What The Bible Says About Laziness, And Selfishness With Riches

In the Book of Proverbs in the Old Testament, the Bible says:

Proverbs chapter 23 (TEV)

19 Listen, my child, be wise and give serious thought to the way you live. 20 Don't associate with people who drink too much wine or stuff themselves with food. 21 Drunkards and gluttons will be reduced to poverty. If all you do is eat and sleep, you will soon be wearing rags.

Proverbs chapter 14 (TEV)

23 Work and you will earn a living; if you sit around talking you will be poor.

Proverbs chapter 21 (TEV)

25 Lazy people who refuse to work are only killing themselves; 26 all they do is think about what they would like to have. The righteous, however, can give, and give generously.

Proverbs chapter 28 (TEV)

19 A hard-working farmer has plenty to eat. People who waste time will always be poor.

In the New Testament, the Bible says to Christians:

1 Thessalonians chapter 4 (GWT)

11 Make it your goal to live quietly, do your work, and earn your own living, as we ordered you.
12 Then your way of life will win respect from those outside [the church], and you won't have to depend on anyone else for what you need.

In the Book of Proverbs, the Bible says:

Proverbs chapter 10 (TEV)

5 A sensible person gathers the crops when they are ready; it is a disgrace to sleep through the time of harvest.

Proverbs chapter 18 (NLT)

9 A lazy person is as bad as someone who destroys things.

Proverbs chapter 10 (TEV)

4 Being lazy will make you poor, but hard work will make you rich.

Proverbs chapter 24 (TEV)

30 I walked through the fields and vineyards of a lazy, stupid person. 31 They were full of thorn bushes and overgrown with weeds. The stone wall around them had fallen down. 32 I looked at this, thought about it, and learned a lesson from it: 33 Go ahead and take your nap; go ahead and sleep. Fold your hands and rest awhile, 34 but while you are asleep, poverty will attack you like an armed robber.

In the New Testament, the Bible says to Christians:

Romans chapter 12 (TEV)

11 Work hard and do not be lazy. Serve the Lord with a heart full of devotion.

The apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Thessalonica:

2 Thessalonians chapter 2 (TEV)

13 We must thank God at all times for you, friends, you whom the Lord loves. For God chose you as the first to be saved by the Spirit's power to make you his holy people and by your faith in the truth.

2 Thessalonians chapter 3 (TEV)

6 Our friends, we command you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to keep away from all believers who are living a lazy life and who do not follow the instructions that we gave them. 7 You yourselves know very well that you should do just what we did. We were not lazy when we were with you. 8 We did not accept anyone's support without paying for it. Instead, we worked and toiled; we kept working day and night so as not to be an expense to any of you. 9 We did this, not because we do not have the right to demand our support; we did it to be an example for you to follow. 10 While we were with you, we used to tell you, "Whoever refuses to work is not allowed to eat." 11 We say this because we hear that there are some people among you who live lazy lives and who do nothing except meddle in other people's business. 12 In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ we command these people and warn them to lead orderly lives and work to earn their own living.

13 But you, friends, must not become tired of doing good.

14 It may be that some there will not obey the message we send you in this letter. If so, take note of them and have nothing to do with them, so that they will be ashamed. 15 But do not treat them as enemies; instead, warn them as believers.

16 May the Lord himself, who is our source of peace, give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with you all.

In the Book of Proverbs, the Bible says:

Proverbs chapter 10 (TEV)

26 Never get a lazy person to do something for you; he will be as irritating as vinegar on your teeth or smoke in your eyes.

Proverbs chapter 13 (TEV)

4 No matter how much a lazy person may want something, he will never get it. A hard worker will get everything he wants.

Proverbs chapter 6 (NLT)

6 Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and be wise! 7 Even though they have no prince, governor, or ruler to make them work, 8 they labor hard all summer, gathering food for the winter.
9 But you, lazybones, how long will you sleep? When will you wake up? I want you to learn this lesson: 10 A little extra sleep, a little more slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest - 11 and poverty will pounce on you like a bandit; scarcity will attack you like an armed robber.

Paul wrote in his first letter to the Christians in Thessalonica in the New Testament:

1 Thessalonians chapter 5 (NLT)

14 Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy.
Encourage those who are timid.
Take tender care of those who are weak.
Be patient with everyone.

