“All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty”
The professional world has many ideas about what it takes to be successful. Planning is usually a big part of these ideas. The problem is that sometimes this planning is excessive and unnecessary. It often occurs to me that if people spent more time doing what they discuss and less time discussing it then we would achieve so much more. As the old saying goes – ‘when all is said and done, more is said than done.’
So how much talk is too much? There is clearly a place for planning. “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.” (Luke 14 v28-32)
This is why this proverb says ‘mere’ talk. Talking and planning is good, but if it’s only talk then there will no benefit from it.
The problem is often that people use talking as a way of procrastinating. Governments might use talk as a way of covering up the fact that they don’t actually want to do anything. They will organise meetings and commissions and investigations and inquiries to be seen to be doing things without actually doing them. Often this tactic works, because the more you talk the more chance you have of coming up with a reason that you can use to not go ahead and do whatever it is being discussed.
The wise person doesn’t waste time in this way. When they hear a good idea, or realise a course of action that is sensible and they know how to proceed, they just step out and do it. Talk should be reserved for the times when we genuinely don’t know what to do or how to do it. No matter how much we talk ultimately it’s only when we roll up our sleeves and start the hard work that anything will get done.
This applies even more so to our spiritual lives. “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.” (James 1 v22-25)
Sometime we need to stop talking and just step out and do the hard work that is required. If we don’t then we might not get anywhere, and that would profit no one.