Jan 18, 2011

Day 18: Lessons from a sheep

God has been teaching me a lot about personal finance as of late, especially from Proverbs. One of those lessons comes from the most unintelligent animal: the sheep. I was lead to read Proverbs 27:23-27, which speaks about diligence in taking care of one's own financial situation. Verse 23 says, "Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds." While reading several commentaries on this passage, I found an amusing section about the sheep. John Phillips' book, Exploring Proverbs: An Expository Commentary, is particularly interesting. Renowned New Zealand sheep rancher Walter Bowen, who has contributed greatly to the sheep industry, reflected on the animals. He says although sheep are very valuable, they are the riskiest of all investments because they are the most susceptible to self-inflicted danger. Sheep are useful for food, clothing, fertilizer, and raw material (their lanolin can be used in cosmetics, ointments, and soaps). Summarizing Bowen, Phillips says:

A sheep needs constant care. It is the only animal that can get lost within sight of its own home. Within its own range it has adequate skills, but once it wanders beyond that range it has no orientation whatsoever. It will wander around in circles, often calling continually to advertise its panic. . . . Weak-spirited, a sheep is soon demoralized by pain. It will not fight back when attacked, and when it is only slightly wounded, it will lie down and await death (425).

Sheep take a lot management due to their lack of smarts and their ease to panic. The lesson I learned here is that whatever provides my food, clothing, and products of sale, usually a business in our American culture, needs to be looked after with care. I cannot be lazy and put it off, as the foolish son who did not gather crops in summer (Prov 10:5), but, like the ant (Prov 6:6), to take advantage of business opportunities when they are present. I will recognize them as they appear in season. Without care, I might let my expensive investments wander into danger while I am unaware. However, like sheep, businesses will provide a great return if for those who properly care for them.

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