Bible Verses that have changed my life:
The lazy man does not roast what he took in hunting,
But diligence is man’s precious possession.
I am so happy to be sharing this series with you of Bible verses that have changed my life! Last week, I wrote on Genesis 1v 26-27, saying how we are all made in the image of God which is probably the single Bible passage that has had the greatest impact on how I see myself. And yet, this passage quoted above has also been highly significant in my life! It fills me with so much nostalgia to even be writing about this particular verse because it takes me back to the point in my life that I was at when I “discovered” this Bible passage. Furthermore this verse in particular is deeply meaningful for me because this is the first Bible verse that I ever truly meditated upon for the sake of changing my life! So that is the first way that this particular verse changed my life, in that it was the verse that first started demonstrating to me the kind of impact the Bible could have on my life.
Well last week I spoke on how I used to be synonymous with “could have tried harder”. If there was ever a verse that was written in the Bible for who I was as a teenager, it is the verse above, Proverbs 12v27. As it says, “The lazy man does not roast what he took in hunting….”
If you are not from a hot country as I am, you might not instantly appreciate the point of that statement as someone from a hot country would. You might ask yourself, “Well why would a lazy man roast what he took in hunting – why would anyone?!” From the context I can tell that this means roasting the meat until it is dry so that it can keep for a good number of days.
Remembering that this was back in the days before refrigeration, the point is that if you don’t immediately roast in this way the animals you have caught and killed while out hunting, then the meat will start “going off” very very quickly. You could of course simply boil the meat, but then it would still start going off in a matter of hours, so you would still have to eat it immediately. This is of course all the more true in very hot countries, as the Biblical land of Israel was, as Nigeria is. Even though as a family we are now living in the much cooler UK, with access to modern refrigeration, till today my Mum always insists on not merely boiling chicken and other poultry, but even going to the extent of also roasting it after boiling, and many Nigerian people I know do the same thing! (Thoroughly, or “diligently” doing both of these things then freezing the meat until use cuts down the risk of food poisioning to almost nil.) So this is the point of this first half of the verse: this “lazy man” has gone to all the hard work of catching these animals and killing them. This would have required lots of effort, skill, determination, and probably also a fair investment of time*, perhaps some money too, to buy hunting equipment, or a hunting licence. And then, despite doing all that, because he can’t be bothered to go that extra tiny length to roast the meat, it would start to go off, making it inedible, meaning that all that hard work would be lost.
I honestly cannot remember how old I was when I came across this verse: possibly 15 years old? Possibly 17? When I read it, it struck home so hard, and I thought “This is me!” That is just exactly what I would do: go to the effort of doing xyz, then just not be bothered to go the tiny extra mile to finish the task properly, meaning all that effort would go to waste.
I’d grown up in the Church and we had been immersed in Bible stories right from the start. I remember how my parents and other adults would always encourage us to read the Bible, to meditate on it. However, for so long I did not really take it seriously. I just did not understand exactly how the Bible could really change my life. There was that time that I have spoken about when as a young teenager I resolved to learn the Bible for myself, so that no pastor could try to exploit me through my own lack of knowledge! However, that decision was for the sake of academically knowing the Bible. Even then I did not really take seriously the idea that the Bible could change our lives. So when I was reading Proverbs that day, it was one of the first days I was truly reading the Bible with an open mind that it could touch my life. In a way, I was just trying it out to see if anything would happen. And that verse in particular just cut straight to my heart.
You know what really struck me at the time, and surprised me almost above all?! That the verse is so down to earth! It is not particularly “religious”. It does not even mention God. Rather it is straightforward common-sense. My goodness, it caught me. Prior to that, I had always thought that God and the Christian faith were really “religious”. It was then that I started to see that there is so much straightforward common-sense in the Bible. I think that that may have started my great love for the Books of Proverbs.
