Daily Proverbial, 10 November 2011

Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds; for riches do not endure forever, and a crown is not secure for all generations. When the hay is removed and new growth appears and the grass from the hills is gathered in, the lambs will provide you with clothing, and the goats with the price of a field. You will have plenty of goats’ milk to feed your family and to nourish your female servants. Proverbs 27, verses 23 – 27.

I’m not an athlete. I exercise a lot but I’m not much into participating in team sports. Even though this is true I find that, in business and home life and sports, when you want to know how to do something well, you pay attention to foundations. You get back to basics. If you find yourself overloaded or losing focus, quickly getting back to the basics is, I think, the single best way to regain that focus and reassert control in your life. My friend, Alan, always says, “stick to first principles.” Amen to that.

So it is that these verses, I believe, agree with my friend. In the context of animal husbandry they talk about the basics. Pay attention to the condition of your livelihood that you might profit from it. More importantly, pay attention to the details in the condition of your livelihood that you and those you love might live. Even in this age of an interconnected, fast-paced world, simple things still matter. Computers are made from components made from materials mined on the same earth that was around 6000 years ago when it was brand new. The programmers who run the internet still need to eat food grown by someone using methods that aren’t much different from those used for thousands of years, right?

Whether we know it or not, technology still relies on simplicity. And simplicity still relies on paying attention to the basics. Have you ever been to a farm? The way you take care of animals or plant, cultivate, and harvest crops hasn’t changed much since the time of Abraham. Sure the tools are much different and the technology is vastly improved but the animals and plants are still much the same. Not only that, but there are riches in simplicity. Pay attention to the details and there is a payoff at the end. That’s why farmers work hard all season long.

And what are flocks? Sheep? Birds? Cattle? Of course they are. But how about the team you manage, the teachers who work in schools, the money in your checkbook, the supply chain that feeds your assembly line, the workers who volunteer? If you’ve ever been entrusted with managing anything, I think you can see that ‘flocks’ could be whatever it is you’re ‘farming.’ “Be sure you know the condition of your team, give careful attention to your peoples’ well being; for riches do not endure forever, and a crown is not secure for all generations.” It might not be what King Solomon originally wrote, but I think it works just as well. Or this: “when the project is done and another one begins and the deliverable documents are all delivered, the people will provide you with work, and the team with the price of a new company. You will have plenty of income to feed your family and to nourish them all.” Again, it’s not what Solomon had in mind – project management in ancient Israel was a bit different – but I think you can see where I’m going with it.

Or, as God spoke through Solomon said in another book: “there is nothing new under the sun.”

In all this, there is the reminder and the caution: the crown is not secure for all generations. What you and I possess today will pass away tomorrow. Our time and our treasure here is fleeting, only temporary. Using the talents God gave us to provide for ourselves is a blessing, an occupation, a calling. It is also only a reflection of the good vocation that is to come in the life after this one. And there will be a life after this one. When we die, what we have now will pass to someone else. We run our race here, even if we aren’t athletes, and when we are done what we own and have is meaningless. Our crown will pass away when we do.

Until that time, it is our lot and our privilege to do our best with what we’re given. We are blessed to work and make the most out of our treasure. For some, that means working at home, for others it’s working in a deli, for others it’s in an office or McDonalds or driving a truck or stringing cable. I couldn’t do what you do for a living because I don’t have your training, talent or experience; forgive my pretentiousness for saying the same about someone else doing my job. No matter who does what we do, the surest way to success is to always pay attention to the details and stick to the simple.

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