Know well the condition of your flocks, and pay attention to your herds; for riches are not forever, nor does a crown endure to all generations. Proverbs 27:23-24As we look at this passage in Proverbs 27, we are examining the Ministry of neglect. This proverb is encouraging us to know the condition of things in our lives well! The example used is for our flocks - and yet many of us do not have any livestock. The wisdom that is offered is that we know well the things that are important in our lives. Over the next week we'll be looking at six different areas of our lives in which it is wise for us to avoid the "Ministry of Neglect" that just seems to come to naturally to us all.The first area we will look at is our personal lives. In this area we need to know well the condition of our heart. This speaks to our spiritual condition before God. How are you doing spiritually? Are you being more Christlike in your actions and attitudes? Are you showing spiritual growth so that the fruit of the Spirit is evident in how you live? On a different level, are you reading the Word of God daily? What about prayer - are you praying? Are you sharing your faith with others - and being an instrument of God's grace and love in your local fellowship? A good thing to do, if you want to keep up with such things, is to occasionally have a brother or sister in Christ lovingly, yet honestly, answer these questions. Want a real challenge? Ask your wife and your children. Another area of our personal lives is our health. This is one that if often overlooked - and yet according to 1 Corinthians 6:19 - our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit. So the question is applicable - how is your health? Are you eating well - or is the sin of gluttony resulting in health issues for you? Are you exercising regularly? Are you getting enough sleep and resting on a regular basis (God suggests 1 out of every 7 days for this). If you do not take care of yourself - you should not be surprised if your body - and even your mental state begins to fall apart. I am not saying that we should turn into health and fitness fanatics - just that we should do a basic job of caring for ourselves physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. How are you doing mentally and emotionally? Are you practicing good mental health? Do you live in reality - or is most of your time spent in a fantasy land - either on television or in an online game. Are you living for online relationships more than those around you in your home? Too many find themselves locked into the online world rather than the real one. Then there are mental habits. How are you doing with your mind? Are you reading and learning anything? This is something people don't grasp in our society. We are becoming a society of morons - because we don't do anything to benefit our minds. There is so much out there besides television (and especially besides reality TV) that can help you become a smarter person. Are your reasoning skills advancing - or are you letting the TV, radio, and others think for you? Oh, how much we lose when we don't practice good mental habits. The potential here is massive - and few if any of us tap into it. One last area that I'll meddle in is our personal finances. How are they going? Are we exercising wisdom in how we are handling the money God gives to us? Do we look like a wise or a foolish steward of what God places into our hands? It is actually wise to occasionally take a step back and see if we are being wise - and are practicing self-control over our spending habits. If not - we can suddenly find that our bank account will not sustain us at a level we are currently living. I can only imagine how much many have been offended by this particular post. We are not exactly an honest people when it comes to stepping back and taking a real look at ourselves. If it helps any - I was pretty convicted in several areas of my own life just writing this. Doing this can help us so much though. Remember - this post is about the Ministry of Neglect. It is too easy for us to forget areas of our lives - until they come back to bite us in the rear. That is why I would encourage you to schedule a quarterly check-up . . . for yourself. You might be shocked at how it helps keep you on track. I know that writing this has made me consider a few ways that the ministry of neglect has been active - and - I can see how if I continue to neglect things - I'll end up paying a lot more than I want to in my future.
He who tends the fig tree will eat its fruit, And he who cares for his master will be honored.
Today's proverb will instruct us on how to be blessed by your master or your employer. For those who lived as slaves in the day in which this proverb was written, it applied to those who cared for their masters. In our day, when slavery is not practiced as it was in Biblical days, it refers to our relationship with our employers - of for that matter - anyone under whose authority we find oursevles.
The picture used here is that of someone who is tending a fig tree. The one who does this task will get to eat from the fruit of the fig tree. There may be an encouragment here to serve over a long period of time, due to the fact that a fig tree is a tree that lives a long time. It is also one that matures rather slowly. A great reminder for us who have been conditioned to think a certain way in our "fast-food" society. We think if we serve a week, or month, or even a year or two, we should be rewarded richly. The use of the fig tree should point us to faithful service over the long haul - not just a few weeks, months, or years. When we serve faithfully over a long period of time - our master or employer will consider us worthy to be honored. This is especially the case with wise employers.
The word used for "cares" in the second part of this verse is the Hebrew word "samar." This is a word that means to watch over, keep, preserve, or guard. The idea is not of grudging service. It points to a careful watchfulness. IT refers to those who pay closer attention to what their master needs. It also reminds us that this kind of "care" is not done with a bitter, resentful heart. It is done with a loving watchcare.
There is another reason to live this way towards those in authority over us. When we do this, we are leaving the sweet savory aroma of Christ with them. They watch how we love and serve them - and wonder at what it is that motivates us to live as we do. There will most likely be some kind of reward or blessing for that hard work - but there will be something far more valuable than silver, gold, or awards. There will be the questions that we can answer as they ask, "Why do you work harder than anyone else? Why is it that you work this way without complaining? Why do you live this way - with such a different work ethic as well as a desire to honor me as your employer?" These are the questions that they should be asking as we work as unto God in their business. When they do ask, our reply will be first to give glory to God for our work ethic - and then to turn to the gospel whereby our hearts were transformed to be different than the rest of the world. You see, our work ethic - our willingness to work as unto God - our desire to care for our master/employer with love and hard work - are all for the purpose of glorifying God and the gospel of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. So . . . let me ask you in closing - through your work ethic have you glorified God today? Has how you worked made a way for the gospel that has changed your heart? You see, we do not work to bless our master for the reward of his favor alone. We work for our Lord and Master first and foremost for the glory of His grace and mercy. The fact that our earthly master notices and rewards us are just perks that come as we live to make much of our Heavenly Master.
Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, But those who deal faithfully are His delight. Proverbs 12:22
God does not like lips that lie. That might be because the ultimate adversary He has is called a liar and the father of lies. It also might be because God speaks truth without any mixture of error any time He speaks. God is absolutely opposed to lying, liars, and any form of deception. He says in this proverb that he sees lying as an abominable act. The devil believed and held to, and eventually stated a lie when he fell from heaven. Since that time the adversary of God and our souls has attempted to build his own kingdom, one based upon lies and deceit. These lies oppose God and all that He is. That is why God finds ALL lying abominable. Every lie is a damning thing, for it was the lie that brought our condemnation, and it is a lie that condemns anew every moment of every day. Embrace a lie and you are embracing the devil and his program to bring you into the judgment of God.
God delights in the faithful. It is because of God's faithfulness that we are saved. It is because of how God held to the truth, even when it meant having to condemn His own Son for becoming the sin-bearer for mankind. Being a faithful one means holding fast to God's truth, which is THE truth. God delights in those who deal faithfully, because they are embracing His own character. Think about it for a moment. The devil lies to us wanting to get us to believe his lies so that we turn from God and His Word. We trust the devil because he promises us happiness and pleasure. The problem is that in the end his promises don't include the "fine print" of the judgment that awaits - along with the heartbreak and death that always come with sin. Godly, wise men deal faithfully because they know God's truth and they carry within them God's character in the person of the Holy Spirit. Therefore they live for the truth as well as live it out daily.
Wisdom is living out the truth. It is being faithful to God. It is speaking faithful promises. And ultimately it is sharing the ultimate faithfulness of God shown to us in the gospel. This is the life in which God delights. Wisdom is loving that life, living that life, and being an example of His faithfulness.