Diligence means more and does more than we’ve thought.
Friends, it’s safe to read this. I promise I’m not about to push you down and give you one more thing to feel bad about. Go ahead and shelf your gut reactions to diligence in the context of homemaking for a minute, and have a chat with me. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
I never thought I, the truly remedial homemaker, would talk about diligence other than to say, “I wish I was a more diligent homemaker”, but here I am because I had a lightbulb moment reading through Proverbs this week. Hang with me here. This is so good!
“The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.” Proverbs 13:4 ESV
This verse caught my attention because after a long week I found myself with a heart full of frustration and craving. I was behind in my homemaking and homeschool tasks. In typical remedial fashion, I had procrastinated on a large project for my homeschool community and saved all the prep for the week before the event. The training I led went really well, but the house had reverted, and I was tired, discouraged, and craving.
More. Better. New. Fancier. Clean. Quiet. Peace. Carbs. In that moment I wanted it all and my soul certainly did not feel “richly supplied”.
Does your soul feel “richly supplied” right now? The NASB even says, “the soul of the diligent grows fat”. The Bible paints this beautiful picture of the soul, in excess of provision, growing fat and happy. I want that. I don’t want the gnawing and unanswerable craving.
Do you notice what it doesn’t say? It doesn’t say, “The sluggard gets bad circumstances and therefore craves and gets nothing, and the diligent get great circumstances so they are richly supplied.”
Yes, in general, slothfulness leads to bad outcomes, and diligence tends to improve those outcomes greatly, but that’s not what this particular verse says, is it?
This verse is wisdom literature talking about how diligence and slothfulness themselves impact the soul, not merely how the outcomes of diligent or sluggardly behavior affect the soul.
That’s important. I believe this verse is saying diligence, in itself, blesses and satisfies the soul, while slothfulness in itself creates cravings unmet.
What is diligence?
If diligence in itself is good for my soul, if it can richly supply where there was once craving, then I want to know for sure what it is. As I studied, I found out I had been wrong about diligence. I thought it meant never sitting down, finishing everything you start, and never quitting or resting until the job is done. Exhausted? Stressed to the max? Caring for small children? Too bad. You’re not finished yet and diligent people never quit and are never satisfied till they’re finished with all. the. things. I thought diligent homemakers always have clean, pretty homes full of homemade organic antioxidants and children who don’t habitually leave their socks in random places like mine do. I thought diligent homemakers know why wood on an interior wall is called shiplap and don’t have old siding or parties in the rain with only half a driveway.
Turns out diligence isn’t really these things.
In its Latin form, diligence means “to love earnestly, to choose”. Isn’t that surprising? The etymology of the word is “To love, through attentiveness, to carefulness, to steady effort.” It is the choice to apply steady effort of mind or body without undue delay or sloth with love in aim.
“Diligent” isn’t a synonym for successful. It isn’t an “A” written at the top of all your roles in life. Diligence is choosing to practice love through careful attention and steady effort to accomplish what’s undertaken.
It’s not the outcome, it’s the practice, and regardless of outward success each day, practicing diligence is good for our souls.
Imagine you won a huge lottery. If you decided to use your wealth solely to serve and entertain yourself, while all the work of life was done for you. Would your soul feel richly supplied? You could have a perfectly manicured, cleaned, and decorated house, but would you feel your soul beautifully fattening? I think this verse answers, “no”.
On the other hand, what if you apply steady attention and effort to a work that never seems to end? What if you are diligent but limitations or the demands of life simply make you unable to
ever always achieve outcomes which feel satisfyingly complete? What if you live in humble circumstances, without many trappings of bootstrap success? Can you experience a richly supplied soul in this case?
You know what? I think Proverbs 13:4 is saying you can.
When you shut down, neglect your duties and just set about entertaining yourself and feeding your senses to the exclusion of your duty, how does your soul feel? Does self-indulgence intensify craving or satisfaction in the end? I think we all know the answer to that.
Diligence, not success, is required for the rich supply of the soul.
Yes, you usually need diligence to experience success, but do you need success in order for diligence to benefit you? No. No, you don’t. Diligence is good for you regardless of the outcomes you are able to garner by its use.
Diligence satisfies. Slothfulness starves.
Isn’t that so interesting?!
I have always assumed I should be diligent so success will result and success will make me feel satisfied. Satisfaction after success, by means of diligence. But if it’s satisfaction by means of diligence, regardless of external success, then that’s a gift.
This could change a whole lot for mothers and homemakers. Does God call you to be successful or diligent? Finished or faithful? He never meant for us to believe happy, satisfied souls were only on the other side of success. He’s offering us fat, happy souls through the practice of godward diligence, not through perfect results.
Slothfulness starves my soul, not because I get bad results, but because my soul was designed to thrive and be richly supplied on humble diligence aimed at love.
So I’ve started a diligence experiment.
I want to see if godward diligence makes my heart into less of a craving factory. I want to see how diligence affects my soul. I realized I often make decisions about what I will do in my home based on what I can finish and be satisfied with. “Should I clean the kitchen? Weed the flower beds? No, I only have fifteen minutes, I can’t finish.” If diligence is good for my soul though, then fifteen minutes of careful attention and exertion toward love are still good for me, not just because it makes a cleaner kitchen or flower bed, but because diligence is good all by itself.
I’ve been telling myself diligence is good for my soul and then doing some, the some I can. It’s good. I am praying for diligence and asking God to teach me. So far, I’m pleased to say it’s helping.
What about you? What is your reaction to this different way of thinking about diligence? Could thinking of this as a soul-blessing practice help you? Would you like to experiment with me and see how your soul feels on godward diligence? Comment below or join the conversation at The Remedial Homemaker Community Page on Facebook. Don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss a post. I don’t post a lot. I try to really have something to say, and I would love to add you to the conversation.
May your aprons and bibles both be well-worn,
The Remedial Homemaker