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

What would happen if we hold the “three generations theory” up to Biblical illumination? Let’s find out. The main thing to remember as we dissect this theory to find out what the Bible says about it is to whittle the three parts down into a “researchable chunk”. Let’s take the first part of the theory:

THEORY (1/3): The FIRST generation works hard to achieve wealth.

A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. -Proverbs 10:4 (ESV)

The English Standard Version (ESV) says this verse so pretty. Check out the New Living Translation version.

Lazy people are soon poor; hard workers get rich. -Proverbs 10:4 (NLT)

So this verse is pretty straight forward. Do nothing, get nothing. Do something, get something. The FIRST generation has this concept of “hard workers get rich” and this is where our “three generations theory” cycle begins.

THEORY (2/3): The SECOND generation reaps the benefits of the first generation, but loses the work ethic.

For simpletons turn away from me—to death. Fools are destroyed by their own complacency. -Proverbs 1:32 (NLT)

But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! -Revelation 2:4 (NLT)

The Proverbs scripture is another one of those straight forward and to the point thoughts, but I don’t want you to miss the Revelation scripture. Let’s read it in context (and pay careful attention to how it fits in with SECOND generation complacency):

“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Ephesus. This is the message from the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand, the one who walks among the seven gold lampstands:

“I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. You have patiently suffered for me without quitting.

“But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first. If you don’t repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches. But this is in your favor: You hate the evil deeds of the Nicolaitans, just as I do.

“Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give fruit from the tree of life in the paradise of God.

-Revelation 2:1-7 (NLT)

Doesn’t this letter sound like it’s written to a church that “gets it” BUT could lose it because their love at the beginning has, over time, decreased. “You don’t love me or each other as you did at first!” is a hard pill to swallow, but in this passage there is a way to get back to where things need to be: “Turn back to me and do the works you did at first.”

So, in essence, the SECOND generation is a DECISIONAL generation. They could never do what the FIRST generation did as far as “establishing a vision”, but if they don’t maintain the love and zeal that the FIRST generation had, that will lead to the “destruction of the original vision” in the THIRD generation.

THEORY (3/3): The THIRD generation squaders, spends, consumes the wealth with no concept of working for it.

Lazy people are soon poor; hard workers get rich. -Proverbs 10:4 (NLT)

So we’re back at the Proverbs 10:4 scripture yet again because it is one of those complete thoughts. Do nothing, get nothing. Do something, get something. The unfortunate part about THIRD generation mentality is that if they consume all of the FIRST generation money, they’ll have to go to “Part the First”… WORK (and more than likely, not work that their family originally established… just working a 9-5). For a generation that doesn’t understand WORK or “the value of a dollar”, that’s going to be a very rude wake up call.

So what is our ultimate conclusion here? In three generations any wealth that has been acquired can be lost. The Bible backs that up. So what are we to do? Perhaps if we were to visualize it, we could think of it like this:


The bottom line is simply this: KEEP WORKING. If you’re working to establish a vision KEEP WORKING. If you’re working to maintain a vision KEEP WORKING. Even if you haven’t achieved all of your goals KEEP WORKING. As long as you you’re working, God can continue to work through you. When you get complacent or give up is when you run into THIRD generation trouble.

On a personal note, it’s interesting that most of the verses related to the “three generations theory” are found in Proverbs, the Biblical book of wisdom. What that tells me, in addition to everything that’s already been mentioned, is that a wise man continues to work hard and a fool lets it all fall apart.

Don’t be foolish.


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 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:

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?

Challenge Is Inevitable [Part 2/2]

Where I live there is a Christian radio station that carries a talk radio show from 4pm-5pm during the weekdays. When I got off work and jumped in the car, I would always catch the tail end of that show by default because I love the 5pm-5:30pm program. The first time I heard the last bit of it, I was not impressed for a great many reasons, but the main reason being that it felt like the host was bashing everybody and everything and then justifying it with scripture. In my mind, he had a “way out there” controversial standpoint.

Therefore, I would get into the car and say to myself, “I guess I’ll see what ‘Looney Tunes’ is talking about today.”

Here’s the interesting thing. To listen to the last 5 minutes of that show outside of it’s context and judge the previous, unheard 55 minutes based on JUST the 5 minutes that I heard was an unfair assessment. One day I left work early and caught a good chunk of the show which made me listen further to check for consistency. Now, understanding where the host is coming from, I can understand (and sometimes even share) the viewpoint that he’s using which is the Word of God.

