What does Proverbs 14:23 mean?
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.
Verse Commentary:
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).
Verse Context:
Proverbs 14:15–35 continues Solomon's wise sayings, once again mostly contrasting the wicked and the upright. He points out that those who do evil, by rejecting God's wisdom (Proverbs 1:7) are foolish and have no security. Those who do God's will (Proverbs 3:5) are wise and have unfailing security.
Chapter Summary:
This continues a series of literal "proverbs:" short statements of general-case wisdom. The first ten verses of this chapter contrast positive and negative traits related to work ethic, self-control, and seeking wisdom. Then come several verses contrasting the fate of the righteous with that of the wicked. The rest of this passage provides statements on a broad range of subjects.
Chapter Context:
Proverbs 14 continues King Solomon's wise sayings. In this chapter he discusses a variety of topics such as wisdom and folly, honesty and dishonesty, righteousness and evil, national security and national disgrace, personal security and destruction, the fear of the Lord, generosity, and wise servanthood. This series of astute comments will continue for several more chapters.
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.
Accessed 3/1/2024 11:42:53 PM
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