Pearls From Proverbs

By Irvin Himmel

Do Thy Diligence

The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness; but of every one that is hasty only to want (Prov. 21:5).

The contrast in this proverb is between diligence and haste, thoughtful action and thoughtless hurry. “Extremes meet, and undue hurry is as fatal to success as undue procrastination” (E.H. Plumptre).


The following are some of the ingredients of diligence:

(1) Care. A hasty person is often careless. The diligent individual gives due attention to details. He pays attention and takes precautions. He exercises care to do his best in whatever he attempts.

(2) Thoroughness. Unlike the hasty fellow who glosses over many things, recklessly skips along, and overlooks important matters, the diligent person is painstaking, exact, and accurate.

(3) Hard work. Diligence demands laborious effort in the face of difficulties. It requires staying with an undertaking when the going gets rough.

(4) Steady improvement. One who is diligent in his work patiently strives for progress. He sees advancement as the fruit of persistence and toil. He tries to do a better job, for quality means something to him.

(5) Thoughtfulness. To be diligent necessitates planning, giving thought, taking heed, showing consideration, and being attentive.

Thoughtful Activity

“The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness . . . ” Thoughtful diligence is needed in many areas. I mention three categories in particular.

(1) In business. There is no substitute for honorable industry in the commercial field. Honest labor is a better basis for success than “get-rich-quick” schemes. Gambling appeals to people who look for a short-cut to prosperity. Flashy schemes are usually just that. Quick as a flash the scheme can leave one in poverty! The person who diligently pursues his occupation with dedication and integrity is building on a good base.

(2) In learning. Some young people are attracted to shortcuts in education. The only way to learn is through diligent study, effort, and application. Getting a good, solid education is hard work.

(3) In the Lord’s work. Some brethren are attracted to popular fads that are supposed to convert a lot of people with little effort. Serious, persistent, and regular teaching does not satisfy their whims. They want to hurry up the process and convert the world without personally doing what the Lord has commanded. Oh how we need diligence in the lives of all the saints! The whole world would have been converted already if the schemes of men would do what some claim, but fads come and go. In the meantime, faithful Christians keep working diligently to do what they can, each trying to shine as a light in his little corner of the world.

What does our proverb mean when it refers to being “hasty”? The fundamental meaning is “to throng, to urge (Ex. v. 13), here of impatient and inconsiderate rashness” (F. Delitzsch). Haste may be defined as undisciplined impulse.

The hasty person gives himself no time to think. He plunges quickly, and often rashly, into some activity.

It is important that we think carefully before we jump into something. “But although it is wise an necessary to think before we act, thinking must only be preparatory to action, and must not take its place. It is good for a man to make a good plan of his house before he begins to build; but a house on paper only will not shelter him from the winter storms. It is advisable for the captain to study his chart well before he embarks upon his voyage, but if he does no more he will never reach the desired port” (W. Harris). After careful thought there must be action-diligent action.

Hasty people often come to poverty because the shortcut approach does not work; “get-rich-quick” schemes are often “lose-it-all-hurriedly” if we look to the ultimate results.

Although I believe this proverb is referring to one’s attitude toward success in temporal affairs, I see a principle that can be applied spiritually. A congregation can become spiritually bankrupt if it is under the leadership of elders who “act in haste” rather than with thoughtful diligence. Many churches have jumped on a bandwagon that hurriedly carried them into apostasy. They took a short-cut, then another and another, finally cutting themselves off from adherence to the word of God. They were swallowed by human schemes.

Let us pursue our goals with the dignity of calm diligence, avoiding rash haste. Steady plodding is to be preferred over a wild runaway.

Guardian of Truth XXX: 20, p. 620
October 16, 1986