This sermon was preached at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship on July 17th, 2011. To listen to the audio, just click on this link – Prov 27C.
Most of us acknowledge that we are and were deeply influenced by the households we grew up in and have lived in – there is something fundamentally shaping about a household. Households can be wonderful, encouraging places where nurturing takes place, or they can be selfish, combative places where everyone is trying to escape.
This morning we want to look at how to love our households – defined as “a house and its occupants regarded as a unit… and …The affairs related to keeping a house.” So I am talking about a family or those who live as roommates. What does it mean to love your household? What wisdom does Scripture give us?
23 Be sure you know the condition of your flocks,
give careful attention to your herds;
24 for riches do not endure forever,
and a crown is not secure for all generations.
25 When the hay is removed and new growth appears
and the grass from the hills is gathered in,
26 the lambs will provide you with clothing,
and the goats with the price of a field.
27 You will have plenty of goats’ milk to feed your family
and to nourish your female servants.
Attend to Your Household.
Know the Condition of Your Household: “Know you know the condition of your flocks …”. The author of Proverbs wrote to the heads of households, with this command – that they must “Know, Know” – which is a way of saying, be certain, be sure that you know what condition your flocks are in. Why? What was important about their knowing this? The condition of one’s flocks had to do with one’s wealth or lack thereof. Diseased and sick sheep could die and the owner would lose food, wool to make clothing. These things were directly connected to the prosperity of the household. In fact, in later verses, it is the household and its provision that are in view.
But nowadays most of us don’t have sheep. We have financial assets and we have families or roommates or relations – we have households that look a bit different. Nevertheless, we can still know the condition of our households. We can know the financial, relational, emotional, and individual needs. We can know family needs. Love requires that we know what is going on in our families – that we learn to be aware of the needs and care required for a family to thrive.
When we do not pay attention to the needs of the household we become like deer in the headlights – constantly caught off guard with problems and needs and trouble in the family.
Attend to Your household: “Attend your heart to your herds” translates into “Give careful attention…”. This is a shift in the emphasis. There is a difference between knowing or being aware of the needs of the herd and attending to the needs of the herd. “Attending the Heart”, means that we take up the concern and dwell on how to care for the herd.
In the same way, there is a difference between knowing the needs of the household and lovingly taking up the concerns of the household. There are those who know what bills are due, what their children need, what would bless the household, but whose main concern is for themselves – for their own pursuits.
Here it is easy to think of homes that No Greater Love helps to fix, where, for instance, one person is working themselves to exhaustion to support 5 other people who won’t work -or – where such lack of concern for anyone else is evident that the whole family lives in poverty and squalor. Children in these situations generally fail to thrive.
But it is also easy to think of families where parents are so caught up with their selfish pursuits that they effectively ignore children -or one spouse is so caught up in selfish pursuits that the home is damaged, whether financially or relationally.
Recognize The Constancy of Change and the Possibility of Trouble: In the ancient world wealth, which was connected for many with flocks and herds, could be lost. If animals started to die off through disease or predators a family could lose a fortune. In the same way, change in governments in the ancient world (as in ours) were usually violent and caused upheaval. An invading army could wipe out a farmer’s living.
Our families and households and finances and needs and health and relationships are constantly changing. These changes can cause difficulties in our households and trouble. But our temptation is to look at what is happening in the present or the past and assume that things will continue on as they have. This is foolish. Wisdom calls us to recognize the continually changing nature of the household and not to be caught off guard by change or by trouble.
Respond to the Provision of God.
God is Our Father who Provides for Us: Although God is not explicitly mentioned in this passage, the image of hay gathering and of the provisions given through the flock are a picture of his love and God’s care. Verses 25-26 suggest a harvest scene. The new growth under the hay, the lambs’ wool which can be made into clothing, the goats’ milk which can be used for food – all of these are things created by God and given to us regularly, predictably.
These central verses present God as the one who is providing for us. God is the Father who considers our condition and who lovingly attends to our needs. We see that this is true by faith. We choose to believe that God provides for us and cares for us – that we are not on our own – alone.
What does this mean for us in our households? It means that, as we attend to our finances, to the relationships that we navigate in our homes, to the needs of others in the home – we are not on our own. Jesus taught his disciples to pray for daily bread – to depend on God for their needs. God is for us! God desires to enter into the concerns and needs of the household in order to bless relationships, to provide for us, for his own namesake – to show his faithfulness and goodness.
We are Responsible to Lay Hold of God’s Provision: But the scene of harvest requires and assumes that God’s provision is laid hold of by our efforts. Hay has to be planted and harvested at just the right time (before it goes to seed – after it matures). Lambs have to be sheared, goats have to be milked – livestock has to be cared for.
In the same way, while God is willing and desirous to bless our relationships and to provide for us, but this does not mean that we are free of responsibility. There is a tremendous balance in these verses – a call to be in relationship with God, asking, trusting, believing, acting in order to bless our households.
How to take this passage…
The wisdom of proverbs is not a success manual. It does not plug us into a system that guarantees success. This is often a mistake of modern evangelicalism – that God provides us with methods to find happiness and success. But God does not provide us with methods – God provides us with himself. What this passage shows us is relationship. God calls us to know him as a Father and a provider – as one who is involved to bless our families and cares for our needs – to care for us and comfort our households in times of trouble. So let me leave you with a way to respond…
~ Begin by asking God to show you the needs of your household… the condition of your flock… and don’t panic! Don’t be surprised if God shows you problems and needs that you have no idea how to mend – relationships that are in ruins – broken situations that seem beyond healing.
~ Confess your inability to have the wisdom to heal your household and ask God to bless it.
~ Ask God to show you what action/ step to take to respond to what he wants to do as part of the cooperative process of blessing your household.