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What does it mean to know the condition of your flock (Proverbs 27:23)?

know the condition of your flock

Many proverbs impart wisdom for dealing with wealth. Proverbs 27:23–27 addresses the transitory nature of worldly riches and stresses the need to prepare for times of scarcity: “Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds; for riches do not endure forever” (verses 23–24).

When Solomon recommends, “Know the condition of your flock,” he means that people should pay attention to their means of earning a living and be good stewards so that, when economic conditions decline, they will not end up with nothing. In like manner, a farmer today might advise, “Put your heart into caring for your flock because it will supply your needs in the future.” God calls us to apply ourselves diligently and carefully in work and business matters. Flocks of sheep and herds of goats were major sources of provision in ancient Israel. When well tended, the livestock would provide clothing, milk, food, and income for the entire family (see Proverbs 27:26–27).

It is vital for people to care for the resources God has given them. Proverbs 27:1 warns, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” Since we cannot know what the future holds, wise financial stewardship involves planning for days of hardship and securing enough to provide for our households in years to come.

In the original Hebrew, the word for “know” in Proverbs 27:23 means “to have knowledge experientially; to know about someone or something through observation or the senses.” A literal translation of the verse would be “look into the faces of your flock.”

Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me” (John 10:14). No one knows our condition better than the Lord Jesus Christ, our Good Shepherd, who leads us personally and calls us by name (John 10:3). As His followers, “we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care” (Psalm 95:7). Indeed, we are called to work hard and carefully tend our resources, but it is ultimately God’s loving provision that supplies our every need (Philippians 4:19–20).

Using the example of a shepherd, we can widen the application of Proverbs 27:23 beyond personal wealth into the realm of pastoral leadership. When overseers of God’s people do their work well, carefully tending to their congregations—when they know the condition of their flocks—they not only safeguard the present state of the people but also provide for their security in the future.

The apostle Paul, who was often concerned about the condition of his flock, seemed to have Proverbs 27:23 in mind when he spoke to elders of the Ephesian church: “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock” (Acts 20:28–29, ESV). He considered pastors to be shepherds of the church (Ephesians 4:11). Later, Paul told Timothy to lead or “shepherd” by example: “Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you” (1 Timothy 4:16, NLT).

The apostle Peter also echoed Proverbs 27:23 when he taught the church’s elders, “Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example. And when the Great Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor” (1 Peter 5:2–4, NLT). A leader’s careful and caring attention today to knowing the condition of his flock means provision and blessing tomorrow.

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What does it mean to know the condition of your flock (Proverbs 27:23)?
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This page last updated: October 24, 2022