At the time when kings go off to war

What happens when you work hard, and what happens when you don't.

March 25, 2024

I have a confession to make.

I haven’t been working nearly as much as I should have been, nor as much as I claim to have been over the last couple of years.

It’s easy to blame it on Covid, or the economy, or acquiring 5 children over the last 7 years. But in reality I was distracted, and not putting myself in an environment where I could work productively.

This essay is about the good things that happen when you actually put in the work, and what happens when you do not. It’s about King David in the Bible, and how his work impacted his life.

Luck will find you working

Many people live their life assuming that some people are lucky, and others are not. They just happen to be an unlucky person. Otherwise, why is their life so hard and the outcomes never what they expect?

While it is true that there is a lot of variance in life, and an unending number of bad things can happen to you that are out of your control, there are also an unending number of good things that can happen to you to counteract the bad.

The caveat is, you will only get lucky while you are doing meaningful work, or after having done meaningful work.

It’s only when you provide value in the world and use it to help other people that you begin to experience luck that can earn you multiple lifetimes of income, love, and success.

You will not experience this luck by resting, sitting around, and waiting for luck to happen.

In the Bible, in 1 Samuel 16, Samuel the prophet is seeking out the anointed king of Israel (after Saul proved himself to be unfaithful).

God leads him to the house of Jesse, and assumes that the anointed king is the eldest son, who was the strongest and most handsome of the boys.

But, God told him in verse 7:

“Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

The story continues in verse 11 after all the other sons were rejected, and finally David is suggested:

So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?”

“There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.”

Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.”

So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features.

Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.”  

David didn’t intend to be King. He didn’t set out to do anything great. He had a heart after God (i.e. a lack of selfishness), and diligently did valuable work. It’s the ultimate recipe for luck.

In my own life I have only experienced luck when I put myself out there and did meaningful work.

No one has ever given me an opportunity that I did not earn, or that I didn’t work to create on my own.

There is no replacement for doing the work, and doing meaningful work consistently that will get you where you want to go in life.

Work prepares you for challenges

There is an unending amount of work to be done, and you are designed to do it.

To be valuable in a society, to contribute meaningfully to other people, and to sustain yourself and your family, you need to be working and working hard.

Whether you’re in the world building for other people, or you’re at home maintaining a family, there is work to be done day in and day out.

Through this consistent work, you learn how to navigate and tackle all the things life throws at you.

Work isn’t pretty. And you’ll almost never be working on things you love. In fact, a lot of times the thing you work on is the thing that kills you.

Back to David, in 1 Samuel 17, Goliath is taunting the Israelites. He poses a challenge: If someone fights him and wins, the Philistines will surrender. If Goliath wins, the Israelites surrender.

David hears this and is immediately stirred to action, and knows he can defeat Goliath.

Here he is in verse 34 talking to Saul, the king of Israel:

“But David said to Saul, ‘Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.’”

The reason David was so confident that he could kill Goliath was because he had already done this many times. David put in the work, fighting the things that could kill him and his work, and in return he was filled with skills, knowledge, and confidence that allowed him to prove himself when it mattered.

What if David only fled when danger arose? What if David simply gave up shepherding once he realized it was hard and dangerous?

You know the rest of the story of David and Goliath. It wasn’t an accident he came out victorious.

In my own life there are several different challenging aspects of life that I have unreasonable confidence and peace about. It’s not because I am different, but it’s because I have done the work. I know what it looks like, I know how to tackle it, and I know how to move forward.

Had I not done the work to figure out what it takes to be successful, I would have a much harder time making progress (as many people do).

Working prevents you from destruction

At a fundamental level, more time spend working diligently means less time goofing off and getting into trouble.

Now, obviously, there is a line to be drawn. I’m not advocating for being a workaholic, and neglecting other areas in your life. But, spending less time doing things you should not be doing is a huge win for longevity and success in your life.

But doing the work also allows you to counteract destruction. If something happens and you need more money, you know how to get more money. If something happens and you need to work hard to get through it, you can get through it.

If something happens and you haven’t been working hard and you’re not prepared for it, then you might be in a world of trouble.

Hard work prepares you for a better life.

We’re back to David. This time, it’s not a great story. It’s a story about David not doing what he was supposed to be doing, and getting into trouble.

In 2 Samuel 11:1, it says this:

“In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.”

At the time when kings go off to war… David (now king of Israel) remained in Jerusalem. Huh.

You see, David was supposed to be out at war. He was supposed to be working. He was supposed to be leading. But, he decided to stay home. Kick back, and relax.

