What does Proverbs 12:11 mean?
ESV: Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.
NIV: Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense.
NASB: One who works his land will have plenty of bread, But one who pursues worthless things lacks sense.
CSB: The one who works his land will have plenty of food, but whoever chases fantasies lacks sense.
NLT: A hard worker has plenty of food, but a person who chases fantasies has no sense.
KJV: He that tilleth his land shall be satisfied with bread: but he that followeth vain persons is void of understanding.
NKJV: He who tills his land will be satisfied with bread, But he who follows frivolity is devoid of understanding.
Verse Commentary:
In this verse Solomon contrasts the value of productive work with the foolishness of wasting time. In Israel's agricultural society, wise farmers understood the high importance of working the land at the right time. Plowing and seeding were essential to a harvest, and a harvest put food on the table. A fool, however, would spend his time pursuing fantasies, like trying to find hidden treasure. In a modern context, it makes sense for a person to pursue employment, care for their home and family, and such. Foolish people leave those tasks undone while they spend time on other, unimportant things.

Scripture does not forbid rest, relaxation, or fun. God does not expect people to work themselves into a joyless exhaustion (Genesis 2:2–3; Exodus 20:8–11). What He does teach is the importance of doing what needs to be done, when it ought to be done (Proverbs 6:6–11).

A spiritual application of this principle would be the urgency of reaching others with the gospel (Matthew 28:19) while there is time to do so. The contrast would be failing to harvest souls because of a mind consumed with earthly pursuits. Jesus told His disciples not to delay in the harvesting of souls. He said, "Do you not say, 'There are yet four months, then comes the harvest'? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest" (John 4:35). The psalmist observed, "Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him" (Psalm 126:5–6).

Chasing things of little or no value may mean avoiding the labor involved in contending for Christ (Philippians 1:27; 1 Timothy 4:10), but diligent soul-winning produces a harvest and great joy!
Verse Context:
Proverbs 12:1–11 describes the righteous person and the wicked person. Solomon contrasts their character, their conduct, their relationship to the Lord, and the consequences of their behavior.
Chapter Summary:
Proverbs 12 contains a series of contrasts between lifestyles, comparing those who honor God to those who reject His wisdom. The results of those decisions are also compared. This repeats several common themes from the book of Proverbs, such as the self-destructive nature of sin and God's distaste for those who lie.
Chapter Context:
Proverbs 12 continues Solomon's wise sayings. A large portion of the book of Proverbs includes these short, common sense pieces of advice. After a series of introductions and lessons in chapters 1—9, chapter 10 began a long list of individual statements. In this chapter he continues to contrast the righteous and the wicked, showing that the life of the righteous is far better than the life of the wicked. This pattern will continue, covering the same basic theme, through chapter 15.
Book Summary:
Proverbs is best understood in context with the books of Ecclesiastes and Job. In Proverbs, “wisdom” is given in short, simple, general terms. Ecclesiastes represents wisdom based on observation and experience. This often shows how the general principles of the book of Proverbs don’t apply in absolutely every circumstance. Job represents wisdom based on the experience of suffering and injustice. All three come to the conclusion that God does indeed know best, and the most sensible course of action is to follow His will.
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