Biblical and Financial Wisdom: Doing Things in the Right Order

by Joe Plemon on March 18, 2011

Proverbs 24:27 “First plant your fields; then build your barn."

What does this verse mean?

When I first read this verse, I didn’t get it. Understand that I am not a farmer, so I didn’t see what difference it would make whether one planted first or built his barn first. If fact, it seemed more logical to build the barn before planting so that one would have a place to store the grain when it was harvested.

However, upon further study, I learned that the writer was saying that, if planting time is now, don’t allow yourself to be sidelined by other activities, even something as important as building a barn. Why? Because, by the time Mr. Farmer got his barn built, it would probably be too late in the season to plant. By doing things in the wrong order, our farmer friend would have lost a year’s crop and therefore have no need for that new barn. Bad idea.

Good lesson: “Do things in the right order”.

Financial application

What are your financial goals? Get out of debt? Great! Invest for retirement? Of course! Save for emergencies? Absolutely! Plan for your childrens’ college? Definitely! Now…which will you do first? “But Joe, I just figured I would do all of them“.

Bad plan. If you try to do everything at once, you will spread yourself so thin that you won’t get any of them done. Like the farmer in our Proverb, you need to prioritize and therefore be able to focus on one goal at a time. In other words, do things in the right order.

Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps

Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps are formulated to give a logical sequence for accomplishing your financial goals. I have written posts on each, so feel free to click any step for more details. They are:

  1. $1,000 “Baby" Emergency Fund
  2. Debt Snowball
  3. Fully Funded Emergency Fund
  4. Invest for Retirement
  5. Invest for Children’s College.
  6. Pay off House Early.
  7. Build Wealth and be Very Generous.

There is a reason for doing these steps in the order they are listed. For example, if you begin your debt snowball (step 2) before you build that baby emergency fund (step 1), every unexpected event will become an emergency which you pay for with your credit card. Because creating debt while getting out of debt is counter productive and depressing, step 1 comes before step 2.

If you pay off your house (step 6) before building a fully funded emergency fund (step 3), and then lose your job, you will need liquid assets to buy groceries and pay your utility bill. Your paid for house wouldn’t do that; therefore step 3 comes before step 6.

Retirement investing (step 4) should be done before investing for children’s college (step 5). Why? Because children have many options for funding their college, but you only get one shot at retirement — it will be too late for a do-over once you reach retirement age.

I think you get the point. There is a logical reason for the order of each of these steps. The writer of Proverbs may not have known the Baby Steps as we know them today, but he understood the concept of doing things in the right order. I hope we can learn that same lesson.

Readers: Have you used Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps? How did doing one thing at a time, in this order, help? Have you changed the order to fit your circumstances? How and why?

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