Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox. ~ Proverbs 14:4
I have driven quite a few older cars. As a result I have gotten to a place where I am able to work on them a little bit, because owning older cars provided quite a bit of opportunity to learn. There are two types of guys that work on cars; guys who like to work on cars and guys who are too cheap or too broke to hire someone else to do it. I am in the later group. As I have gotten older I work on cars a lot less and drive newer vehicles, but I am still cheap and tackle the simple car repairs myself. However the bigger jobs I leave to the professionals, now.
The fact of the matter is, if you own a car, you are going to have to do car maintenance. But try living 35 miles from work without one. You can go a lot further, a lot faster with it. So it is a trade off. The car comes with its own troubles, but what it gives back is worth far more than the trouble that comes with it.
That is the heart of this passage. The ox was the tractor of their day, but a lot of work came with owning one. You had to care for it, feed it, and clean up the manure that comes with it, but the benefit to the farmer plowing his field more than compensated him for the headaches that came with the animal.
Whether it is owning a car, or a house, or going to school, having a job, being married, being involved in a church, or simply having a good friend there is going to be some trade off’s. We live in an age where people want something for nothing, everything to come easy. But it doesn’t work that way. There is no pill to make you skinny. There is no secret system to getting rich quick. It all takes work and time.
I wanted to make a good living, so I had to sacrifice time and money to gain the education I needed to get the job to make the money. The education didn’t come free, but it was worth the investment and hardship. There were plenty of days when it didn’t feel that way, but if you are ruled by feelings you aren’t going to go far in life.
Everything worth having in life requires effort. I have a great marriage and a wonderful family, but there has been days when it is difficult. There are days it requires me to think about what I should do and not what I want to do. I get home from work, my work is not done. From the moment I get up to the moment when everyone else has gone to bed, my day is not about me. This is not sad, this is called being a grown up. There are too many married couples captivated by this concept of “me time.” The fact is, you got married, “me” should no longer be in your vocabulary. Our society is plagued by little boys playing games and little girls giggling with friends. Little boys and little girls do not make good husbands and good wives and they certainly do not make good parents. For a healthy marriage, what you really need is more “we time.” Time that is focused around spending time together outside the everyday stressers. This can be after the kids go to bed, or date nights, but it something that needs to be done. I can guarantee you, once you add a career and kids to the mix you will have either “me time” or you will have “we time.” Which one you pick will determine the longevity of your marriage. You have to choose. Is the old ox worth having around? If so you are going to have to feed it.
The fairy tale tells you to “follow your heart.” The exact opposite is true. Your heart needs to follow your mind. Your passions and desires can be and should be involved in the goals you set (even in this your heart must be governed), but as far as achieving those goals you are going to need something more consistent and steady than fleeting emotions that are here today and gone tomorrow and here again. Your heart must be lead by your mind, and your will. Your mind and your will should be governed by the Word of God (the Bible and His divine direction).
Church is another ox. A church family can hold you steady and build you like nothing else can, because it has been ordained by God. It is the natural environment for the Christian. It is God’s plan for the Christian, any other plan is not God’s plan and we should not expect His blessing. But it takes work and some of the work isn’t much fun. At our church we like to have potluck (a lunch after the church service where everyone brings a dish to pass). It is easy to find people willing to eat, but it is less easy to find people willing to clean. It is strange how little thought is given to everything that goes into the ministry of hospitality. Think about your church, who cleans the floor, who scrubs the toilets, who cuts the grass, and who does all the million other things for you. Then ask yourself, “What am I doing for others.” It was Jesus who said that the one who is great in His kingdom, is the one that serves all.
Finally, your daily walk with Christ is going to require something of you. Some try and call it legalism, or works salvation, but it is awfully hard to read the Bible without coming away with the impression that something is expected of us after we are redeemed. Paul wrote to the Philippians “Work out your salvation.” James said, “Faith without works is dead.” Here in America, we are really a privileged bunch. Some would say we are a bunch of unappreciative, spoiled brats. The facts are we have more opportunity than any other people at any other time in history to know our Bible, but Christians today are some of the most Bible ignorant people since the dark ages. The Bible knowledge of the average person in the pew is on the same level as an illiterate person 200 years ago. But we have more Bible translations, more devotionals, more Bible radio, the audio Bibles, the Bible on our phone, and the internet with more free christian resources than most preachers had in their library 50 years ago. Bible ignorance is inexcusable.
How many believers know how to pray? I mean more than 5 minutes? Are our hearts so cold we see a lost and dying world and we are no longer moved? Maturity in the Christian life, like anything else worth doing takes effort, and practice. Yes, it is a passion, but it must be a deliberate passion held to the course by a God awakened and empowered will. Anything else is like a ship tossed in the waves of a raging sea.
Feed the ox, take care of the dirty business that comes with the ox, and that ox will plow for you.
God Bless You,