This proverb addresses the need to make provision for oneself and one's family - before we begin to seek for personal comfort. This is spoken of from the view of an agricultural society - but the principles will work everywhere. This principle is often lost on our society which is tempted daily by commercials which tell us what we just absolutely have to get . . . immediately. Therefore this particular proverb may be a good one to not only read and consider - but also to apply to the problems that seem to be multiplying in our nation.
We are told here to begin life by working hard - by seeking a proper support for ourselves and those for whom we are responsible. Please read and focus on "proper support" here - rather than the worldly standards that are set before us. Proper support means that we can provide food and clothing for ourselves and our family - as we look to the Lord to bless our efforts and our obedience. In the day in which this was written, this meant getting outside and preparing your fields or your flocks. It meant plowing the ground, obtaining seed, and then planting the seed and working the fields. This involved a lot of hard work - but we should realize that work was not part of the curse - weeds were. But regardless of whether there are weeds or not - God wants us to work - and work hard at what we do.
The instruction here is to FIRST prepare in the field - then you can build your house. For some this means building a business. For others it may mean working hard at a job and doing what is necessary to develop either their education or other marketable skills. But for all of us it means delaying gratification until we know that we can provide for ourselves and a family (if we have one - or - want one). Here is wisdom - delaying gratification - delaying all the perks you want in life - and even delaying marriage until you can provide for a wife.
Our society says, "You deserve it NOW!" But the facts are that we don't "deserve" anything for which we do not work. Never in Scripture is a "living" promised to us if we do not work hard. There is no instruction to governments to provide housing, provide transportation, provide health care, or provide food for those who are not working for it. There is no "poverty index" in Scripture that it is sinful for us to let others fall below. In fact - the facts of the Bible say that we should NOT feed those who can work - but will not do so. There should be little or nothing provided for the able-bodied who do not want to work hard. What has happened in the United States is that we've so "over-promised" a certain level of prosperity to everyone (politically - and unfortunately even religiously at times with the health, wealth, prosperity movement) that they have come to expect it. The think they are entitled to it - whether they work for it or not. The result has been a very poor work ethic - and a total lack of understanding of how business and how life works.
The proverb here says, 'AFTERWARD' you can build your house. The idea here is that a house is a luxury. One of the things that speaks volumes to me is watching a movie or show that reminds me how hard it was for the early settlers in the United States. They worked very hard to prepare the land - cutting down trees and pulling stumps. They worked very hard tilling the land and removing stones from it. They plowed, planted, and worked the land with tremendous effort and diligence. Then they would work even harder to build a house - after the land was planted. Until this was done, they lived in tents and in the wagon in which they came to the area. The reminder to me is that hard work is a fact of life.
We do ourselves and our children a great disservice to teach them a life of luxury. We are hurting them by not giving them work to do - and at times "hard" work to accomplish. We are undercutting the foundation of our society by not inclucating a work ethic into them. We are not preparing them for reality - and we are making them easy pickings for the political hacks who get their power by promising freebies. What this had led to is a society that is rotting from within because of a lack of work ethic - and an abundance of expectations that are demanded from the rest of society. God's way is to work hard at your outside work. God's way is to learn a work ethic that labors at what is good and what will provide for yourself and your family. Then when you have established such important, foundational things - then build your house - enjoy a little luxury . . . or maybe it would be better stated that you are then able to enjoy the fruits of your labor.