[SIDENOTE: The sad part that I had to repent on was that I heard the Word and didn’t even recognize it.]

I think that’s the biggest thing with receiving a challenge of this nature. People get so bent out of shape when they hear a counter to their point, but is it because:

(1) they just disagree so wholeheartedly OR

(2) they aren’t solid in what they believe and don’t want to be challenged?

If anything, a challenge to who you are will do one of two things:

1. Make you even MORE solid and unmoveable in what you already believe.

2. Make you re-evaluate everything you thought you believed.

For example, those of us who are saved by the blood of Jesus need to be #1 all day everyday, but if a “wind of doctrine” has you leaning towards #2 then you need to study more, research more, and do the leg work for yourself to prove to yourself what the truth is so you can lock into the #1 position. I’ve read stories where staunch athiests who tried to disprove the existence of God end up giving their lives to Christ because that’s where THEIR research led them.

Bottom line, don’t be complacent where you are. A challenge only makes you stronger and the best thing to do is to prepare for one because challenge is inevitable. I’ve been challenged with the speakers that I’ve been listening to over the last couple of weeks and challenge tends to fire me up. If nothing else, challenge will make me talk my wife’s ear off because of the sheer impact it had on me.

Always remember that precious diamonds are made out of pressure (and lots of it).

The Real Gospel Challenge: WHO and WHY

For those of you who may not be aware of the most recent Facebook trend, allow me to fill you in. “The Gospel Challenge” is where FB members take video of themselves singing their favorite gospel songs AND, afterwards, issuing a challenge to their vocally inclined friends.

And to be totally honest with you… I’ve been loving every minute of it. That’s probably due to the fact that most of my FB friends are actual singers and musicians. That always makes it easy.

But I had a thought about all these Gospel challenges going around. I was talking with my wife and asked the question “What if BET picks this up and turns it into an actual TV show?” (thinking along the popularity lines of “Sunday Best”) Then I thought about it a little further and this is my conclusion.

If BET (or any other network) were to turn the Gospel challenge into a serious TV show, then that disproves the need for auditions. That, in turn, leaves no way to narrow a pool of contestants to vote on, narrow down to just one, and raise to “idol” status only to be ignored and tossed aside once their national popularity has decreased.

The bottom line is that there are more people out there with real God-given talent than we realize. Moreso than that, those same people are more concerned about singing for the glory of God as opposed to the glory of man. So while I am enjoying this Gospel challenge thoroughly, I am issuing this charge to all singers:

Make sure you know WHO you are singing for and the reason WHY you’re doing it.

Teach Them Well

This blog posting is dedicated to ALL of my former piano and music students who are growing into/have grown into wonderful young men and women. I’m so proud of you all and wouldn’t be the teacher that I am without you. Keep on keepin’ on for the glory of God!

For all of my readers who may be old/retired teachers, this blog is going to make a lot of sense. For all of my readers who are new teachers, keep on teaching and you’ll understand what this blog means soon enough.

A very interesting thing happened to me last evening. As I was checking my Facebook feed, I came across the picture of a former piano student of mine. It was on his father’s page and the picture was of my former student in his college cap and gown and his mother and father. Naturally, I clicked the “Like” button and kept on scrolling.

Then I received a friend request from my former student. Naturally, I accepted (only THEN realizing that we weren’t FB friends).

THEN I received a message from my former student saying simply “Hey Mr. Thomas!!” to which I responded back with a chunky response that included “Hello” as well as congratulations on his college graduation so on and so forth. Then I received a message from him that blew my socks off. He said:

“Thank you! I want you to know that you were a huge inspiration to me in the music world, and last week I accepted a music teaching job in the city of Newport News! I had my senior recital about 2 years ago and it was a success. So even though it was long ago, thank you for the music lessons and knowledge that you helped me achieve back then!”

And when I read this, you could have stuck a fork in me because I was DONE. I just could not stop myself from smiling (aka “cheesin’ “) from ear to ear because THIS IS WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT! To know that the music lessons I gave this young man almost a decade ago has resonated with him all this time and inspired him to do even greater works… it’s just an indescribable feeling (so much so that I had trouble going to sleep).

ADD TO THAT… this news came at the same time as another piano student of mine, who already has two CD recordings under his belt, debuted his smooth jazz piano skills up at the legendary Twins Jazz Club in Washington DC.

