The Bible has a lot to say about diligence. What is it? What should we be diligent about? And what does God promise for those who are diligent?
Have you ever heard the admonition “You’ve got to be diligent!” given to you or someone else? Often parents, teachers, coworkers or bosses will remind, encourage or instruct others with those words. But what is diligence, and how are we to become diligent?
According to the Oxford Universal Dictionary, diligence is “careful attention, industry, assiduity; unremitting application, persistent endeavour.” A diligent person is described as “assiduous, industrious, conscientious, thorough; not idle, not negligent, not lazy.”
The meaning of diligence in the Bible is the same, though as we will see, there is also a spiritual aspect to diligence.
What it takes to be diligent
There is a lot in the definition of diligence, yet to some people it all simply means hard work. Without a doubt, hard work is a part, but there is more we should understand.
Notice an underlying thread is responsibility and reliability. People need to know they can rely on us to complete a given task to the absolute best of our ability. The diligent man or woman will make every effort to follow through on everything he or she starts, which requires self-discipline.
People with discipline have a goal, a vision of what is to be accomplished by their efforts. Keeping that vision in mind helps them stay focused and on task, even when the task at hand is laborious and tedious. Here is the strange truth: People without a vision or objective in life that they can diligently throw themselves into are inevitably unhappy.
Diligence in the Bible
Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 9:10, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might” (that is, whatever you do, do it to the best of your ability).
Jesus tells us, “Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing”—and not caught in idleness (Matthew 24:46). So Jesus expects responsibility and conscientiousness from us.
He emphasizes this in Luke 16:12: “And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own?” And, says Jesus, “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much” (Luke 16:10).
In other words, if you are not serious about small responsibilities, how will you be given greater ones?
God prizes diligence highly. We read in Proverbs 12:27: “Diligence is man’s precious possession.” Proverbs 21:5 amplifies: “The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty.”
In fact, God demands diligence! “You shall diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 6:17). In Deuteronomy 28:1 we read, “If you diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God, … the LORD your God will set you high above all nations of the earth.”
Hebrews 11:6 shows God takes diligence seriously: “He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” God can see who is serious about seeking Him. We are to strive for the goals that He sets for us. We are to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33), prizing these things above all else.
Joseph’s example of diligence
As a young man, Joseph seemed to have all these qualities of diligence, and he provides us with a fascinating illustration to learn from. He had been sold into slavery by his jealous brothers (Genesis 37:28), and he was carried away to Egypt. There he was sold as a household slave to an officer named Potiphar (Genesis 39:1). But even as a slave, we see Joseph working with diligence.
We don’t know much about his initial circumstances, but clearly whatever Potiphar gave him to do, Joseph very carefully and conscientiously did. In time Potiphar entrusted him with more responsibility, until Joseph was given responsibility for handling everything in the estate (verse 6). Diligence and God’s blessings drastically changed his circumstances!
Will we be diligent?
How serious are we about the tasks in our life, including obedience to God? How diligent are we? Diligent people will expend tremendous effort to accomplish their goals. This is the attitude that God expects from us in everything.
This is the attitude we must demonstrate in the workplace, as Joseph did. Too many people want to put out minimum effort for maximum pay. But remember that Jesus tells us, “Just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise” (Luke 6:31). Give your employers the same effort you would want from them if your positions were reversed.
Finally, we see that tenacious diligence to the end leads to the ultimate prize. As Jesus promises in Revelation 2:10, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”We should strive now to be diligent in everything we do. The diligent person will find his or her home and family life improving, and diligent workers will often be rewarded on the job. Read more about this in the article “Hard Work.”
What does God expect of us?
Even more than in our physical endeavors, God expects us to be spiritually diligent.
The old belief that God will accept you “as you are” is simply not true. God will not accept just anybody into His family—but only those who respond to His calling and choose to diligently follow Him.
First, we must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and accept Him as our Savior. That means we must sincerely repent of every sin and energetically seek God’s help to change our lives—and that’s not a simple or easy thing to do!
We must diligently yield our lives to Him to use as He sees fit. Conversion involves an agreement between each individual and God. Ezekiel 36:27-28 explains: “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. Then … you shall be My people, and I will be your God.”
The diligent person’s personal relationship with God grows and strengthens because of the effort he or she puts into learning from and obeying the Creator God.
Finally, we see that tenacious diligence to the end leads to the ultimate prize. As Jesus promises in Revelation 2:10, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
Learn more about what God expects by downloading our free booklet Change Your Life! It describes a process that requires great diligence, but has amazing rewards.