In all labor there is profit, but the talk of the lips leads only to poverty. Proverbs 14:23
Profit – Actions, not words. That’s the essence of Solomon’s wisdom on the subject of profit. But it isn’t just Solomon who advises those who will listen. Behind Solomon’s insight is a Scriptural principle that is evident from Genesis to Revelation. Where men and women commit themselves to strenuous toil (‘eseb), God promises that something extra will remain. The word is motar. Translated as “profit”, it really means what is left over. It carries the idea of results, excess, advantage or benefit. In other words, it is a biblical fact that labor under the banner of God’s governance will produce something extra. It’s just a fact of common grace. And more importantly, it’s an expectation of the way the world is designed.
Of course, this verse also says something about the opposite approach. Talking and talking and talking doesn’t lead to any benefit at all. It leads to poverty, the lack of the very things necessary for life. Hebrew is incredibly practical. You can’t eat words. If you want results, you will have to work for them. God’s entitlement program is built on His design. You and I were designed to work, not to wait for someone else to give to us. We are entitled to the fruits of our labor. That’s all. That’s why Paul (who is very Hebraic) can say, “If someone won’t work, don’t feed him.” It might not sound very altruistic, but it is nevertheless an inescapable element of God’s design. Work is part of what it means to be human. Animals might be suited for hibernation, but men and woman are not.
In Hebrew, this little reminder contains a nice alliteration. Motar comes from hard work but mahsor (poverty) results from useless verbiage. These Hebrew words set the framework for God’s purposes regarding our labor. If you want to see what happens to human life where society is reduced to words without work, visit any third world country with unemployment greater than 60%. What you will find is animal existence, human beings reduced to survival behavior. Often this is not the result of lack of things to do. It is the result of those in power talking about the problems instead of providing the economic means and safety needed for real work. Even in Haiti, where unemployment reaches 90%, there is plenty to do, but the government is more concerned with maintaining power and accumulating wealth than it is with providing the economic stability necessary for people to be rewarded for their efforts. In fact, the development of a welfare system has probably done more damage to human consciousness than any other social program. Welfare certainly exists in the biblical record, but it is a function of the community in an effort to restore people so that once again they become workers. Somehow we have lost sight of that divine goal.
Motar is only used three times in the Bible. The other occurrences are in Proverbs 21:5 and Ecclesiastes 3:19. The first instance tells us that the thoughts of the diligent lead to motar. The Hebrew worldview includes the action of thinking in alignment with God. The second instance tells us without God there is no advantage (motar) of Man over beasts. All end up in the grave.
Do you want to see profit? Then work, but work with God in mind. Common grace ends at the grave, but God’s motar doesn’t.
Topical Index: Profit