AND ADD TO THAT… this news came on the eve of yet ANOTHER piano student of mine who will be graduating high school tomorrow (THU 5/29/2014) and moving on to Hampton University down in Hampton, VA (my “little Lalah Hathaway”).

The bottom line is simply this: TEACH THEM WELL! Today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders and if you teach them properly, then they’ll carry it with them and do GREATER works (lining up with what Jesus said in John 14:12).

…and then this morning a strange second feeling hit me that my wife so lovingly confirmed after hearing this Facebook story: “I’ve been teaching for a long time and I’m getting old!”

(but that’s a blog for a different day)

Tap Into The Creativity of God

Before I start this post, I need to give you a 3 part backstory. I’ll keep it short, sweet, and to the point, but just know that it is relevant.

BACKSTORY [Part 1/3] – As I was preparing for work this morning, I heard a song on the GOSPEL MUSIC* channel that I know as “Big Poppa” by the Notorious B.I.G. I don’t remember the artist that was singing it, but the lyrics were changed.

BACKSTORY [Part 2/3] – I attended a Men’s Conference some years back at my old church and during a Q&A session, the question was asked, “Is it right to sample other peoples music to turn into a gospel song?” One of the panelists gave an answer that resonates in my mind til this day. He said (paraphrasing):

“God is a God of creativity. You don’t need to borrow anybody’s music. Just pray for creativity and He will give you music you never imagined.”

BACKSTORY [Part 3/3] – Back in February 2013, I wrote a blog about how my mother recognized a Lauryn Hill song (“Killing Me Softly”) as Roberta Flack. Both of which were true. To read THAT post, go to:

Those three back stories may seem unrelated, but it brings me to my point. For as much as a musician may lean towards (fill in the blank) for musical inspiration, I would like to suggest that you lean to God for musical inspiration and I have three pretty good reasons why:

1. IT’S STILL NOT YOURS. If you sample someone elses music and add to it, then that is the limit of what you are doing. For as great as technology is and for as much as you can do with older musical material, a song still belongs to the original artist and you can’t change the history on that. Think about how many times Stevie Wonder or Parliament Funk has been sampled. Now think about whether you can identify the original artist quicker than you can identify the artist who sampled it (a challenge more suited to my veteran music heads out there).

2. YOU GOTTA PAY TO PLAY. Pay what? Royalties. So not only is it still not your music, but you must (by law) pay royalties to use a sample of music that doesn’t belong to you. And if you don’t… that leads to the concept of PAY NOW OR PAY LATER. Simply put, pay royalites now, or pay court fees later.

3. A CREATIVE GOD. Two passages of scriptures just for you.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. -Genesis 1:1-2 (NIV)

“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” -Genesis 1:27

Basically, God created something out of nothing (Genesis 1:1-2). THEN a few verses down He created man in His own image (Genesis 1:27) meaning that we have that same Godly creativity within us.

Enough said. Tap into the creativity of God and see/hear what happens.

*GOSPEL MUSIC – Here’s a little sidenote that you can have for free. The GOSPEL is an account describing the life, death, and resurrection of JESUS CHRIST. Therefore, GOSPEL MUSIC (or MUSIC that describes the GOSPEL) must line up with that definition in order to be defined as GOSPEL MUSIC. Otherwise, it’s just inspirational or some other subgenre.

The Importance of Being Professional

Professionalism is essential for professionals.

I hear you out there in Blogland. “Duh! Way to state the obvious.” You would think that a statement like that would be a given, but if you’re like me (and I’m sure you are)… YOU ARE HUMAN. Sometimes you don’t want to be professional even in situations where you need to be professional. I’m here to remind you that if you are summoned for your professional services, that warrants your professional attitude regardless of how feel. This gets into the lost art of “denying your feelings”. Think about how many things in your life are determined by how you feel. For example:

The food you eat.

The clothes you wear.

The music you listen to.

The TV/movies that you watch.

The company you keep.

The things you say and do.

The loyalties you keep to others.

I think we can agree that all of those things (and so much more) are majorly determined by how we feel on a given day. However, when it comes to your professionalism, all of those things based on your feelings need to be placed to the side because, simply put, your PROFESSION depends on it. Additionally, you can’t function well in your profession when your feelings are dictating your attitude and, ultimately, your quality of work.

So remember that when it comes to professionalism, a little emotional denial can go a long way. In fact, if you channel the energy from your emotional denial (not the denial itself) into your music, you never know what greatness you might come up with.

What do you think? Leave a comment.