Know Well the Condition of Your Flocks

Sheep at sunset

Our country is in the midst of a recession. The economic outlook for the future is uncertain. Unemployment continues to rise. The national debt is ballooning at an astronomical rate. Naturally, people are worried about their financial situation, both for the present and the future.

Despite all of this, we have the responsibility to provide for ourselves (2 Thessalonians 3:10), our families (1 Timothy 5:8), and be able to help those in need (Ephesians 4:28). Paul told us of the importance of working hard so as to not be a burden to anyone (1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:8). But how can we do this if the economy collapses?

Christians ought to first consult the Bible to see what instructions are contained there that would relate to this economic crisis. The proverb writer has a very important reminder for us that we should notice, particularly with the current progression we are seeing in this country.

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. When the grass disappears, the new growth is seen, and the herbs of the mountains are gathered in, the lambs will be for your clothing, and the goats will bring the price of a field, and there will be goats’ milk enough for your food, for the food of your household, and sustenance for your maidens” (Proverbs 27:23-27).

Our Responsibility

The first point we see in this passage is that you are responsible for your well-being (know the condition of your flocks, pay attention to your herds). This includes taking care of one’s family (household, maidens), just as Paul said, “If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8).

We also see a lesson in stewardship. The wise man gave advice to one who had flocks and herds. What did he have to do? Pay attention to them, care for them, and not neglect them. Every blessing we have comes from God (James 1:17). We are not all blessed in the same way, but we must use the blessings we have wisely. This was the point of the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30). Three men received a sum of money from their master (five talents, two talents, and one talent). They were each to manage their talents wisely and would later give an account to their master. The one-talent man was condemned, not because he had the fewest number of talents, but because he neglected what he was given. We have been greatly blessed by God. It would be prudent for us to “know well the condition” of our material possessions and use them wisely.

The Economy Can Collapse

The state of the economy has people worried. What happens if the economy collapses? What if the dollar becomes worthless? The proverb writer addressed this. He said, “For riches are not forever.” This statement immediately follows the instruction about responsibility and stewardship. The word for introduces the reason for the preceding command. Why make sure you take care of yourself and your own? Because riches are not forever. We must learn how to provide for ourselves, our family, and those in need without a strong economy around us.

But how would we do this? The same way man has done it from the beginning – farming, ranching, or hunting for food, producing homemade goods necessary for one’s household which can also be sold or bartered for other goods we may need. This is the advice in the proverb – the lambs provide clothing by using their wool, the value of the goats can be used to purchase a field, the goats’ milk can help feed one’s family. This shepherd did not need a functioning national economy to survive.

The Government Can Fall

For many people, the answer to a struggling economy is more government intervention. But that is not God’s solution. After reminding us of the temporary nature of riches, the wise man added, “Nor does a crown endure to all generations.” The point is that we must not become dependent on the government. Even if our government begins the unsustainable work of propping up a fallen economy, it cannot last. We do not know how long our current government system in this country will be in place. It has endured for over 200 years to this point. Perhaps it will last another 200 years. Maybe just another two years. The reality is that we do not know and if we rely upon the government for our well-being, we may lose our livelihood someday.

God’s Providence Will Remain

So what should we do in order to move beyond a reliance upon a stable economy and government? We must put our trust in God and in His providence. By providence, I am not talking about the concept that many people have of God directly interacting with our lives and giving us things we would not otherwise come to have. Rather, I simply mean what God has provided in His creation.

God, through His wisdom, mercy, and power, has created a world in which we can survive. We can sustain ourselves if we use the resources in His creation properly. God told Adam, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you” (Genesis 1:29). Later, after the flood, God broadened this provision to Noah and his descendants. “Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant” (Genesis 9:3). These plants and animals, in a world perfectly formed by God, are a renewable resource for us that not only provide us with food, but also things like wood, leather, wool, medicines, etc.

Some may live in cities where, with space limitations, they simply cannot raise animals or grow many vegetables. Yet there are still things that one can do. The virtuous woman is an excellent example of one who is industrious. She “works with her hands in delight,” making clothes for her household and garments and belts to be sold (Proverbs 31:13, 21-22, 24). In the New Testament we read of individuals who either made goods or sold goods on behalf of others who had made them: Lydia sold fabrics (Acts 16:14) and Paul, Aquila and Priscilla made tents (Acts 18:2-3). There were also those who were simply called “laborers” who were to be paid a wage for their daily work (Matthew 20:1-2; James 5:4).

The common theme, whether we live in a city or in the country, is that we must work hard and make good use of the resources God has provided in His creation. Paul told the brethren in Thessalonica, “If anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either” (2 Thessalonians 3:10).

But what happens when one is unable to provide for themselves? The above passage does not say that one who does not work should not eat, but rather one who is not willing to work should not eat. There will be times when one, even though he may be willing, is simply unable to work. God has a plan to help these individuals. Some will be surprised to learn that His plan does not involve the civil government. Rather, God directed individuals to help others (Galatians 6:9-10; Ephesians 4:28; Acts 20:35). Family members are to help their relatives that are in need (1 Timothy 5:4, 16). In the case of Christians, the local church is able to provide help to saints (Acts 4:32-35; 11:27-30).

Conclusion

Is it wrong to derive some benefit from the national economy or government? No. But the point is this: we must be able to survive with or without them. We still have the responsibility to provide for ourselves and help others. God has created a world in which we can do this. We must take advantage of what He has provided, learning how to use the resources He has given us and being willing to work hard in order to make full use of what we have here.


This article is one of the fifty articles included in the book Plain Bible Teaching: The First Ten Years. Click on the link to read more about the book.


When you subscribe, you’ll also receive 3 free PDF’s: Plain Bible Teaching on Hope, the latest issue of Plain Bible Teaching Quarterly Review, and Thankful.


Comments

  1. Good thoughts. I admit that at 5:30 a.m. when I saw the title of your article I thought it was going to be about elders — but then I realized you said “flocks” — plural.

  2. Yeah, the singular would work well for a title of an article about elders.

  3. Very nice article. Good things for us all to keep in mind!

Trackbacks

  1. […] Read the article: Know Well the Condition of Your Flocks […]