In the Book of Proverbs, the Bible says:

Proverbs chapter 12 (NLT)

14 People can get many good things by the words they say; the work of their hands also gives them many benefits.

Proverbs chapter 24 (TEV)

27 Don't build your house and establish a home until your fields are ready, and you are sure that you can earn a living.

Proverbs chapter 22 (TEV)

1 If you have to choose between a good reputation and great wealth, choose a good reputation.

Proverbs chapter 23 (TEV)

4 Be wise enough not to wear yourself out trying to get rich. 5 Your money can be gone in a flash, as if it had grown wings and flown away like an eagle.

Proverbs chapter 13 (TEV)

11 The more easily you get your wealth, the sooner you will lose it. The harder it is to earn, the more you will have.

Proverbs chapter 14 (NLT)

24 Wealth is a crown for the wise; the effort of fools yields only folly.

In the Book of Deuteronomy in the Old Testament, the Bible says that Moses said to the people of Israel:

Deuteronomy chapter 15 (TEV)

1 "At the end of every seventh year you are to cancel the debts of those who owe you money. 2 This is how it is to be done. Each of you who has lent money to any Israelite is to cancel the debt; you must not try to collect the money; the Lord himself has declared the debt canceled. 3 You may collect what a foreigner owes you, but you must not collect what any of your own people owe you.

4 "The Lord your God will bless you in the land that he is giving you. Not one of your people will be poor 5 if you obey him and carefully observe everything that I command you today. 6 The Lord will bless you, as he has promised. You will lend money to many nations, but you will not have to borrow from any; you will have control over many nations, but no nation will have control over you.

7 "If in any of the towns in the land that the Lord your God is giving you there are Israelites in need, then do not be selfish and refuse to help them. 8 Instead, be generous and lend them as much as they need. 9 Do not refuse to lend them something, just because the year when debts are canceled is near. Do not let such an evil thought enter your mind. If you refuse to make the loan, they will cry out to the Lord against you, and you will be held guilty. 10 Give to them freely and unselfishly, and the Lord will bless you in everything you do. 11 There will always be some Israelites who are poor and in need, and so I command you to be generous to them.

Later in the Old Testament, the Bible says:

1 Chronicles chapter 29 (NIV)

26 David son of Jesse was king over all Israel. 27 He ruled over Israel forty years--seven in Hebron and thirty-three in Jerusalem. 28 He died at a good old age, having enjoyed long life, wealth and honor. His son Solomon succeeded him as king.

1 Kings chapter 2 (CEV)

1 Not long before David died, he told Solomon:
2 My son, I will soon die, as everyone must. But I want you to be strong and brave. 3 Do what the LORD your God commands and follow his teachings. Obey everything written in the Law of Moses. Then you will be a success, no matter what you do or where you go. 4 You and your descendants must always faithfully obey the LORD. If you do, he will keep the solemn promise he made to me that someone from our family will always be king of Israel.

10-11 David was king of Israel forty years. He ruled seven years from Hebron and thirty-three years from Jerusalem. Then he died and was buried in Jerusalem. 12 His son Solomon became king and took control of David's kingdom.

1 Kings chapter 3 (NLT)

3 Solomon loved the LORD ...

5 ... the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream, and God said, "What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!"

6 Solomon replied, "You were wonderfully kind to my father, David, because he was honest and true and faithful to you. And you have continued this great kindness to him today by giving him a son to succeed him. 7 O LORD my God, now you have made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn't know his way around. 8 And here I am among your own chosen people, a nation so great they are too numerous to count! 9 Give me an understanding mind so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great nation of yours?"

10 The Lord was pleased with Solomon's reply and was glad that he had asked for wisdom. 11 So God replied, "Because you have asked for wisdom in governing my people and have not asked for a long life or riches for yourself or the death of your enemies - 12 I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding mind such as no one else has ever had or ever will have! 13 And I will also give you what you did not ask for - riches and honor! No other king in all the world will be compared to you for the rest of your life! 14 And if you follow me and obey my commands as your father, David, did, I will give you a long life."

In the Book of Proverbs, the Bible says:

Proverbs chapter 21 (TEV)

20 Wise people live in wealth and luxury, but stupid people spend their money as fast as they get it.

Proverbs chapter 14 (TEV)

21 If you want to be happy, be kind to the poor; it is a sin to despise anyone.

Proverbs chapter 17 (TEV)

5 If you make fun of poor people, you insult the God who made them. You will be punished if you take pleasure in someone's misfortune.

