At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore (Ps. 16: 11)
In all labour there is profit: But the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury…Proverbs 14:23
Everyone knows that the book of Proverbs frequently contrasts work with laziness. Work leads to wealth, and laziness leads to poverty. So much is . . . well, proverbial.
But there are variations on the theme, and this proverb is one of those variations. This is not a proverb about hard work in the field and lying on the couch at home. It is not a comparison between work and sleep. Rather, it is a contrast between work and talking about work.
Now of course, we have to be careful here because there is a kind of talking about work that actually is a part of the work. We call it planning, or brainstorming, or outlining. This is preparation for work that is the first part of the work. In fact, because this is part of the work, it is what gives the mere talker the cover he needs to justify his talk, the kind that leads only to penury.
Penury is a condition of extreme poverty or destitution. Talking about not becoming poor is a great way to become really poor.
Anyone who is acquainted with those who know how to work hard knows how to tell the difference between the talk of workers and the talk of idlers. If you have ever gotten up early for a work day with a bunch of farmers, you know how they all like to pull up in their big rigs, get out of them in order to chat for about fifteen minutes. They do this as a preliminary exercise before putting in a hard 12 hour day.
But the talking idler is one who wants to substitute the chat in for the work. He wants to replace one with the other. And that leads only to poverty.