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Meaningful Hard Work
Proverbs 12:11 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
11 He who works his land will have plenty of bread,
but he who follows worthless things is in want of heart.
He who works his land will have plenty of bread: Here works (Heb. abad) his land is referring to preparing the land for raising crops by plowing or cultivating. However, here it has a more basic sense of work or labor where one expends considerable energy and intensity in a task or function. Like in 12:9 bread (Heb. lechem) is representative of life’s necessities, so having plenty of bread is saying that one who works hard will have plenty of life’s basic necessities, he will never be penniless.
but he who follows worthless things is in want of heart: One who follows worthless things (reqim) is a reference to one who gives his time, labor and energy to things that are useless. There is no value, no advantage to these worthless pursuits. This person is in want of heart, as Solomon expresses it. The Hebrew (chaser leb) is rendered (interpreted) as “lacks sense” in other translations. (ESV, LEB, CSB, and NASB) This foolish person is lacking good sense and wisdom, lacking good judgment or discernment as to the worthless things that he pursues in his life.
Drawing upon yet another aspect of agricultural life, working the land, Solomon stresses that meaningful hard work will cause us to reap benefits. However, the one who is lacking good judgment or understanding (in want of heart) spends most of his time in pursuit of worthless, idle, speculative things, which have no value or advantage. The lessons in Proverbs 12:10-11 are clear: Be compassionate and hardworking.