He who is slack in his work
is brother to him who destroys.
We have all been in circumstances where someone left us to do the brunt of the work, or does such slipshod work that it has to be checked and redone by someone else later. The project may be held up, cost more than expected, or even fail completely because of the careless work of just one or a few people.
I think, though, that Proverbs is concerned as much or more with the fabric of community. When people do not do their share, or do sloppy work, the first response is usually resentment and conflict. Others try to avoid working with the slacker, or begin to be controlling from the first moment of collaboration to guard against another incident. The path is opened for blame about problems the project encounters. In the end, not only the work but also the ties of communal life have been destroyed.
Often, the one termed a slacker does not see herself in that light. She may perceive her contributions as equal in effort or value to those of other people. She may think that one or another special circumstance relieves her of some responsibility. Whenever one person is perceived as a slacker by another, when the label is applied, the ties of community are broken.
To truly live out the wisdom of this proverb, one needs to go beyond having a strong ethic of diligence in work to also have a commitment to the work of building community and solidarity among one’s fellow workers. One who lacks diligence and effirt, another who does not do the work of solidarity: both are related to the one who destroys.
There are friends who pretend to be friends,
but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.