“Where there are no oxen, the feeding trough is empty, but an abundant harvest comes through the strength of an ox.” (Proverbs 14.4 HCSB) This seems easy to understand, right? Do you smell it? The cattle? The hay? The…need to clean up the stables a bit… The point of such a verse is that messiness in life is normal. Notice, I did not say acceptable. No one is happy with an unclean stable, but from time-to-time messes will happen.
You cannot have the ox and a clean stable. The mess is caused by the ox, but without the ox there is no harvest. Like Paul and Apollos, convey the blood of Jesus to others and wait for the increase (see, 1 Corinthians 3.1-9). You have to plant to get the return. People need the Bread of Life and as God’s child it is your charge to see it offered. The message is about Him, not you. The sowing is about the reaping, not the bull.
The ministry of your life to others will be problematic at times; messy. God sent His Son. His perfect Son. We see what He did for us and we are in awe of the how He lived without any of the messiness of sin in His own life. But you cannot be Him. You are not sinless, and you cannot be sinless. At some point your stable will need cleaning. What does that even look like?
Flies, dried sweat, rotting feed that is tucked up in that one difficult to get to place… People know you are not perfect. That you have issues, flaws, sin. Lately, it has become popular to yell, “hypocrite” at Christians for not being perfect. Fair or not, that is the nail in the floorboard that sticks up just far enough to kick. The ox is not without its messes and our lives are not without sin. So, what can you do? Focus on the harvest.
You are working for the harvest. For sure, squash sin, strive for Christlikeness, fight temptation… you know all that. But remember, you are working for the harvest. The messes will happen. Whether your sin, or someone else’s, there will be messes, guaranteed. But you are working for the harvest. No, no cute turn of phrase about fertilizer. Just the reminder that you have a purpose, a job. You are who God has chosen to accomplish the work in your life. You are suitable for the task and if you let Him, He will guide you. He knows you come with baggage and messes, but He still wants you to work toward the harvest.