Questions From Readers

What lesson is imparted at Proverbs 24:27?

In giving advice to a young man, the writer of Proverbs states: “Prepare your work out of doors, and make it ready for yourself in the field. Afterward you must also build up your household.” What point is being made in this inspired proverb? That a man should prepare properly before he gets married and starts his own family, recognizing the responsibilities that come with such a commitment.

In the past, this verse has sometimes been explained as meaning that a husband and father must not only care for his secular work but also work to build up, or encourage, his family, for example by means of spiritual instruction. While that thought is certainly true and Scriptural, it does not seem to be the thrust of this verse. Why not? Consider two reasons.

First, the verse is not talking about building up in the sense of encouraging, or strengthening, an existing family. Rather, the idea is literally to build a house. The word rendered “build up” may also be figurative, in the sense of building, or establishing, a household​—that is, marrying and having children.

Second, the verse emphasizes doing things in proper order, as if to say, “First you do this; then you do that.” So, then, could the proverb be suggesting that secular responsibilities come before spiritual ones? Certainly not!

In Bible times, if a man wanted to “build up [his] household,” or establish a family by getting married, he needed to ask himself, ‘Am I ready to care for and support a wife and any children we may later have?’ Before starting a family, he had work to do, caring for his fields or crops. Thus, Today’s English Version pointedly renders this verse: “Don’t build your house and establish a home until your fields are ready, and you are sure that you can earn a living.” Does the same principle apply today?

Yes. A man who wants to marry needs to prepare properly for that responsibility. If he is physically able, he will have to work. Of course, a man’s hard work in caring for his family should not be limited to physical matters. God’s Word indicates that a man who does not care for the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of his family is worse than one without faith! (1 Tim. 5:8) Hence, in preparing for marriage and family life, a young man should ask himself such questions as these: ‘Am I reasonably prepared to provide materially for a family? Am I ready to be the spiritual head of a household? Will I fulfill the responsibility of conducting a regular Bible study with my wife and children?’ God’s Word certainly stresses those vital responsibilities.​—Deut. 6:6-8; Eph. 6:4.

So a young man who seeks a wife should think carefully about the principle found at Proverbs 24:27. Likewise, a young woman does well to ask herself if she is prepared for the responsibilities of being a wife and mother. A young couple may ask similar questions when thinking about the possibility of raising children. (Luke 14:28) Living by such inspired guidance can help God’s people to avoid much heartache and to enjoy a rewarding family life.

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What questions about marriage should a young man ask himself?