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.