Prepare your work outside;
get everything ready for yourself in the field,
and after that build your house.
As a failed Boy Scout the one thing I continue to remember is their motto, "Always prepared." Perhaps that means I didn’t really fail. Regardless, it sticks in my head as a worthwhile goal. We all know what it’s like to feel unprepared. As a student, this feeling surges more frequently than in any other part of life! In fact many people, having finished school decades before, still have dreams about pop quizzes and tests they never knew were coming. It is a common fear to be unprepared.
Our preparation must be ordered; otherwise, it is ineffective. Look at the order of these three lines in verse 27. First, “prepare” all the tools, plans, and procedures for “your work outside.” Then, work in the field, clearing it for the soon-to-be-built house. Finally, after all that is done, “build your house.” It is a fairly easy to understand step-by-step process.
So why is the writer of this proverb reminding us of this obvious wisdom? It’s because in the midst of this step-by-step process we often forget the goal. The ESV Study Bible notes that the writer, “encourages sensible preparation before building a house, so that one may attend well to the life lived in it.” Taking the proper order to build a house leads to having less upkeep or problems with it in the future. In other words, you live a less difficult life in your house if you took the right steps to prepare and build it. But often in the muck of clearing, a field the builder will forget the goal and begin to cut corners.
Similarly, you and I forget the goal God established. God is orderly. He ordered creation. He ordered his word. He even ordered his Son’s mission all the way back in Genesis 3:15. That mission, the reconciliation of God’s people, is now in its final movement. And yet, we, the “fellow workers” harvesting the field (1 Corinthians 3:6-9) to help bring God’s people safely home to the city God is building (Revelation 21), often lose hope. We forget the goal and fall out of order into chaos, putting the work of God in our own hands because it’s faster, more relevant, or more cutting-edge. But ultimately, we’re cutting corners that were prepared long ago by the Architect and Creator of all history.
Even in the muck of our own lives, it’s hard to recognize the building plans. Christian, remember the promises of God and trust in his orderly plan, step-by-step.