“Early to bed, early to rise…”

Do you know the rest of it?

“Early to bed, early to rise makes one healthy, wealthy, and wise.”

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From where do we get this saying?  Why do we say this?  Is it true?

This expression is a combination of several ideas, mostly from the Bible.  Proverbs 20:13 tells us…

Do not love sleep or you will grow poor;
stay awake and you will have food to spare.  

Proverbs 20:13
New International Version

What’s wrong with loving sleep?  After all, don’t we need rest?  Certainly, we do need rest and the Bible is not down on rest. 

But the author of this Proverb isn’t talking about sleep after a day’s work.  He’s writing about being lazy.  The Bible is uniform in its denunciation of laziness, or sloth. 

The Bible warns us that laziness is a path to poverty.  It’s hard to find someone who hustles that’s destitute.  It’s not that it can’t happen; it just generally doesn’t.

The metaphor isn’t about sleeping and being awake.  It’s a warning to be alert to opportunities.  Work is not only good for our self-esteem and well-being, it’s practical.  We survive because we have provisions provided by work.

One of the by-products of our modern American society is a negative view towards work.  We dread Mondays and look forward to retirement.  We retire so we don’t have to go to work anymore!

But Scripture does not view work like this.  God “worked” in making the universe (Genesis 1).  On the seventh day of creation, He ceased from His work.  Yet, there was never anything negative about work.

Scripture pointed out how the Earth needed workers BEFORE sin entered the equation (see Genesis 2:5 and 15).  Work was part of God’s created order.  We were never designed to just sit around and only convert oxygen to carbon dioxide.  We were meant for work.

Of course, “work” changed after Genesis 3 and sin entered in the equation.  Suddenly, it became much more difficult and laborious.  Yet even then, work itself was not condemned. 

As disciples of Jesus, it’s easy to let our culture influence us in attitudes towards work.  But we must resist this.  We shouldn’t be the employees doing the least we can get by with.  Instead, we should work hard—we should “stay awake” and be diligent.

It doesn’t mean we don’t rest or take days off or vacation; it means we resist the laziness so prevalent in our culture. 

There’s another expression I’ve heard too: “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”  I think is as much about our attitude as it is about our jobs.

Photo by Lukas from Pexels

Lest we forget: as Christians we don’t just work for paychecks or people.  We work for the Lord; we reflect His grace in that paycheck.  We reflect His creativity in our job performance.  We are mirrors of His intelligence and work ethic in our efforts.

So “do not love sleep…stay awake.”

Bear witness to the grace of the Father through Jesus by your work.