After all, he’s the king now. Kings, if anyone, deserve some rest, right?

Well, let’s see what happened to David:

“One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, ‘She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.’ Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (Now she was purifying herself from her monthly uncleanness.) Then she went back home.”

David was supposed to be working, and he found himself at home with all the women in the city while all the other men were out at war.

Sleeping with another man’s wife isn’t even the worst of it. She got pregnant, and David tried to cover it up by sending her Husband to the front-lines of battle to have him killed.

Then, the child died soon after birth as a consequence for the evil he committed.

David could have avoided all of these problems had he been doing the work he was supposed to be doing.

Now, I’m not saying that nothing bad will happen to you if you do the work you should be doing, but I can say that in my own life, the only times I have got into trouble is when I though about myself and what I wanted instead of putting myself aside and getting to work helping other people.

Work when times are good, so you can work when times are bad

It’s obvious when you think about it, but working hard when times are good to acquire resources (money, assets, time, etc) helps you sustain when times are bad (bad economies, unfortunate circumstances, etc.).

Solomon encapsulates this idea in Ecclesiastes 11 (read the whole thing slowly):

Cast your bread upon the waters,
For you will find it after many days.
Give a serving to seven, and also to eight,
For you do not know what evil will be on the earth.

If the clouds are full of rain,
They empty themselves upon the earth;
And if a tree falls to the south or the north,
In the place where the tree falls, there it shall lie.
He who observes the wind will not sow,
And he who regards the clouds will not reap.

As you do not know what is the way of the wind,
Or how the bones grow in the womb of her who is with child,
So you do not know the works of God who makes everything.
In the morning sow your seed,
And in the evening do not withhold your hand;
For you do not know which will prosper,
Either this or that,
Or whether both alike will be good.

Truly the light is sweet,
And it is pleasant for the eyes to behold the sun;
But if a man lives many years
And rejoices in them all,
Yet let him remember the days of darkness,
For they will be many.
All that is coming is vanity.

You don’t know when bad times are coming, and they will come.

You don’t know when you need to be prepared for something bad to happen.

You should invest in many different things, and invest often. You should be sowing seeds that will reap a harvest later on in life.

If you only work when you feel like working, or when you need to work, you will be caught unprepared for what life throws at you.

This has certainly happened in my own life. I’ve had to do things in the short term to make money because I was not prepared for things to go wrong in business (or in my personal life).

Working is gratefulness (and a duty)

The ability to work is a blessing. There are people who cannot work, and cannot earn a living, because of certain circumstances.

Because you have the ability to work hard, it is your duty to work hard. This is most beneficial for you, and for others.

Optimizing your work around ease and rest will lead to an unfulfilling life. When you make it all about yourself, and not about helping others, it leads to a default position of selfishness.

A long term thinker knows that what’s good for others is good for themselves.

In the Bible, in Luke 12:48, Jesus says:

“To whom much is given, much is required.”

This should be the default attitude of someone who is capable of working. It leads to a successful, impactful, and fulfilling life.

By working hard you’re using what you have been given to give back to others. To have been given much, and to not use it to help others and serve others, is a default position of selfishness and ultimately your own destruction.

Rest in accomplishment

Rest is very important. This essay is about work, but work isn’t possible unless you’re actually able to do it. Part of doing good work is doing good rest.

But, you shouldn’t rest before doing the work that you need to do. Rest is the reward for working hard and accomplishing what you set out to do.

By resting before you work, you are disincentivizing your work. All of a sudden it becomes the thing that disrupts your rest, instead of the thing that earns you rest.

Once again, this boils down to your level of selfishness. If you always regard how you feel, you would probably rest more often.

But if you rest too often, you might need to work when you should be resting, and it leads to an unsustainable lifestyle that leads to burnout and a host of other problems.

The Bible is so bullish on rest, that God even made it the 4th law of the 10 commandments to the Israelites in the Old Testament.

The Sabbath day is a mirror of what God did when creating the world. He made all that he did on earth in 6 days, and rested on the 7th.

And that’s the approach we should take as humans designed to work. Work hard, and then rest in accomplishment. This will ensure what needs to get done gets done, and you also are allowed to rest fully and recover to be able to continue working hard.

There’s more I could write in this essay, but I think I made my points.

Work needs to be done, and work is inevitable. Working hard not only gets the work done, but prevents you from distractions and destruction, helps you when times get tough, and allows for luck to become part of the equation of success in your life.