“Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes,
so is the sluggard to those who send him.”
Throughout the book of Proverbs, the sluggard is actually portrayed in amusing and pitiful ways. The sluggard is depicted as a person who is perpetually lazy and inactive. He does not have any discipline, self-control, or initiative. He has a hard time both starting and finishing his work (Proverbs 19:24; 21:25; 24:30-34; 26:15). Instead of starting his work, he voices excuses so that he can postpone his labors (Proverbs 19:24; Proverbs 26:15). And whenever he actually does start his work, he has a difficult time doing his work well (Proverbs 10:26).
This humorous and pitiful depiction of the sluggard is not meant to minimize the sin of laziness. Instead, it is to heighten the seriousness of it. God wants us to know that the sluggard is someone that lacks biblical wisdom (Proverbs 24:30). He wants to teach us that laziness is a moral failing (Proverbs 15:19; Matthew 25:26).
An Annoying Employee
With this in mind, in our proverb above we are given a “lively figure of the vexation of the sluggard to his employers!” Those who send the sluggard are those who employed the lazy bones and sought to put him to work. While the sluggard works, though, he is a constant nuisance and hindrance to his bosses. He is pictured as “vinegar on the teeth and smoke to the eyes” (Proverbs 10:26) – both of which are very irritating and agitating!
The sluggard does not “work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Colossians 3:23). While a Christian has the glory of God as his commanding interest in all his labors, the sluggard has no commanding interest. The sluggard’s chief desire is the gratification of his own sinful flesh.
This leaves his bosses constantly concerned about him. They have to constantly ask themselves, “What is the lazy bones doing? Is he doing what he is supposed to be doing? Is he doing it well? Will he ever finish?” As bosses spend countless hours concerned about the sluggard, they find that hiring a sluggard is like drinking vinegar. They find that employing a sluggard is like having smoke constantly agitating the eyes.
Diligence that Adorns
The Spirit filled Christian should not be like the sluggard though. Rather than being like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, an employed Christian should be like a well-oiled machine. They should show up to work with an earnest desire to bring glory to God, to labor for Christ, and to love their neighbor. Their reputation for working diligently should allow their employers to rest well knowing that the job is being done in an honorable way.
This type of diligent labor allows Christians to adorn the gospel of Jesus Christ while they are at work. Through their diligent labor, they are sincerely loving their employers. Even more importantly, they are showing their employers that they genuinely believe Christ’s Lordship extends to every aspect of their lives – even to their daily labors.