Don’t Talk Your Dreams To Death

In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty. Proverbs 14:23

“In all toil (labor) there is profit”
Diligent work always leads to some result or profit of benefit to the worker. Most work is neither easy nor fun but it does pay the bills and provides money for doing good and having fun. Even if you have a job you enjoy, there will be  unpleasant duties. People who love to garden still must get dirty, sweaty, and dig through the soil if they want to have the flowers or produce of the garden.

“Mere talk leads to poverty”
In contrast to diligent labor, talk without action leads to poverty. Idle talking does not pay and has gotten some people fired. Grandiose plans and slick presentations may impress others but it does not pay one cent if no labor is expended to make the dream a reality.

The first obvious application—indeed the natural application—of this verse is to the business world. In the early days of personal computers —before the average person could access the Internet—a man I knew had great plans to work with realtors to put pictures of houses for sale on videodisc (pre-DVD) with sale information for agents and customers. He had a prototype system, good marketing plan, and enthusiastic presentation. He talked with people in the office about his plans and the unlimited potential for profits. One problem: he did not have customers or profit from the work because he did not get out and talk to the customers who needed the system. In short, he planned and talked his way to poverty while other people, through hard work, were able to profit from similar ideas.

The world is made up of  poor creative geniuses and  rich people of average intelligence. The difference is not what they know but by what they do.

This principle is especially important for spiritual growth. Is your spiritual life the product of hard work or mere talk?

Some people talk about “getting their life right” or “straightening up” but still hang out with ungodly friends, feed their minds with filth, and do not change. Some say they want to pray or study more—and do so year after year. Some talk about doing more things with their brethren, helping the sick or needy, or getting involved with some work in the church but do not act.

Some people realize their life is displeasing to God, is yielding undesirable consequences, and is unsatisfying so they change their behavior. Some want a closer relationship with God and execute a plan to study and pray more frequently. Some take action to involve themselves with their brethren so they can have richer and deeper fellowship with other Christians.

If you want to have a rich and meaninful spiritual life, you’ll have to work for it.

  • Romans 13:11-14 – Awake and get busy
  • Thessalonians 5:4-8 – get busy with good things
  • Ephesians 5:14-17 – wake up and make good use of your time

 “He who works his land will have abundant food, but the one who chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty.” Proverbs 28:19 (NIV)

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” How sad it will be for those who dreamed of a close relationship with God and their brethren, a close loving family, and a meaningful life’s work to fail because they only dreamed and did not act.

Choose Friends With Care

One of our strongest influences is our friends.  The friends we choose will help us draw closer to God or go farther away from Him.  There are good examples like Cornelius in Acts 10 who invited his friends to hear the gospel.  There are bad examples like the friends of Rehoboam, in 2 Chronicles 10, who gave Rehoboam bad advice which cost him most of the kingdom.

Proverbs 12:26 and 22:24-25 warns us to choose our friends carefully since the wicked can lead us astray.  Most people are familiar with 1 Corinthians 15:33:  “Evil company corrupts good habits.”  When our closest friends are people who do not share our faith, priorities, and principles, we create the potential for many conflicts and unnecessary tests of our faith.

 We should not abandon friendships with non-Christians, but should make our closest companions (who are in greater positions of influence) those who share our values and priorities.  Some have lost their faith by associating with very worldly people thinking, “I will change them.”  However, it is often the child of God who is changed, and usually for the worse.  Paul prefaces his “evil companions” warning of 1 Corinthians 15:33 with “Do not be deceived.”  It is easy for us to deceive ourselves and think that others cannot corrupt us.

Good friends can greatly strengthen us.  Proverbs 27:17 teaches that good friends can improve one another as iron sharpening iron. We should choose our closest friends from the children of God.  They understand the trials that we face, the importance of service to God, and the principles that guide our lives.  By our mutual associations, we can encourage one another to do what is right, Hebrews 10:24-25.

Showing the Love of Christ by Hospitality

1 Peter 4:8-9  “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’ Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.” 

The early church had the love and togetherness of a stable family.  In Acts 2, we read that the brethren willingly shared their possessions with those in need and ate food together with gladness and simplicity of heart.  Nowhere did God command the church to provide a meal for brethren to use for fellowship.  In fact, Paul rebukes the church in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 11:22 by saying, “What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in?” We do not read of New Testament churches building “fellowship halls” but instead shared social fellowship on an individual basis.

The New Testament writers urged brethren to show hospitality towards one another.  The word “hospitality” literally means a “love of strangers.”  In the Old Testament there were laws regulating the treatment of strangers.  For example, Deuteronomy 10:18-19 commands: “He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”   Before the Law, Abraham and Lot fed and sheltered strangers (Genesis 18, 19).  These men entertained angels unknowingly, Hebrews 13:2.  From the beginning, hospitality has been a virtue desired by God.

