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Know Well the Condition of Your Flocks

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Biblical Wisdom

Proverbs 27:23-27 -- Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds, for riches do not last forever; and does a crown endure to all generations? When the grass is gone and the new growth appears and the vegetation of the mountains is gathered, the lambs will provide your clothing, and the goats the price of a field. There will be enough goats' milk for your food, for the food of your household and maintenance for your girls.

Family wealth often dissipates in three generations. Long ago, I had a lazy student in Business Math. I asked him why he did no work, and he told me that his father owned a Cadillac-Buick car dealership. His grandfather started it. I knew the place with my student’s last name on it. It vanished long ago. Similarly, a man in my congregation worked for a paint factory, once very successful. Then the third generation milked it dry, hired foolishly, and in a few years it was gone. Riches do not last forever, partly because the third generation of owners neglect tending the “flocks” they live from.

Neither does “a crown endure to all generations.” The typical royal dynasty rarely lasted more than four generations. David’s grandson, Rehoboam, lost most of His kingdom in a few days of proud neglect of wise statecraft. None of the later dynasties in Israel lasted more than four kings. The four-century reign of David’s dynasty over Judah was rare.

So what should someone with wealth do? Solomon writes, “Pay attention to it and know its condition.” He uses the example of sheep and goats. Caring for sheep and goat flocks requires constant hard and dangerous work: find them grass, protect them from predators, and track down strays. However, wealth lies in the rhythm of a flock’s life: winter when the grass fades, spring when lambs and kids are born and wool is shorn, milk year-round from goats, summer moving them to higher pastures, and so on. The flock provides food for the family and support for one’s daughters. But let a rich man look at his vast flocks one fall and think they will take care of themselves, and they will dwindle in number before he notices what has happened. Modern wealth, whether stored in real estate, family businesses, common stock, or bonds, requires its owner’s attention. It provides for his family, and if he becomes careless, it will vanish.

Wise parents blessed with wealth will teach their children how to work to maintain it. Wise children will accept the burdens of responsibility that go with family wealth, always remembering that riches do not last forever. “Know well the state of your flocks!”

Dr. Bill Edgar, former chair of the Geneva College Board of Trustees, former Geneva College President and longtime pastor in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA)

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Opinions expressed in the Geneva Blog are those of its contributors and do not necessarily represent the opinions or official position of the College. The Geneva Blog is a place for faculty and contributing writers to express points of view, academic insights, and contribute to national conversations to spark thought, conversation, and the pursuit of truth, in line with our philosophy as a Christian, liberal arts institution.

May 5, 2021