Occasionally I hear people say “The Bible is so irrelevant.” All these verses written thousands of years ago by shepherds and goat-herders have no bearing on my life today. I need some guidance and advice for my life that’s more updated and current. Perhaps at first glance this is how you feel when you read this verse:
Know well the condition of your flocks,
And pay attention to your herds,
For riches are not forever,
Nor does a crown endure to all generations.
This was an agricultural society, where animals and livestock were measured as key financial resources in the Old Testament. You may remember how Job’s wealth was measured this way. Well-kept sheep will produce wool and milk product for years. They would serve as provision laid up and stored up. this was their “nest egg.” The primary observation of the Sage to the Israelites concerning the responsibility one has toward one’s wealth is to know it well and pay careful attention to it.
The word “know well” in the original is emphatic, one might read, “Know, yes know, your flocks.” It means to become an expert on them. The word “condition” here means knowing “the face of,” referring to knowing their appearance. They were to know their color, their features and their unique ways. Are they healthy? Are they pregnant? Are they hungry? Do they need water? Do they need green pastures? They were to be an authority on their condition. Why?
The first line of the second couplet provides the reason the writer gives us for this admonition. The people were to know them well, because it would bring financial security. The nature of riches are such that they are not permanently secure. “Riches” would not last forever, instead they will melt away, that is, if they were not looked after. Your riches will not endure if you ignore them or let them go unkept.
I used to get an allowance as a kid, it was $1 / per week. Each week my family would go grocery shopping. I would like to go next store to the pharmacy and often buy a helium balloon with my allowance. My favorite one was the one with the Ghostbusters symbol on it. One time I bought that balloon, and after proudly walking out of the store I was overwhelmed with a desire to let go of the string. So, I did. After about 5 minutes of watching it float away and shrink into the clouds above, I got a sinking feeling in my stomach. I began to cry. Why? I just let something important and valuable to me slip away. I did not take care of what I had. That is the way it is with finances, they float away and disappear if we let go of our grip on them.
Is this ancient principle relevant? Over a million people file bankruptcy each year. Approximately 56 % of divorces occur because of irreconcilable financial strife. I am told most people in our nation live paycheck to paycheck. That means they are only one small emergency away from financial disaster. How can we avoid this danger? Here in this ancient proverb, we learn how God’s wisdom calls us to be prepared to avoid financial catastrophe.
The second line of the second couplet says, “Nor does a crown endure to all generations.” The “crown” here leads some to believe this is a royal proverb. The Sage is saying, “Not even a royal dynasty lasts forever, how much less a private fortune!” It is even more precarious! Therefore, what? Be careful. Be diligent. Know it well. Pay attention. This Proverb is teaching the Israelite shepherds to take care of their resources now and if so, then they would take care of them in the future.
How does that relate to me? How is this relevant? The application flows into our lives in a fairly straightforward manner. I don’t have flocks and herds, nor do most of you. But we all can remember that doing the hard work now, will allow us to enjoy what we’ve accomplished later. In the book of Proverbs, the person who doesn’t understand the basic principle of delayed gratification and hard work is called a “fool.”
To be wise, we must intentionally study and know our resources. This includes all that God has entrusted to us, but especially our own financial assets. When was the last time you reviewed your portfolio? When was the last time you reviewed your monthly family budget? When was the last time you reconciled your checkbook? Perhaps today is a good day to take a fine toothed comb and update your finances with diligence. If we do not pay careful attention to them, then just as even a royal family can be displaced, our own family’s legacy can quickly disappear.
Heed the words of the sage. When it comes to your assets, know them well … pay attention … take care of what you’ve got … this ancient wisdom is very relevant.