It doesn’t matter how many tax dollars and government programs we throw at the problem of poverty — it’s never going away. Because the only real solution to poverty comes from the inside out.
Poverty is as old as humanity itself, and it’s a terrible thing. Though we think of poverty as a lack of money and resources, it’s much more than that. Poverty is a form of financial slavery. It’s an attitude and a mindset that can be passed from parents to children, trapping entire families in destructive cycles. When the cycles happen over and over again, they can become widespread and systemic, trapping entire nations in destitute conditions.
Governments have been trying to eradicate poverty for generations, but to no avail. The reason that they fail is that a government cannot solve a problem that originates in the hearts of men. There is a solution to poverty, but like the problem itself, it comes from inside your heart. The antidote to poverty is diligence.
It may seem callous and simple-minded to suggest that poor people simply need to work harder. But this is not just my advice: It’s age-old wisdom that comes straight from the wisest (and richest) man in history. Let’s examine Proverbs 10:4 to see what Solomon has to say on the subject of poverty and diligence:
Lazy hands make for poverty,
but diligent hands bring wealth.
In a way, this proverb is telling us something that most of us already know — you get money from working hard. But this saying lays it out even more specifically: Poverty comes from laziness, but diligence helps us escape poverty and move into a place of wealth.
What exactly is diligence? Many people think that diligence is just another word for hard work, but it’s more than that. Diligence is hard work applied faithfully over time. Notice that there are three elements here: First is hard work. Second is being faithful to do that hard work on a consistent basis, not sluffing off or taking breaks when you don’t feel like exerting yourself. And third is the element of time — working hard for a day or two is not the same thing as being diligence. Diligence is what you achieve by faithfully applying yourself to work hard toward a certain goal, day in and day out, over an extended period of time.
I’ll give you an example that I’ve used on this site before: You can go to the gym and push yourself in a great workout for an hour one day, and that’s hard work. But if you only do that occasionally, you’re really not going to achieve very much. On the other hand, if you go to the gym and bust it for an hour a day, every day, for six months, you’re going to see real change in your physical condition. That’s diligence.
So how does diligence provide an escape from poverty? First off, it puts you in a position to earn money. If you’re having trouble finding a job, for example, then you’re in a pretty tough spot. What should you do? Apply yourself diligently to finding work. Don’t give up after a few days if doors don’t open immediately. Even if you’ve been unemployed for months, continue to dedicate yourself to finding a job. Work at it all day, every day until it happens. That’s diligence.
Diligence will also help increase the amount of your income. It’s a sad fact, but in today’s world, many people don’t give their all at work. Employees do the minimum amount of work necessary to keep from getting fired. But a great worker who breaks that stereotype immediately gets the attention of business leaders. Don’t go into work just to pass the time — apply yourself diligently to doing whatever you can to make your company prosper. Work hard day in and day out, and over time you’ll get noticed, and your income will grow.
Want to improve your overall employment prospects so that you can earn more than minimum wage? In many cases, that takes education and other specialized training. You can do it, but you’re going to have to work hard at it. Earning a college degree takes years of work, and if you approach it with laziness, you’re probably going to fail. Apply yourself diligently to your studies, however, and you’re going to succeed. And you’ll become a more desirable employee.
There’s another aspect to diligence and poverty: Although we commonly think of poverty as being caused by insufficient income, it can just as easily be caused by uncontrolled spending. So just as you apply diligence to your work in making money, you should also be diligent doing the right things with the money that you do have. Many people live in poverty because they don’t know how to handle the little money that they do get. To solve this problem, you have to hunker down and work hard at planning and budgeting, making sure that you’re spending your money in wise ways and not wasting it on frivolity. If you’re in debt, apply yourself diligently to paying it off (instead of just paying the monthly minimums). If you need to buy a car, save diligently until you have the cash to pay for it.
It’s easy for me to sit here and write these things; it’s much more difficult to put them in to practice. But that’s what diligence is all about. If you want to escape poverty, set your heart to work hard, and then do it over and over until your situation changes. It won’t happen overnight — time is an important element in diligence. But if you’re faithful to work hard, God will be faithful to bring you out of poverty and into a place of prosperity.
Photo by Saad Akhtar. Used under Creative Commons License.