Where no oxen are, the trough is clean... - Geneva College
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Where no oxen are, the trough is clean...

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Biblical Wisdom Everyday Living

Proverbs 14:4 – “Where no oxen are, the trough is clean; but increase comes by the strength of an ox.”

Since tractors replaced horses, which replaced oxen, few Americans know anything about taking care of oxen. In my youth, I spent summers on a dairy farm. The farmer milked his cows twice daily, cleaned out manure, prepared food for winter and fed his cows, mended fences, and oversaw calving. When I was very young, he still used horses and kept a bull. Even without the twice daily milking of cows, taking care of oxen was similar, a lot of backbreaking, dirty, and endless work of feeding, cleaning mangers and stalls, and yoking oxen together to plow. A farmer might well think sometimes how much easier life would be without oxen.

But what if a farmer had no oxen? The strength of the ox pulled the plow. A yoke of oxen could plow an acre a day, 22 yards by 220 yards, allowing for a rich, large crop. Without the ox, a farmer could use a stick or shovel to break up soil, or pull the plow himself, but in neither case could he come close to an acre a day, nor could he turn the soil as deeply and consistently as he could with the oxen. Without the ox, a farmer would break his back to get a very small crop.

What is the point of the proverb? Delicate and dainty people who can’t stand the messiness of the workplace, and cheap people who won’t invest in productive animals (or machines), will have neat, clean, sterile, and poor lives. Likewise, a house without children is easily kept neat, clean, and quiet. Children are expensive, troublesome, loud, exhausting, and well worth it, because wealth to support people in old age comes from the work of children when they are grown. No children, no social security, a reality that the industrialized world is finally recognizing! But to deal with children, fathers and mothers have to be okay with getting their hands dirty (literally) and ready to put up with a certain amount of chaos.  

A life accomplishing anything will include a lot of messiness, including untidy houses and barns. But a messy house shows that people live there, people to love and be loved, people made in God’s image. Fastidious standards of cleanliness and good order do not rule the wise; they do not use such standards as excuses for not being rich in good works, such as hospitality.

Nothing comes free of charge, not even the strength of the ox. Their price is the trouble and expense of constantly cleaning and refilling the troughs they eat from, as well as all of the other work that they require. But that investment of labor, whether in oxen or children, brings the increase of food, happiness, and enjoyment. Only the foolish dispense with the ox.

Geneva College is a Christ-centered academic community offering over 80 traditional undergraduate majors and programs to help students serve wholeheartedly and faithfully in their life's work. For more information, contact Admissions - 800.847.8255 or admissions@geneva.edu.

Dr. Bill Edgar, former chair of the Geneva College Board of Trustees, Former Geneva College President and longtime pastor in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA)

Opinions expressed in the Geneva Blog are those of its contributors and do not necessarily represent the opinions or official position of the College. The Geneva Blog is a place for faculty and contributing writers to express points of view, academic insights, and contribute to national conversations to spark thought, conversation, and the pursuit of truth, in line with our philosophy as a Christian, liberal arts institution.

Aug 1, 2018

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