Home » Biblical Thoughts » From Rags to Riches… To Rags Again [Part 1/2]

From Rags to Riches… To Rags Again [Part 1/2]

I know it’s December and I promise to get to the ooey gooey Christmas bloggy goodness, but this has been on my mind recently and I decided to do a little research on it. I either read or heard a while back that “the third generation loses what the first generation worked so hard to build”. Couldn’t tell you where I read or heard it, but it stuck out in my mind so much that I had to research it and check it for myself to see if there was any validity to it.

So I started with a simple search that went like this:

“1st generation works, 2nd generation maintains, 3rd generation is spoiled”

That lead me to http://www.ejmas.com and an article written by Douglas Tong titled “From the Teacher’s Corner 24: Three Generations”. There Mr. Tong explains the very thing I’ve been looking for in great detail.

For the full article, please go to: http://ejmas.com/pt/2012pt/ptart_tong_teacher24-1210.html

The actual proverb is a Chinese proverb that says:


Fu bu guo san dai
Translated: “Wealth does not pass three generations”

(I don’t speak Chinese so I sure hope that’s what it translates to…)


That has been transliterated into numerous cultures each placing their own spin on it. For example:

“Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations”
“Rags to riches to rags in three generations”
“Clogs to clogs”
“Kimono to Kimono”
“Rice paddy to rice paddy”

You get the picture. The general theory of these sayings go like this:


The FIRST generation:

Works hard to achieve wealth.

The SECOND generation:

Reaps the benefits of the first generation, but loses the work ethic.

The THIRD generation:

Squaders, spends, consumes the wealth with no concept of working for it.


Pretty clear cut, right? Not to mention a pretty vicious cycle (if you find yourself on the wrong side of this cycle). This “three generations theory” is well known around the world and throughout time. From my research, it looks like it’s been the underlying cause of the destruction of families, businesses, kingdoms, and empires.

But what might we find if we hold this theory up to Biblical illumination?

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