“He who tills his land will have plenty of bread,
But he who pursues worthless things lacks sense.”
“Tilling the land” is a placeholder for “pursuing worthwhile things.”
“Lacks sense” is, at least in part, not valuing (and thus pursuing) good and worthwhile things.
What is the man pursuing who works his land? Yes, he is pursuing bread to eat; but he is pursuing something of worth – and plenty of it. He is able to focus and work diligently at something of great value. And this shows that he has good sense.
The pursuit of worthless things is different from simple laziness because there is pursuit. But when the target is the knight’s armor and not the gaps in his armor, the end result of all that energy spent is nothing. And nothing, when there can be plenty of something, is worse than nothing. It becomes a negative value. Distracted living, it turns out, is about as dangerous as distracted driving.
A mere fly buzzing around can distract a whole room from absorbing the wise words of a great speaker. [This thought was inspired by Blaise Pascal.]
The pursuit of worthless things is less innocent, I think.
Jesus talks a lot about pursuit of what is valuable. For Him, that is the kingdom of God. It is the pearl of great price. It is the most valuable treasure. Treasure in heaven is more worthy than honour from men.
For Jesus, it is much better to work for bread that doesn’t spoil!
“Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal” (John 6:27). The labour or pursuit is believing (John 6:29).
“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst’” (John 6:35).
Here is where this eschatological or theological layering of Proverbs comes in. The Son is true God, He is also Wisdom that creates and the Messiah and Priest who calls us to seek after eternity.
What is the highest pursuit? And are our penultimate or secondary pursuits ordered and pointing toward that highest, most worthy pursuit? We wisely till the land to produce bread. But when we seek after this bread, are we doing it in such a way as to pursue the true bread of heaven? Neither of these can be ignored. The ultimate and the penultimate are both worthy and good goals.
In Proverbs 12:11 we are called to wriggle free from the grasp of distraction. We are called to pursue what is worth pursuing. We are also called to wrestle with what is most worthy and to honestly and prayerfully look at our lives, to repent and turn from lesser, worthless gods, and to pursue the one true God.
One major issue in this regard is what we do with our leisure time. Are we drawn to prayer? Or YouTube?
It it’s said that Jesus set his face like flint toward Jerusalem (Luke 9:51). That was where his Father called Him to go; and so Jesus went – with great resolve.
Where is God calling you to go with great resolve? What is God calling you to do with greatness of resolve? I encourage you to pray for direction and for a resolve that can only come from the Spirit, who shows us that joy is ahead (Hebrews 12:2).
Some more questions to ask: Where is my energy being spent? In the place of worthlessness? Or in the place that is proper to me – which has been given or appointed by God?