As I parked my car outside a friend’s house, he walked up to me and remarked: “Do you know your front right wheel is flat?” I hadn’t noticed and awkwardly tried to turn the exchange into a joke. He stopped me and said: “That isn’t safe, man; not for you and not for your family.” I had it checked later that day.
We live in a materialistic world. This is not new. Proverbs 11:28 warns us: “Whoever trusts in his riches will fall”. These words were penned by one of the richest men in the Old Testament: Solomon. Yet even Solomon understood that wealth has its limits and that it is a flimsy foundation for confidence. As Jesus explained: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matt. 6:19-20).
Christians would do well to heed these warnings. Our confidence should not be in the abundance of our possessions. We must be careful that the things we own don’t own us. Jesus added: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt. 6:21).
Psalm 24:1 says: “The earth is the LORD's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein”. We don’t actually “own” anything; God has entrusted some of his abundance to us. How we manage this blessing will say a great deal about our priorities, desires, and spiritual maturity.
At this point you probably expect a lecture on generosity and benevolence. These are important Christian disciplines that defined the early church and should shape us as well. However (you knew this was coming), this is not what I want to focus on. I want to focus on how you take care of the things God has entrusted to you. They were given to take care of your family (or, if you are alone, yourself).
Look at 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.”
This proverb teaches a lesson drawn from rural life. There are flocks and herds, grass and vegetation, fields and milk. These imagines may be strange those of us who grew up in the city, but they are the stuff of life out on the farm. Tending to your livestock is important because they will provide wool (v. 26), milk (v. 27), food (v. 27), and yes, money (v. 26). Tending to your field is also important because it produces food for the livestock (v. 25).
We understand the concept. This is the “circle of life” stuff our childhood cartoons sang about, but there is more to it than that. Look at how the passage ends: “food for your household and maintenance for your girls” (v. 27). If you are a breadwinner or homemaker there are people who depend on you. Your family (“your household”) depends on you. There may even be people that you employ: “your girls”. This is most likely a reference to servants, which the NIV makes explicit when it translates it “servant girls”.
In both cases there are people who rely on you for “wool… milk… food”. You may not have fields or flocks, but you have a car that gets you to work, a home that keeps your family warm and dry, and other tools that enable you to ply your trade. You, and the gifts that God has blessed you with, are the means by which God takes care of your family or employees. How you manage your fields and flocks impacts them. In other words, you must take care of the things that take care of your family. The wise stewardship of the means that God has provided for you, is a blessing to your family. If you squander what God has given, or if you aren’t attentive to it, your family and your employees will suffer.
Can God provide for your family without you? Absolutely. God takes care of those who have no one else to take care of them. Just look at Psalm 68:5: “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.” Trust that the Lord will take care of them when you can’t. But this does not mean that we can be unwise stewards of what he has entrusted to us.
Heed God’s wisdom and learn to take care of the things that take care of your family.
Because of Christ,