At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore (Ps. 16: 11)
Prepare thy work without, and make it fit for thyself in the field;Proverbs 24:27
and afterwards build thine house
This is a proverb that teaches us a crucial principle of business—first things first.
So the immediate application is this. If you buy a fertile piece of ground, you should prepare it, work it, and plant your crop. After that, you should feel free to go ahead and build your house. In other words, the idea is to make the piece of ground productive before you start drawing your new resource down. Grow the celery before you eat the salary.
Our natural tendency is to want to enjoy the benefits prematurely. One illustration of this bad mistake is what happens to a number of entrepreneurs. I should correct that. It doesn’t happen to entrepreneurs the way the flu might happen to them. Rather, it is something they decide to do.
They get an investment for their hot idea, and let us grant for the sake of discussion that it is in fact a hot idea. But instead of putting the bulk of the investment into the hot idea so that it might start paying off sooner, instead they start paying full salaries to the start-up team, as though the hot idea was already paying off. But—it isn’t. However hot the idea is, it cannot pay off before it is birthed. The harvest cannot be enjoyed while the sacks are still full of the seed.
And this proverb hits on something we see in a number of other proverbs. It is the contrast between short-term thinkers and long-term thinkers. The wise investor, developer, or entrepreneur seeks to defer taking his cut while the foolish one assumes that his cut is what he has coming to him as some sort of birthright. To not take his cut would not be “realistic.” His wife thinks the same.
The lack of wisdom in this can be seen in this. The person has removed a particular kind of immediate pressure from himself, meaning that he will not be as motivated as he might otherwise be to get his hot idea to market. He is able to pay his monthly bills right now, and that is not going to run out until next year sometime. For a short-term thinker, next year is on the other side of forever. And so it is that the following year he has to go back to the investor looking for a second infusion of cash. Or an extension. Or a time of awkward conversation. Or something.
The wise man is hustling from the get-go because every day matters every day. He gets after it today because something needs to break loose today. “A worker’s appetite works for him; his mouth urges him on” (Prov. 16:26, ESV).