Proverbs 28:19

ESV Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty.
NIV Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies will have their fill of poverty.
NASB One who works his land will have plenty of food, But one who follows empty pursuits will have plenty of poverty.
CSB The one who works his land will have plenty of food, but whoever chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty.
NLT A hard worker has plenty of food, but a person who chases fantasies ends up in poverty.
KJV He that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread: but he that followeth after vain persons shall have poverty enough.

What does Proverbs 28:19 mean?

This verse uses a contrast with a poetic twist. The Hebrew term translated "poverty" is unique to the Book of Proverbs and means something below a necessary standard (Proverbs 6:11; 10:15; 13:18; 24:34; 30:8; 31:7). The core meaning of the word implies "lacking." The turn of phrase Solomon uses (Proverbs 25:1) suggests that pointless activities take away from one's ability to prepare for the future. Wasting time brings "a lot of nothing," or "extra need." This reinforces other lessons from the Book of Proverbs (Proverbs 12:11) which warn about laziness and encourage a good work ethic (Proverbs 18:9; 19:15).

This does not mean we are never to rest, or enjoy recreation, such that we are always "working." Rest and refreshment are valuable (Exodus 20:9–11; Psalm 127:1–2). But they should not take precedence over responsibilities (Proverbs 26:14). Nor is every use of our time wise or valuable (1 Corinthians 10:23). Worldly pleasure, material possessions, fame, fortune, and recreation can poison our effectiveness, both materially and spiritually.

The industrious farmer enjoys a more abundant harvest and plenty of food (Proverbs 20:4; 27:18). Believers, like alert farmers, are supposed to reap a harvest of souls for God. Jesus told His followers, "Look. I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest" (John 4:35). He also told them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest" (Matthew 9:37-38).
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