaluate how you are working “the land” of…
-Fellow church members
-Your gifts/ talents/ abilities
-Your knowledge of God’s Word
-Your training for ministry
-Your special abilities and knowledge of additional languages
-Your… (you fill in the blank here)
It is God’s will for us to be faithful with what He has entrusted to us. Ultimately everything that we have is a gift from God. EVERYTHING! (Psalm 24:1; Rom. 11:36) It ALL belongs to Him. And therefore we truly do not own anything. We are STEWARDS. And as Paul declares in 1 Corinthians 4:2, “it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.” Are you trustworthy with “your land”? Are you working it? Or are you distracted and following empty pursuits?
May God grant each one of us an abundance of His grace to work the “land” that He has set before us with all of our might (cf. 1 Cor. 15:10)! And as a result may He give us a plentiful harvest so that we might be able to provide physically and spiritually for ourselves, our families, and others who are in need!
In Christ alone,