And then the second half of the verse equally gripped me: “But diligence is man’s precious possession.” I love the way that diligence is referred to as a possession in this translation (I’ve noticed that other translations translate it to give a very different sense – just having a look now, so many of them say “wildly” different things!) I love the idea that diligence is a possession that you can own, or acquire, and that it is precious, something that is worth a lot, something that you guard very carefully, and look after! As I was thinking on it that day, it occurred to me that if only you had this possession of diligence then you could apply yourself in careful determination in everything you do! This is why it is so precious, because it means that you complete all your tasks, and it helps you to you not to waste your effort when you go hunting, or at other times! And then of course there is almost an irony in this verse in that diligence is not a possession at all of course, it is not a physical object that you either have, or you don’t have, or that someone can take away from you. Rather the question of being diligent or not is all up to you!
If there was one thing that could be said of me as a teenager, it was that I was definitely not diligent! I had always been very bright at school. And yet I love the way that this verse highlights that it is not brightness, it is not brilliance, it is not talent that are truly precious. Rather it is diligence! What does diligence mean? Simply being thorough to start a job, and to see it through right to the end, “dotting your ‘I’s and crossing your ‘T’s”, and being consistent in this, day in, day out. In a way it might seem humble, negligible, easy, but there is so much power in it. So that day I started meditating on this verse: “How can I get this possession, Lord? How can I be more diligent?!” “But diligence is man’s precious possession….” And I would think on it, over and over and over….
To be honest, it took me a while to get to the place where I could truly consider myself diligent, and I am still working on it, growing in it. To fully get there I definitely needed to learn the lesson of being made in the image of God, because it was then that I realised that every excellent mindset is my absolute right, and I simply have to ask God for it, throw myself into it, be determined, and keep trying. And now the truth is that not only with diligence, but with any other character trait whatsoever, whenever I notice a deficiency in myself, I can and I do go to God, I can and I do ask Him to give me the necessary determination and whatever it takes to overcome it, I itemise what it would take to overcome the deficiency, and then I throw myself into it and push and push, and I keep applying myself in my determination to be excellent. I guess that even that is an expression of diligence.
By the grace of God I am so grateful for this verse! I’m smiling as I’m thinking on it now, and the change it has made to my life. This is yet another thing I love about God. God wants us to be the best we can be in terms of character! Seriously! In fact, He even wants it more than we do! So when I’m sitting here smiling about wanting to be the best I can be, I can be utterly confident that this is what God also wants. So when I go to Him, and I ask Him to give me more determination to be diligent, to work hard, to apply myself, to keep pressing forward, I can be confident that it will only be His absolute delight to give me these things. So I can keep pestering Him, knowing that I am not bugging Him. And I can just keep going up for more! Concerning excellent character I can be as greedy as I like! So then my character can be as excellent as I want it to be, and trust me, I do want it to be excellent! So then I can essentially plan all the different characteristics I want in my life, and work on them, and then be confident that by the grace of God, I genuinely do excel in these things. And that is exactly what I do, of course! By the grace of God I want to be outstanding for God and outstanding for myself. As I write this, there are so many areas of my life that I am working on, and so many that I need to work on, but I am so happy at who I am already in Christ, how far God has brought me, and at my potential in Christ.
You know something else? When I was thinking on this subject in the run up to writing this post, I was remembering this: as a child, as a teenager, I would sometimes identify different individuals, and wish that I was them, because they seemed to be so much better than me. But now, to be honest it has been so long since I last wished to be anyone else. What I do these days is that I identify the specific traits that other people have that I lack, and I go to God, and I go to the Bible and I pray, and I push myself, knowing that no positive character trait is outside my right to acquire as a human being, made in the image of God, no positive character trait is beyond God’s own desire for my life. I am not talking about skills here, but rather about character traits such as honesty, discipline, integrity etc. And then I keep going until I am satisfied. That is why I want to surround myself with people who are better than I am, so that they can give me better examples to model myself on, and to learn from.
And people seriously expect me to give up this God, and this faith?! Seriously?! This God who fills my life so abundantly with beauty and joy and worth and unspeakable self-esteem and excellence? This is the God they expect me to give up?! They cannot be “profanity” serious!!!!! 😉
*For instance, in the passage where Esau went hunting to cook for his father Isaac, Isaac was surprised that Esau came back so quickly – and rightly so, because it was actually Jacob, Isaac’s other son and Esau’s brother, pretending to be Esau. Genesis 27
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