Proverbs chapter 28 (TEV)

3 Someone in authority who oppresses poor people is like a driving rain that destroys the crops.

Proverbs chapter 22 (TEV)

2 The rich and the poor have this in common: the Lord made them both.

Proverbs chapter 30 (TEV)

14 There are people who take cruel advantage of the poor and needy; that is the way they make their living.

Proverbs chapter 30 (TEV)

8 If you get rich by charging interest and taking advantage of people, your wealth will go to someone who is kind to the poor.

Proverbs chapter 11 (TEV)

7 When the wicked die, their hope dies with them. Confidence placed in riches comes to nothing.

In Psalm 49 in the Book of Psalms in the Old Testament, the Bible says:

Psalm 49 (NLT)

5 There is no need to fear when times of trouble come,
when enemies are surrounding me.
6 They trust in their wealth
and boast of great riches.
7 Yet they cannot redeem themselves from death
by paying a ransom to God.
8 Redemption does not come so easily,
for no one can ever pay enough
9 to live forever
and never see the grave.
10 Those who are wise must finally die,
just like the foolish and senseless,
leaving all their wealth behind.
11 The grave is their eternal home,
where they will stay forever.
They may name their estates after themselves,
but they leave their wealth to others.
12 They will not last long despite their riches -
they will die like the animals.
13 This is the fate of fools,
though they will be remembered as being so wise.


14 Like sheep, they are led to the grave,
where death will be their shepherd.
In the morning the godly will rule over them.
Their bodies will rot in the grave,
far from their grand estates.
15 But as for me, God will redeem my life.
He will snatch me from the power of death.


16 So don't be dismayed when the wicked grow rich,
and their homes become ever more splendid.
17 For when they die, they carry nothing with them.
Their wealth will not follow them into the grave.
18 In this life they consider themselves fortunate,
and the world loudly applauds their success.
19 But they will die like all others before them
and never again see the light of day.
20 People who boast of their wealth don't understand
that they will die like the animals.

In the Book of Proverbs, the Bible says:

Proverbs chapter 29 (NLT)

7 The godly know the rights of the poor; the wicked don't care to know.

Proverbs chapter 11 (NLT)

26 People curse those who hold their grain for higher prices, but they bless the one who sells to them in their time of need.

Proverbs chapter 13 (TEV)

23 Unused fields could yield plenty of food for the poor, but unjust people keep them from being farmed.

Proverbs chapter 11 (NLT)

25 The generous prosper and are satisfied; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.

In Matthew's Gospel in the New Testament, the Bible says:

Matthew chapter 16 (NLT)

24 Jesus said to the disciples, "If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow me. 25 If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for me, you will find true life. 26 And how do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul in the process? Is anything worth more than your soul? 27 For I, the Son of Man, will come in the glory of my Father with his angels and will judge all people according to their deeds.

In the Old Testament, the Bible says:

Deuteronomy chapter 8 (NIV)

17 You may say to yourself, "My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me." 18 But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth,

In the Book of Proverbs in the Old Testament, the Bible says:

Proverbs chapter 22 (TEV)

9 Be generous and share your food with the poor. You will be blessed for it.

Proverbs chapter 19 (TEV)

17 When you give to the poor, it is like lending to the Lord, and the Lord will pay you back.

The author of the Book of Ecclesiastes, which was put in the Old Testament, wrote:

Ecclesiastes chapter 12 (TEV)

1 So remember your Creator while you are still young, before those dismal days and years come when you will say, "I don't enjoy life."
2 That is when the light of the sun, the moon, and the stars will grow dim for you, and the rain clouds will never pass away.
3 Then your arms, that have protected you, will tremble, and your legs, now strong, will grow weak.
Your teeth will be too few to chew your food, and your eyes too dim to see clearly.
4 Your ears will be deaf to the noise of the street.
You will barely be able to hear the mill as it grinds or music as it plays, but even the song of a bird will wake you from sleep.
5 You will be afraid of high places, and walking will be dangerous.
Your hair will turn white; you will hardly be able to drag yourself along, and all desire will be gone.

