At the Heart of Diligence

Edited by Phillip Hanson

By Jeremy Too

    6 min. Read Time

Published January 1st, 2021

            If there’s one thing that I’ve come to understand over the course of my faith, it is the need for me to revisit what it means to be diligent. Regardless of where I currently sit or have sat in my walk with Christ, whether it be through times of restoration and healing, or whether it be through the turbulence and trouble of everyday life, I have found myself often commenting in passing or wondering in my own thoughts why I lack this attribute. Over time, this has brought me to wonder exactly what I mean when I think about the term itself. Not only so, but it caused me to beg yet another question: what does a Biblical definition of diligence look like in practice for those of us in the faith?      
            Merriam-Webster defines diligence as “steady, earnest, and energetic effort: devoted and painstaking work and application to accomplish an undertaking...”[1] Using this definition as a starting point for how we approach diligence, we can see that it is a word that carries a number of differing qualities depending on how it’s used. Being diligent can mean anything from being consistent and passionate, to having attention to detail and working hard at a job or task. If we look at this from a Biblical standpoint, we can break these categories of diligence down even further. When reading the Old Testament, multiple passages in Ezra, Proverbs, Deuteronomy, Isaiah, Micah, and the Psalms describe diligence in tandem with phrases like “with care,” “scrupulously,” and “earnestly.” Proverbs also uses it with words like “industrious” or “exacting.”2 In the New Testament, we see it used for terms like “endeavoring” in Ephesians, “study” in 2nd Timothy, “meditate upon” in 1st Timothy, and “business” in Romans.2 One important thing to note is that the way that these words have been interchanged greatly depends on the translation concerning the English text, therefore, diligence has a wide swath of ways it is defined largely because English also retains multiple characterizations of the term (consider referencing a lexicon if there is any desire to find a description that is rooted in the languages of the original manuscripts).[2]  
            When we juggle the slew of terms which can be used to explain diligence, confusion can often be the first thing that comes to mind. If diligence isn’t always so clearly defined in the English Bible, then how are we supposed to know what it means to practice it in our daily walk? When are we supposed to apply diligence, and in what ways are we commanded to do so? For a long time, I struggled with these questions, but recently, I’ve come to wonder if perhaps it’s not so much a matter of pinpointing the central meaning of diligence as much as it’s learning to engage with all the different ways that it’s described in the Old and New Testaments. All those various terms and phrases that we covered earlier give us small pieces to a much larger puzzle. Diligence cannot be pushed into a small box that we then compartmentalize and conveniently fit into one section of our lives. Diligence is a posture that we need to use to approach every part of our day-to-day lives. Like most qualities that are consistent with our faith, we can’t simply sit down and master diligence in one day, because diligence encompasses the attitude and mindset that we’re to give to every part of our jobs, relationships, friendships, families, passions, responsibilities, and goals.  
            So what does it mean to be diligent, then? Well, what does Proverbs say about it? Or Deuteronomy? How about Ephesians, Ezra, or Romans? The Bible has provided plenty of instances that demonstrate diligence to us, and if we truly are serious about being more diligent, then we can also take the time and brainpower to explore what all it can mean. The act of even trying to understand the word requires a measure of diligence in and of itself! Although there are a lot of outward actions that we can take which are indicative of the meaning, the true essence of diligence starts with us. It needn’t be our greatest concern to learn to embody every single part of what diligence is all at once; we instead ought to consider what lies at the heart of being diligent. More than anything, diligence is a sort of litmus test for the posture of our hearts towards the gospel. Are we living our lives as if the gospel is real and Scripture is true? Are we approaching every aspect of our day meditating and thinking as if we are in the presence of God? Are we endeavoring to hold captive every thought that crosses our minds and hold it up to the truth of the Word? Are we handling our friendships and relationships with the care and consideration that Christ has for us?  
            Diligence is about applying the gospel faithfully to the minute details of our lives, it is being devoted to Christ and waiting with our candles lit, so to speak. Will we give our faith the time and energy that it requires to foster and develop it into its full potential in Christ? Will we take the time to lean into the seasons that the Lord has us in, whether we’re in a time of healing and restoration, or a time of service and caring for others, etc.? Will we approach our walk with the Lord with a humble, teachable spirit? Are we willing to give to and receive from supporting brothers and sisters in Christ that are around us? “If we will not take pains for the kingdom of heaven,” as Spurgeon says so pointedly, “what kingdom will we take pains for?”[3] All of us are at unique and different points in our journey of faith, and continuing forward down this path with diligence is going to require something specific for some of us and something else for others of us. The areas where I struggle to be diligent are not going to necessarily be the same areas that other fellow believers in my community also struggle. Therefore, there is an individual and corporate calling for all of us to seek to grow inwardly, as well as reach outwardly in the name of discipleship. All of these examples evoke a small sense of what diligence is, and it is the responsibility of every follower of Christ to push onward toward what lies ahead and consider what it means to be obedient to Jesus in every part of our lives both in the short-term and the long-term.   

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Footnotes:

            [1] Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “Diligence” (Online). Accessed Dec. 24, 2020: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/diligence. 
            [2] Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Diligence; Diligent; Diligently'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Online, 1915). Accessed Dec. 24, 2020: https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/isb/d/diligence-diligent-diligently.html. 
            [3] Charles Spurgeon, "Heaven: an Incentive to Diligence" in Charles Spurgeon's Illustration Collection. Accessed Dec. 24, 2020: https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/fff/h/heaven-an-incentive-to-diligence.html. 1870.

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