This devotional series examines a verse or two from a chapter of Proverbs each day of January 2017.
Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of an ox. ~Proverbs 14:4
Life isn’t always clean and pretty. A fact that Solomon illustrates with the messiness of work. If you build a barn but have no animals, then the barn might stay clean, but there is a lot of wasted effort in work. Animals are messy and they smell. If you’ve ever worked on a farm, then you know that keeping things clean is a daily chore.
But if you work an agriculture related job, then having those messy animals benefits a lot.
Solomon’s wisdom does not give us the license to be slobs, but it does remind us that life comes with its messes. A hardworking mechanic will come home with grease on his shirt and pants. A dutiful teacher may end up with a stack of papers on a corner of her dining room table. A good nurse will hardly ever escape without some bodily fluid on his scrubs. An office manager may have sticky notes across her desk.
If the shirt and scrubs are never washed or if the piles of papers keep growing, that might be a sign of a lazy attitude, but these messes themselves are marks of dutiful work.
Solomon encourages us to embrace the mess that leads to something better. And in such messiness, God himself worked. Jesus came into the world, born into a messy manger, to do the work of cleaning up the spiritual messes of our lives. He hungered, he thirsted, he grew weak and tired, he climbed into boats with fishermen, and he walked long distances collecting dust on his feet and shoes. He also worked next to Joseph as the carpenter’s son, with shades of dust and mortar on his hands.
But Jesus embraced the biggest mess, going to the cross, bloodied and beaten for our sins. Giving of himself to clean up our spiritual mess that we might have something much better.
So, embrace the messes of life as you work hard, but also remember how God braved the mess to free us from our sin.