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Marina Piccinini, a world-renowned flutist, travels frequently around the world. As she is often traveling for concerts, she has to take her flutes with her. One day as she was passing through security in the Munich airport, the guards took a particular interest in her flutes. They made her open the cases and put the flutes together. Somehow, even after the flutes were assembled, the guards were still suspicious. Finally, they insisted that Marina play something on one of the flutes to prove that they were genuine instruments and not a threat.
Instead of being angry at the guards, or annoyed at the delay, Marina said to herself, “They want me to play? I’m gonna PLAY!” And she launched into Bach’s Partita in A-Minor. You have to realize that this isn’t some little ditty. It’s an intense six-minute piece of music, with long stretches between breaths. She closed her eyes and played the whole thing straight through.
When she opened her eyes, she realized that a crowd had gathered and the terminal was silent. Then everyone burst into applause, and she was waved through by the dumbfounded officials.
I wonder if I take that much pride in the things I do. Sometimes, sure. But other times, I just want to get it over with—and I don’t always do the best job I could.
There’s a verse in the Bible that says, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.”1 I think many of us just try to get our work completed, without putting much “might” into it.
The Bible has a term for folks who refuse to work diligently, but instead do the least possible; it calls them “sluggards.” Look up “sluggards” in your Bible and you’ll see there’s not a whole lot of good predicted for them. The book of Proverbs is full of unpleasant promises for lazy folks. Here are a few:
Proverbs 13:4 says that the sluggard always wants stuff, but never gets much.
Proverbs 19:15 says that the idle or lazy soul is always going to go hungry.
And Proverbs 10:4 says that the guy who works with a lazy hand will become poor.
That doesn’t sound like a very good life. The sluggard will have little chance of being successful at anything because he’s not willing to put in the effort. He does his work sloppily, so he won’t rise to any great heights.
The sluggard is short-sighted. He thinks only about his immediate comfort and enjoyment, and doesn’t bother planning for the future. Because of his laziness, the sluggard will always choose the option that requires the least work and provides the greatest amount of immediate satisfaction. He constantly chooses the path of least resistance—and he’s a major procrastinator. While it’s nice to just take it easy sometimes, a life of laziness will seldom lead to success or prosperity. It won’t lead to personal fulfillment either.
So what’s the alternative? Well, for every reference to the sluggard, the Bible also talks about faithfulness and the blessings for the diligent. Here are some things the Bible has to say about the blessings to the faithful:
Proverbs 28:20 says: “A faithful man will abound with blessings.”
In Matthew 25:21, Jesus says, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a few things, I will set you over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.”
And Proverbs 3:3-4 says: “Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.”
It doesn’t matter so much what your calling in life is—what matters is how you answer that calling. Martin Luther King Jr. summed it up well when he said, “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’”—Marie Story2
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for Me, not for men. Half-heartedness is not pleasing to Me, nor is it good for you. It’s tempting to rush through routine tasks and do them sloppily, just to get them done. But this negative attitude will pull you down and lower your sense of worth. If you do the same tasks with a thankful heart, you can find pleasure in them and do a much better job.
It’s helpful to remember that every moment of your life is a gift from Me. Instead of feeling entitled to better circumstances, make the most of whatever I provide—including your work. When I put Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, I instructed them to work it and take care of it. Even though it was a perfect environment, it was not a place of idleness or total leisure.
Whatever you do, beloved, you are working for Me. So give Me your best efforts, and I will give you Joy.—Jesus3
Diligence, or steady perseverance in one’s effort, results in careful, energetic, and persistent work. Diligent people get the job done. They don’t quit until they have given it their all. The Bible uses the word diligence in several ways, and it is always in a positive sense.
Diligence is mentioned a couple of times in the book of Proverbs. A proverb is a short saying that expresses a general truth for practical living, and the truth about diligence is that it is good for us:
“Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth.”4 This proverb tells us that those who work diligently will most likely reap a good result, while those who refuse to work with diligence suffer the consequences.
“A sluggard’s appetite is never filled, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.”5 This proverb again contrasts the diligent with the lazy and shows that diligent people have planned ahead, saved, and worked to provide for their needs. In contrast, the lazy, or the non-diligent, never have enough because they don’t see a job through to the end. They quit or do shoddy work and reap the results of their lack of diligence.
We are told in Proverbs 4:23 to guard our hearts with diligence because everything we do flows from the heart. If we are not diligent to guard against falsehood, evil thoughts, and lustful desires, our enemy Satan is standing by to take advantage.
Diligence implies an intentional action of guarding our hearts, rather than a passive acceptance of everything that enters. Second Corinthians 10:5–6 gives an example of how to guard our hearts by “taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” As a sentry is diligent in guarding a fortress, so must we be diligent in guarding our hearts and minds.
After outlining specific commands and instructions, Paul urged Timothy to “be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.”6 The “matters” Timothy was to be diligent in included identifying false teachers,7 avoiding myths and fruitless discussions,8 setting “an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity,”9 and devoting himself “to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.”10 These were not suggestions to be dabbled with but commands to be diligently applied.
Being a follower of Christ is also to be pursued with diligence. ... Jesus made it clear that those who wished to be His disciples must be “all in.”11 … Jesus emphasized that the greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.”12 In other words, life’s ultimate goal is to diligently love the Lord. All actions flow from the posture of our hearts. When we make diligence the common ingredient in everything we do, and we choose to do godly things, we set a standard for ourselves that will propel us toward godliness and a life of excellence.—GotQuestions.org13
Ordinary people who faithfully, diligently, and consistently do simple things that are right before God will bring forth extraordinary results.—David A. Bednar
In cross-country competition, training counted more than intrinsic ability, and I could compensate for a lack of natural aptitude with diligence and discipline. I applied this in everything I did.—Nelson Mandela
We are to learn our duty from the Lord, and then we are to act in all diligence, never being lazy or slothful. The pattern is simple but not easy to follow. We are so easily distracted.—Henry B. Eyring
Being forced to work, and forced to do your best, will breed in you temperance and self-control, diligence and strength of will, cheerfulness and content, and a hundred virtues which the idle will never know.—Charles Kingsley
Through hard work, perseverance and a faith in God, you can live your dreams.—Ben Carson
Published on Anchor July 2022. Read by Jon Marc.
1 Ecclesiastes 9:10 NIV.
2 Adapted from an article from Just1Thing.com.
3 Sarah Young, Jesus Always (Thomas Nelson, 2017).
4 Proverbs 10:4.
5 Proverbs 13:4.
6 1 Timothy 4:15.
7 1 Timothy 4:1–5.
8 1 Timothy 4:7.
9 1 Timothy 4:12.
10 1 Timothy 4:13.
11 Luke 9:57–62.
12 Mark 12:28–31.