Proverbs 14:23

ESV In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.
NIV All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.
NASB In all labor there is profit, But mere talk leads only to poverty.
CSB There is profit in all hard work, but endless talk leads only to poverty.
NLT Work brings profit, but mere talk leads to poverty!
KJV In all labour there is profit: but the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury.

What does Proverbs 14:23 mean?

A modern parallel to this proverb is the expression "talk is cheap." Words are easy, but unless acted upon words rarely lead to anything of value. Ultimately, to accomplish anything, a person must exert effort: there must be action and not just speech. It's easy to talk all day about what we want to achieve, but if we do nothing but talk, we achieve nothing. Instead of getting paid, the idle talker just gets poor. In almost all cases, success comes only to those who work for it.

Another parallel is the English quip "done is better than perfect because perfect never gets done." The wisdom given in this verse reminds us that a grand, impressive plan—or a speech about what will be done—is not nearly as effective as actually doing something. If plans, or "mere talk," never becomes "toil," then the talk is useless.

Although Solomon championed the cause of those who were poor due to no fault of their own (Proverbs 19:1; 22:22–23), he disdained the laziness that also leads to poverty (Proverbs 6:6–11). The apostle Paul, too, advocated for those who were poor because of circumstances over which they had no control, yet opposed the notion that others should provide for those who refused to work. He received an offering for the poor Christians in Judea who suffered a famine (2 Corinthians 8:1–7). In his second letter to the Thessalonians Paul writes his objection to the lazy. He says: "For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat" (2 Thessalonians 3:10).
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