We are going to our final resting place, and then there will be mourning in the streets.
6 The silver chain will snap, and the golden lamp will fall and break;
the rope at the well will break, and the water jar will be shattered.
7 Our bodies will return to the dust of the earth, and the breath of life will go back to God, who gave it to us.

In the New Testament, in the book of the Acts of the Apostles, which is about the activities of the very first Christians, the Bible says:

Acts chapter 4 (TEV)

32 The group of believers was one in mind and heart. None of them said that any of their belongings were their own, but they all shared with one another everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God poured rich blessings on them all. 34 There was no one in the group who was in need. Those who owned fields or houses would sell them, bring the money received from the sale, 35 and turn it over to the apostles; and the money was distributed according to the needs of the people. 36 And so it was that Joseph, a Levite born in Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means "One who Encourages"), 37 sold a field he owned, brought the money, and turned it over to the apostles.

Acts chapter 5 (TEV)

1 But there was a man named Ananias, who with his wife Sapphira sold some property that belonged to them. 2 But with his wife's agreement he kept part of the money for himself and turned the rest over to the apostles. 3 Peter said to him, "Ananias, why did you let Satan take control of you and make you lie to the Holy Spirit by keeping part of the money you received for the property? 4 Before you sold the property, it belonged to you; and after you sold it, the money was yours. Why, then, did you decide to do such a thing? You have not lied to people-you have lied to God!"

5 As soon as Ananias heard this, he fell down dead; and all who heard about it were terrified. 6 The young men came in, wrapped up his body, carried him out, and buried him.

7 About three hours later his wife, not knowing what had happened, came in. 8 Peter asked her, "Tell me, was this the full amount you and your husband received for your property?"

"Yes," she answered, "the full amount."

9 So Peter said to her, "Why did you and your husband decide to put the Lord's Spirit to the test? The men who buried your husband are at the door right now, and they will carry you out too!"

10 At once she fell down at his feet and died. The young men came in and saw that she was dead, so they carried her out and buried her beside her husband.

11 The whole church and all the others who heard of this were terrified.

Note: Some people see that Bible passage as barbaric. However, viewed from a collectivist perspective, the sense of it can be seen. It was important that the new Christian Church had credibility and was respected in the community, in order that it could both keep out of as much trouble as possible from people who would wish to destroy its reputation, and that Christianity would be seen as an inspirational force for good and gain converts. If believers didn't take their faith seriously, but saw Christianity more as something they could play with, like a novelty item, or profess just when it suited them while behaving as they pleased the rest of the time, it would not be taken seriously by the people who professed to follow it or those outside. Corruption in its ranks would be harder to deal with the bigger a problem it was. Thus, a sobering lesson like the fate of Ananias would compel people to take their faith more seriously and thus be more obedient to it, thus increasing the well-being of those around them, and the appeal of Christianity to outsiders, who would be more likely to see it as having real power to change people's lives.

In Luke's Gospel, The Bible says that Jesus said:

Luke chapter 16 (TEV)

19 "There was once a rich man who dressed in the most expensive clothes and lived in great luxury every day. 20 There was also a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who used to be brought to the rich man's door, 21 hoping to eat the bits of food that fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs would come and lick his sores.

22 "The poor man died and was carried by the angels to sit beside Abraham at the feast in heaven. The rich man died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, where he was in great pain, he looked up and saw Abraham, far away, with Lazarus at his side. 24 So he called out, "Father Abraham! Take pity on me, and send Lazarus to dip his finger in some water and cool off my tongue, because I am in great pain in this fire!' 25 But Abraham said, "Remember, my son, that in your lifetime you were given all the good things, while Lazarus got all the bad things. But now he is enjoying himself here, while you are in pain. 26 Besides all that, there is a deep pit lying between us, so that those who want to cross over from here to you cannot do so, nor can anyone cross over to us from where you are.' 27 The rich man said, "Then I beg you, father Abraham, send Lazarus to my father's house, 28 where I have five brothers. Let him go and warn them so that they, at least, will not come to this place of pain.' 29 Abraham said, "Your brothers have Moses and the prophets to warn them; your brothers should listen to what they say.' 30 The rich man answered, "That is not enough, father Abraham! But if someone were to rise from death and go to them, then they would turn from their sins.' 31 But Abraham said, "If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone were to rise from death.' "

In the Book of Proverbs, the Bible says:

Proverbs chapter 21 (TEV)

