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"Proverbs 27 & Personal Finance: Lessons in Stewardship and Responsibility"


We don’t hear much about flocks anymore. Unless you’re a steady churchgoer or a member of a farming community, it’s probably been years since you’ve even heard this word. Side note: As I write this, I suddenly hear “I ran” by Flock of Seagulls in my brain. Memory is a funny thing.


The Condition of Your Flocks

In ancient Israel–and many other ancient cultures–the economy was driven by agrarian and/or pastoral forces. Animals were used in many ways. The size and health of one’s flock directly correlated to one's family’s economic survival. As you might imagine, the size of one’s flock often correlated to the amount of land they owned and their wealth.


In today's world, where few are involved in farming, our 'flocks' have transformed into jobs and assets that generate income. We must now manage these modern 'flocks' with the same care and attention as our ancestors did with their livestock. We are now balancing income, expenses, debts, and investments for the future.


Give Careful Attention

In my opinion, the 2nd part of this passage gives the most direct instruction. “Give careful attention…” means this activity isn’t trivial. Those involved in caring for the family’s livestock

needed to be diligent and responsible. The state of one’s herds or flocks would directly impact a family’s survival.


On the other end of the spectrum from survival, families that managed their flocks well could

see a significant increase in wealth and influence. In Genesis 30, Jacob references his care of

Laban’s livestock and the impact it had on Laban’s household. Jacob later uses his skill with

animals to make himself even wealthier than Laban.


In today’s world of financial complexity, we should give careful attention to our own financial

matters. This doesn’t suggest that we become obsessed with money and attaining it. That

messaging isn’t biblical. We should, however, be diligent stewards.


Our economic system today has become much more complex; thus, we should heed these

instructions about being careful and responsible. Each of us has different abilities and skills that may be used to generate income, which is then used to provide for our lifestyle. It’s the choosing of our lifestyle, our use of debt, and our savings rate that require careful attention.


Riches Do Not Endure

This piece can be and probably should be interpreted in a couple of different ways. The

immediate context suggests that one should be mindful because a surplus in crops or livestock could only be temporary. You must remain responsible and diligent.


Crops and animals are also temporary in nature. A poor season or famine can wipe out

agriculture. Animals get diseases, and an entire herd might be affected. Either of these

outcomes could be devastating, so there must always be a level of care and planning involved. You have to protect the economic engine of the family.


A modern-day analogy might be someone who receives a promotion or a large bonus at work. They level up their lifestyle to match their new income level; however, a recession hits the overall economy in the following year. They lose their job in corporate downsizing, and now,

they are in financial distress.


This is why we need to have emergency savings and to live within our means. We never know

when life may take an unexpected turn. Part of stewardship is being ready for things that could go wrong.


In addition to preparing for the unexpected, one of the most significant battles people face today is lifestyle creep. As we do better financially, it’s normal for us to purchase better clothes, higher-quality food, and more lavish entertainment. Our consumption can then move into nicer (more expensive) cars and a bigger house.


The hedonic treadmill kicks in—and the cycle repeats. So, instead of our increase in earnings

being used as capital to create more wealth, it’s used to fuel more consumption. This is lifestyle creep.


The Crown Is Not Secure

When I first decided to write about this passage, I admit that this part is what I really wanted to write about. I think it speaks to both financial success and legacy. I mean, crowns are worn by rulers, right?


This text would have been pretty relevant during the day, as Solomon was indeed the king. Not

only was he the king, but he was renowned for his wealth and wisdom. It would only make

sense that he would be mindful of his own future generations. Solomon knew of the fleeting power of riches (see Ecclesiastes), yet I think there’s something deeper here—how wealth tends to evaporate over time.


A study by AMG National Trust reports that roughly 90% of a family’s wealth could be gone by the third generation. That’s a painful number.


Why might this type of wealth destruction be occurring? There can be a host of answers– poor

decision-making, transferring money without transferring knowledge or values, frivolous

consumption, etc. There are many different potential avenues that can be explored.


If this text is to be believed, losing wealth over generations does not appear to be a new

phenomenon. Does this mean that Christians should obsess over a financial legacy? Not hardly.


I do think it means that we should be mindful, however. Handling wealth and a family’s ability to produce wealth requires care and responsibility. A good steward should seek to pass on their knowledge, tools, and values to the next generation. Failure to do so can have serious

consequences.


Not everyone will be able to accumulate vast sums of material wealth. However, we are all still

instructed to know the condition of our finances and to be mindful of our resources. This is

called stewardship.


For those of us who are able to accumulate wealth, we are instructed not to put our faith or trust in these riches because riches do not endure. That’s the nature of things. You cannot fight

gravity forever–it eventually wins.


What we can do, however, is prove ourselves to be responsible and diligent when it comes to

our personal economic and financial choices. The skills and abilities we have used to produce

wealth may not always be transferable, but our values and beliefs can be passed on to our

children. Values and principles can be timeless. They can be a legacy, too.

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