Elder Paisios quotes this old saying and asks, "What does it mean?" Clearly it is saying that it is better to work, which in earlier times would wear out your shoes, than to be lazy and to spend your time in bed wearing out the blankets.
Elder Paisios describes work in this way:
Work is a blessing, a gift from God. Work gives vigor to the body and refreshes the mind. If God had not given us work, man would have become moldy Those who are diligent work into their old age. If they stop working while they still have strength, they become melancholy; it's like death for them.
There is no way to gain peace without engaging in work of some kind. When we do take a break, like a vacation or even a lunch hour, when we did not return to work, what would we do? We would seek out some other kind of comfort. When it ended we would seek another. We would never find satisfaction. We would be filled with anxiety, not from work, but from our inability to find true comfort. We would feel an emptiness, a need for being of some value to others. Our soul would be longing to carry out the will of God which is to help and love others. This is why even though we may find ourselves fatigued at the end of a good days work, we can feel a sense of joy that we have been useful, worthwhile, have contributed to the life of mankind.
It is important to carry our faith into our work place. We should pray before we take on our various projects for God to guide and help us. We should find ways to show kindness to those we work with. In this way we carry our God's will into our work place. What is essential is to always keep God in mind while we work.
Work is a blessing from God
Resource: Elder Paisios of Mount Athos spiritual Counsels IV: Family Life, pg176