Prepare thy work without, and make it fit for thyself in the field; and afterwards build thine house.
Get a life before a wife. Establish your profession before buying a house. Get a real job before buying a truck. Necessities come before comforts. Income production comes before spending. Secure your source of income before committing to expensive projects. Prepare before building, lest you are ridiculed for unfinished projects (Luke 14:28-30).
What wonderful advice! Thank you, great God. Here is very practical instruction – become good at your trade or business before committing to a house. Even businesses could benefit by such wisdom – they should plow earnings back into the company before declaring dividends or building a fancy home office. The Preacher Solomon was wise.
In the agrarian society of Israel, most men worked outside in the fields, either growing produce or tending flocks and herds. Cain and Abel represented the two main industries of such a society – one tilled the ground, and one kept sheep (Gen 4:2). But each man had to choose one of these endeavors and become very good at it in order to support a family.
The wise man tells his son there is a right order to a man’s life. He must identify his professional calling and establish himself in it before investing in the ornament and luxury of a house, which consumes, rather than produces, income. Many create hardship for their families, and some never recover, by getting these two stages of life out of order.
Most Americans are too impatient to follow Solomon’s rule. They want the goodies now; they want to show off a house before they have earned it; they want to drive a nice car before they even have any financial assets. They will not save and wait; they lack the self-discipline and humility to keep things in proper order; they want to show off now.
Young men cannot see that restraint now allows more time with luxuries in the future than impulse spending can provide. They miss it due to shortsightedness, caused by their lusts. In reality, the impulsive spender will likely end up working for the planner, who will retire to enjoy his house and toys many years before the debtor retires in poverty.
A young man does not deserve comfort, luxury, or entertainment until he has his career producing, his financial house in order, and all other obligations taken care of. But the temperance and wisdom this requires is so rare that only a few young men follow it. Most overspend and under-earn and wonder why they never catch up to their disciplined peers.
Easy credit and debt-subsidizing tax policies encourage these foolish choices. Credit cards, installment debt, and easy mortgages seduce them into purchasing expensive consumer goods and houses before they are ready professionally or financially. And the deduction of loan interest for tax purposes further promotes these dangerous choices.
Foolish counselors compound the problem by calling a house an investment. Only when a government subsidizes real estate can depreciating assets like houses appreciate in general, and then they will only rise as long as the government keeps the house of cards from falling. The economic reality ending this charade occurred in 2007 in America.
A young man’s goals, in order, should be to identify his life’s work, become proficient at it, and raise some capital before he worries about the luxuries and assets of fathers (Pr 19:14). With his income secure, he can think about a wife and house, but not until then. Income production should be far more important to him than income consumption.
A young man committed to this proverb is not ashamed to drive a used car and live with his parents. He wants to focus on his work and accumulate capital as fast as possible. He knows professional competence and capital are more important than pleasures or comfort. Nice cars or houses waste capital. He plans to have a house, a fine house, later.
A house is a costly luxury, as fathers know. It is a foolish burden for a young man, until he is established in his profession. An apartment, used cars, a modest wardrobe, and limited entertainment will do fine. A house produces only expenses. An ox, or any income-producing asset, is a better choice than a house, unless it is a duplex (Pr 14:4).
Hasty men get these major decisions out of order and risk financial ruin (Pr 21:5; 28:20-22). A wise father will not give his daughter to a man who has these priorities confused. His daughter will suffer needless deprivation and financial stress, as do many marriages, where the father did not properly protect his daughter by applying this wisdom.
Jacob worked seven years for Rachel (Gen 29:18-20). By then he had accumulated the basis for an estate and proven himself to his father-in-law. The dowry served this testing purpose for other men (Ex 22:16-17). Spendthrifts found it hard to marry good girls. Only young men with a successful trade and capital could marry Israel’s better daughters.
Let every reader beware. Patient diligence is God’s plan for financial success (Pr 12:11; 27:23-27; 28:19). Prepare your heart to resist a covetous and greedy nation’s mantra of “buy now, pay later.” The debt monster always comes back to bite. Let the American dream be to own your own business (or profession), rather than your own house.
Jesus Christ kept the priorities of this proverb. He first prepared His work, performed it perfectly, and finished it. Then He began to build His house – the church (Matt 16:18). And He began preparing a permanent place for His bride (John 14:2-3). Without the earlier sacrifice of His life, the church and heaven would be impossible and meaningless.