13 If you refuse to listen to the cry of the poor, your own cry for help will not be heard.

Proverbs chapter 14 (TEV)

31 If you oppress poor people, you insult the God who made them; but kindness shown to the poor is an act of worship.

Proverbs chapter 22 (TEV)

8 If you plant the seeds of injustice, disaster will spring up, and your oppression of others will end.

Proverbs chapter 29 (NLT)

13 The poor and the oppressor have this in common - the LORD gives light to the eyes of both.

In the Letter of James in the New Testament, the Bible says:

James chapter 5 (TEV)

1 And now, you rich people, listen to me! Weep and wail over the miseries that are coming upon you! 2 Your riches have rotted away, and your clothes have been eaten by moths. 3 Your gold and silver are covered with rust, and this rust will be a witness against you and will eat up your flesh like fire. You have piled up riches in these last days. 4 You have not paid any wages to those who work in your fields. Listen to their complaints! The cries of those who gather in your crops have reached the ears of God, the Lord Almighty. 5 Your life here on earth has been full of luxury and pleasure. You have made yourselves fat for the day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered innocent people, and they do not resist you.

Elsewhere in the New Testament, the Bible says to Christians:

Galatians chapter 6 (NLT)

7 Don't be misled. Remember that you can't ignore God and get away with it. You will always reap what you sow! 8 Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful desires will harvest the consequences of decay and death. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. 9 So don't get tired of doing what is good. Don't get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time. 10 Whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone, especially to our Christian brothers and sisters.

2 Corinthians chapter 5 (NLT)

14 Since we believe that Christ died for everyone, we also believe that we have all died to the old life we used to live. 15 He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live to please themselves. Instead, they will live to please Christ, who died and was raised for them. 17 What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun! 18 All this newness of life is from God, 21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

Writing at a time when slavery was common, the apostle Paul wrote:

Colossians chapter 3 (TEV)

22 Slaves, obey your human masters in all things, not only when they are watching you because you want to gain their approval; but do it with a sincere heart because of your reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as though you were working for the Lord and not for people. 24 Remember that the Lord will give you as a reward what he has kept for his people. For Christ is the real Master you serve. 25 And all wrongdoers will be repaid for the wrong things they do, because God judges everyone by the same standard.

Incidentally, for those who object that slavery was part of the ancient world and yet Paul gave instructions for behaviour to slaves instead of condemning the institution of slavery and campaigning for it to be abolished, the issue wasn't as straightforward as we might think. See:

The apostle Paul wrote to his fellow Christian worker Timothy:

1 Timothy chapter 5 (NLT)

17 Tell those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which will soon be gone. But their trust should be in the living God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. 18 Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and should give generously to those in need, always being ready to share with others whatever God has given them. 19 By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may take hold of real life.

The main Bible pages on this site:

Bible Bible Part 1: Bible Quotations, The Holy Spirit, People And Their Stories
Bible Part 2: The Lives and Suffering of the Ancient Israelites
Bible Part 3: The Bible, Articles About Alleged Inaccuracies in it, And Stories of People who Became Christians.
Or go directly to the next in the series: Love And Caring.

The selections of Bible quotations have been put together by Diana Holbourn.

Throughout this series, wherever the initials TEV appear, they stand for Today's English Version (The Good News Bible).

Other initials:

Warning Against Believing Everything you Hear or Read

Don't be afraid to question the truth of what a religious authority figure tells you, or even the Bible or other holy books themselves, or certain people's interpretation of them. Nothing to do with religion or the supernatural is so well established in fact it shouldn't be questioned. To find out why caution is a good idea, visit:

The Beauty of the New Testament's Moral Teaching and Other Important Pages on this Website

Are you up to trying the challenges of the New Testament's moral guidelines, and would you like to know more of what it says about the love of Jesus? Here are some links to Bible quotes about the beautiful ideals the New Testament encourages Christians to try to live up to:

There are a lot of pages on this website with quotations from the Old Testament on them. Many of these are unfortunately rather gruesome, since the main theme of the Old Testament is warnings and stories about how it says societies were punished for mass lawless and hurtful behaviour, even to the extent of having war brought on them by God, that seem to have been designed to scare societies where crime and violence were rampant into behaving more ethically. In case there is any misunderstanding, it should be understood that this website does not endorse war as anything other than a last resort. The position of the website owner can be gleaned from the articles:

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