Industriousness and Four Coffee Mugs

TitleIndustriousness.

What a word. It came into my head this morning when I was reading Proverbs. I didn’t actually read that word but rather, I read the opposite character quality:

The way of the sluggard is blocked with thorns, but the path of the upright is a highway.” Proverbs 15:19

The way of a sluggard. A sluggard’s ways are not industrious.

Industrious…why do I consider that a Biblical word. Perhaps because it’s not a word we use in regular conversation.

“Well, I thought I would take the industrious road today and see how much work I can complete without being overcome by rabbit trails.”

“She is such an industrious worker; I never see her sitting still.”

But then I began to think about what that word actually means. In the Proverbs verse, it is paired with the opposite character: the way of the sluggard versus the path of the upright.

We so often mentally define industrious with accomplishing tasks, doing a successful job, never sitting, never pausing, continually moving.

But I think that this word has greater meaning for us (and me!). It’s more about having an outlook of shunning laziness, about wanting to make the best use of my time, about having a heart for working towards a goal rather than checking things off a list.

I walked by my bed this morning and noticed how my nightstand had become overrun with books, torn-out magazine articles, pens, four coffee mugs (don’t judge), and assorted odds and ends.

I stopped there and realized that I could walk past it, forcefully blinding my eye to it, or take just 5 minutes to straighten it up, move things to their correct locations in the house, and make it more orderly. It was a small thing. But I couldn’t believe how, within that pause, I struggled to just close my eyes to it. I’ll tackle it later. I have so much to do that is more urgent.

Then that word came into my head….Industrious.

With a slightly rebellious sigh, I went over to the nightstand and in exactly 5 minutes I cleaned and straightened that little spot in my house before any phone call or emergency request from a child could stop me.

Wow. That felt great. No, my house is not in order…at least not to the Martha-Stewart-magazine-standards I subconsciously try to meet. But it is important for us to maintain control over the things that God has entrusted to us. So cleaning that nightstand was more about me having a heart for working towards the goal of keeping my home in order. Well, what does this all have to do with industriousness?

It’s just this. Though being industrious can involve working diligently, it is not referring to someone who is in constant motion. Proverbs says that a sluggard’s ways are counter to the path of the upright. So I want to behave like the upright. That means that I should be using my time in the best way that I can. That means it will often involve diving into a project or a regular task whether I “feel like it” or not. That means that though sometimes I don’t want to do what I know I should (“Okay everyone, time for school today!”), I know that I am called to behave in an upright manner and should do it. It meets the goals that my husband and I have established for our children and our household.

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But here’s the rub: Just because we dive into a task, doesn’t mean that we will be successful at it or that we will complete it in the way WE WANT TO SEE IT DONE.

Industriousness has more to do with our attitudes than with what we complete.

It has to do with our desire to make the best use of our time. And sometimes that means we complete lots of tasks, while other times it means that we just faithfully move forward, still unable to check anything off our list. It is a heart thing.

So on this Monday morning, as you face all that you have ahead of you, I encourage you to do it with a heart for industriousness. As one who is upright. As one who is NOT a sluggard. You are not a whirlwind, spinning around the house without even stopping to grab a cup of tea. You are a sweet, amazing one who is faithfully trying to move forward with the tasks you have, sometimes sitting to regroup and refresh, other times feeling like you are moving backwards, but ALWAYS working toward the goals God has set before you.

Have an extraordinary day!

Sherri