“Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.” Proverbs 14:4, ESV
Here is my translation of this verse:
When there are no relationships, life stays tidy, but abundant blessings come from being in relationship with one another.
People are messy.
As a mother you know this all too well. You are in a constant state of cleaning. I guarantee that, if you have children under your roof, at this very moment there are crumbs on your carpet, clothes on the floor, or stains on your linoleum (you probably don’t want me reminding you about them!) And as you clean up one room, another room gets dirty.
In my house there are teenagers. Oy Vey, are they messy! They leave smelly socks lying about, unnecessary lights on, and dirty dishes in the sink. They bring their teenage friends over and the messiness breeds.
Relationships are messy. When a family lives together under the same roof there will be strife, and when you have close friends there will be conflict. That’s because people get tired, hormones fluctuate, life gets overwhelming, selfishness presides over service and people get hurt.
And life is messy. You get sick or the kids get sick, budgets get tighter, basements flood, and the kids need driven to yet another activity.
But this proverb is a wonderful reminder that within all this messiness there are abundant blessings to be had!
God has created us for deep relationships and for community. God is the author of relationships and He wants us in communion with Him and with other people.
I like the New Living Translation of Ephesians 1:5 that says “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” It brings God pleasure to have us in His family even with our habits and hang-ups! His love is steadfast. He takes us as we are, even in our messiness.
David in Psalm 63:3 tells God, “Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.” And just as God loves our messy selves steadfastly, being with messy people helps us to learn to love them steadfastly.
This proverb about the oxen challenges me to accept messiness in order to deepen relationships. I shouldn’t sweat the scratches on the woodwork or the nicks in the walls or the dirt on the floor, nor should I linger long over hurt feelings, selfish attitudes, or harsh words because relationships – even messy ones – produce life abundant.
My children may be “messy” but they bring me joy unspeakable. My husband and I may have days of strife in our relationship, but our deep love for each other is steadfast. My friend and I may not always get along, but her friendship is like a balm for my soul.
Jesus, help me to today to see people as You see them – as abundant blessings. Help me remember this proverb and to always proclaim, “Lord, let my stalls be full!”