Proverbs 27:26 (NKJV) The lambs will provide your clothing, And the goats the price of a field;
The price of something generally is the cost of purchasing it. It could mean a strategic starting point, an assigned value, or maybe a way to screen out unqualified buyers. In Prov 27:26 it states a number of goats equals the value of a field. A different asset, lambs, provide some income, and the goats either pay the rent for the field, or enable the acquisition of more property.
This verse is an incomplete thought. Why are lambs referred to as a source of clothing? Who needs clothing, and what kind do they need? And why is it goats that are traded for a field? We need to look at several preceding verses to understand what Solomon (the author of this proverb) meant by saying goats and a field are equal.
Proverbs 27:23–26 (NKJV) 23) Be diligent to know the state of your flocks, And attend to your herds; 24) For riches are not forever, Nor does a crown endure to all generations. 25) When the hay is removed, and the tender grass shows itself, And the herbs of the mountains are gathered in, 26) The lambs will provide your clothing, And the goats the price of a field;
At first glance verse 24 seems out of place. It talks about material wealth and a crown. The crown is not so much the authority and rule of a king as the honor and dignity a good king should enjoy. The section begins with an admonition to be diligent and attentive to the state and condition of things in your care. In Solomon’s time everyone understood agriculture since most people lived as farmers and shepherds. The Bible applies to all people for all time in all situations, so there must be wisdom contained in these verses that applies to you and I today.
We are told to be diligent about flocks and herds. Today that could refer to the skills and competencies specific to your job. For a supervisor, foreman, or even a teacher, it may refer to people you are responsible for. The original language actually says we are to discern and know by personal experience the face of our flocks. Shepherds knew their flocks so well they called each sheep by name. Jesus Christ is our Great Shepherd (Heb 13:20, Ps 23:1, Psa 80:1) and He calls each of His children by name (John 10:3, Isa 43:1, Isa 45:3, Rev 3:5). Do you know your people that well? Do you consistently upgrade your skills, take new training often, or cultivate your competencies? Do you look yourself in the face, and make adjustments to improve based on what you see?
The reference to wealth and honor in verse 24 being sandwiched between references to animals and husbandry suggests that wealth and honor are tied to your personal diligence. Riches are not indefinite, and honor may not be passed to the next generation. The profits of a father may not survive to sustain the son. How well we work at our job, how well we tend our garden, the effort and consistency of our oversight of whatever we are responsible for, determines the level of wealth and honor we attain. Small effort provides small returns. Short term enterprise yields frustration and disappointment.
Verse 25 mentions hay being harvested, the new grass being revealed after the harvest, and gathering of other sources of food. This implies a deliberate consistent self-management of our time. Every farmer understands the cycle of seedtime and harvest. No matter what you personally would like to do today, you must choose to do the right thing that leads to the best possible harvest. There is no hay to harvest if the field is not tilled first. There is no hay to harvest if you till the field but decide it is too much extra work to sow the seed. There is no hay to harvest if you prefer video games or the latest news story to sweating into the night to harvest the crop. If we refuse to manage our time and personal resources we will never enjoy much wealth or honor. That is the message of Solomon for us today.
Verse 26 brings the parable to its conclusion. If we learn to diligently look our responsibilities “in the face” and follow up with appropriate timely action, we will have hay in the barn and our livestock will be growing bigger and fatter on the lush (and free) mountain grass after the fall harvest. In other words, being faithful on the job, being a great boss or leader, being someone your co-workers and employers can trust and rely on, leads to increase. Those who persistently inspect every element in the sphere of their responsibility then adjust their behaviour to improve deficiencies revealed by their self-inspection inevitably improve their value. As their value increases, they develop a surplus. Not only can they now provide for themselves, but they may begin saving for other goals. We may need assistance from family or government for a season but there is a process that produces self sufficiency then surplus.
“Goats the price” is the climax of faithful stewardship of the cards you have to play with. No matter what you start with God will help you grow into self sufficiency then surplus. Joseph went from being the heir of a rich landowner to being a slave in prison in a foreign land to being the Prime Minister or President second only to the King. He maintained his righteousness before the Lord and was faithful to steward what he could. You can reach a place of having enough extra from your efforts to acquire more resources. In Bible days this was often more land to support more livestock. Today that could mean shares in a real estate trust, purchase of property or equipment, or digital assets you leverage into your dream of independence from the working world.
For those who may already enjoy self sufficiency or surplus, remember the ability to increase comes from personal diligence and willingness to repent when we see we are wrong. Verse 24 reminds us that even if we have wealth and honor it may not last long if we do not follow the advice of Solomon about personally overseeing our resources and following God’s plan for continuous improvement.