The New Testament urges us to be “given to hospitality,” Romans 12:13.  The word translated “given” literally means to pursue.  We must pursue opportunities to show hospitality.  We must also recognize that many of our brethren, whom we see week after week, are still in many ways strangers to us.  We may not know where they live, what their hobbies are, their likes and dislikes.  When we enter their homes and they enter ours, they see what is important to us by our collections, our pictures, and our possessions.  Sometimes I have learned that a brother and I have similar interests and hobbies when visiting with them.  When we open our houses and our lives to our brethren, we will develop deeper friendships and brotherly love.

When we share together, we learn some needs that our brethren have.  Going “house to house” is one of the best ways to develop a close relationship with his brethren.
Hospitality should extend beyond a close circle of friends.  It is easy to have people into our homes on a regular basis whose company we already enjoy, and this should not neglected.  However, the transformed life extends hospitality beyond those friends.  Consider Jesus’ admonition in Luke 14:12-14 to not invite those who can repay us back with a meal but invite those who most need it.  Their primary need might not be food but companionship.  Consider also this sober lesson from our Lord:

Matthew 5:46-47: “For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?”

Christians must be willing to receive hospitality.  When a brother invites us into his home, we should be thankful and, if possible, accept that invitation.  Some people have a hard time accepting hospitality but we help other Christians fulfill their duty by allowing them to show their love towards us.  Just as we should graciously accept when they want to wash our clothes, mow our lawn, bring us food and other types of service when we are sick or otherwise in need, we must willingly receive hospitality. Some have such pride that would refuse the offers of kind brethren. We need to humble ourselves and allow them to fulfill their duty.  We will have a chance to repay hospitality and service shown to us by serving others.

Comforting the Grieving

Most of us have great difficulty when visiting the bereaved at their home or the funeral home.  After all, so great a tragedy has taken place, what can we do?  We feel helpless when trying to comfort the bereaved.

We must first remember to help the living.  We should show our brethren that we are concerned about them.  We can show our concern by visiting them, but also taking food to the family, washing clothes, preparing the clothes for the family to wear to the funeral, assisting with children, and other needful things.

We must also be mindful of our words.  We must remember that no word or phrase that will completely calm the mourner.  Note some phrases intended for comfort that can sometimes hurt:

  • “Time heals all wounds.”  Who wants to forget their loved one who has died?  Of course, things will get easier in time, but now it is not comforting.
  • “After a while you will forget.”  Again, who wants to forget their loved ones?
  • “He/She would have wanted you to…”  No one knows what a person would have truly wanted at such a time.  It is an empty and speculative phrase.
  • “What a great loss you have suffered.”  Pretty obvious statement.
  • (Unborn child) “At least it happened before the baby was born.”  (Someone really said to a friend of mine.)  The parents build a bond with a child even before the child is born.  It is no easier to lose a child in the first few months than it is after the child is born.

Perhaps the best thing that we can do during the time of grief is to say nothing.  A warm hug and a sympathetic ear are often the best comfort we can provide.  It is good to recall the deeds and the personal memories of the deceased.  It can comfort the living to know that their loved one meant so much to others.

“Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” –Matthew 25:44-46

Genuine Love vs. Affection

1 John 3:16-18:  “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”

True love between brethren is expressed in actions.  Our love is not to be in what we say but what we do.  Love only expressed in word is of little value.  How can we love in word only?  Is our only interaction with fellow Christians at the worship service?  Perhaps we say we love others because we know that we are supposed to but, if our hearts were truly examined, would we only find affection, not true love?  Love that is in word requires no sacrifice of self, time, or money, demands no action, has no risk of being hurt, and needs no deep involvement with others.

Love that is in deed and truth, true love for our brethren, is on a higher level.  It requires action on our part, a show of love.  Christ showed His love, not by shouting His love from heaven, but by dying on the cross.  We show our love by our willingness to die for our brethren.  We may say that we have this love but we must demonstrate it.  Consider John’s example:  If you say that you would lay your life down for your brethren but you will not give of your possessions to help your needy brother, how does the love of God abide in you?  What a profound question!  When we think we love our brethren as Christ loved us, we must immediately ask how the love of God abides in us.  We must prove it.

John pictures a brother in need and a fellow Christian locking up his possessions by first locking up his heart.  If his heart is not with his brother, the resources he has to fill his needs will not be given.  Let us not be narrow regarding the needs of the brother.  Perhaps the brother has emotional needs; do we lock up friendship, a word of comfort, or a sympathetic ear?  If our brother has spiritual needs, do we lock up a gentle rebuke, exhortation from Gods’ word, or a prayer?  Maybe the brother does need our worldly goods: a car ride to church or to the doctor, a meal in a time of sickness or bereavement, or financial help.  We must unlock our possessions, time, and even our selves and help our brethren.  According to Paul, that is why we work: “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need,” Ephesians 4:28 (emphasis mine-rfd).