Life is Messy
Without oxen a stable will stay clean,
But you need a strong ox for a large harvest.
In our day and age, few people have any idea what it's like to grow up on a farm. The closest most come to taking care of an animal is their dog or cat. While that does take responsibility, caring for a pet is minimal compared to maintaining large creatures on a farm. So, it's tempting to overlook King Solomon's wisdom in this verse. Yet, the observation isn't just about the ox.
During the biblical times of King Solomon, the Israelites highly valued oxen. Deuteronomy 25:4 indicates these animals were a key to agricultural production, which is confirmed in the second part of this proverb. The strength of an ox produced many crops. By using them to plow and harvest, a household's prosperity would increase. Still, this growth came at a price. The oxen had to be fed and watered. Shelter was needed during storms. Worst of all, the animal created waste that had to be continually cleaned up. In other words, the profit it provided didn’t' come without a price.
The best way to mitigate the mess is found in the first phrase of this proverb. Just don't get an ox. Pretty simple. No ox, no expense and no mess. However, giving up the animal also meant giving up the advantages that came with it. Choosing a clean barn over the benefit of a crop isn't necessarily a good choice. That is Solomon's point. To be productive, we need to use the right means and methods. And with productivity we can experience some mess.
It's natural to become frustrated and discouraged when life gets messy. Big rewards usually require exercising effort, time and sometimes money. Not only that, accomplishing anything will include seasons of disarray, including untidy houses and barns. But a messy house (or a messy life) shows activity and not all opportunities come with an easy button. Yet the challenge is a chance to grow, even if some chaos comes with it. The investment of labor, whether in oxen, children, ministry or life in general, does come with a benefit. God has a plan, and when we commit our work to him, we will succeed. So, grab your boots and your shovel. Don't let the mess make you miss God's moment.
Life is messy.
But that's when God does his best work.