Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty,
but from the strength of an ox comes an abundant harvest.
Proverbs 14: 4
This probably shows what kind of mind I have, but I have always interpreted this verse to mean that if you have oxen you are going to have a mess in the barn you are going to have to clean up. I envisioned this lazy farmer saying,
“No, I want a clean barn. I don’t like pitching manure. All oxen do is make messes. I’m tired of cleaning up messes. Nobody appreciates all the work I do around here. The oxen never clean up after themselves. They just crap all over and they don’t lift a finger. They even have this stupid smirk on their faces. I tell them to clean up and they just laugh at me. I can’t believe they’d take advantage of me like that.”
Like the purpose of farming is to have a clean barn? This is laughable. I’ve pitched manure. It’s not like I’m a pro or anything. Not oxen manure, mind you. Maybe that’s worse. But the manure I smelled had a slightly sweet aroma. It was mixed with straw and was over a foot thick. Then the farmer took it out on his field and spread around the love. I’m guessing to him it smelt like money, part of the cycle of life.
But maybe I have this verse all wrong. The Bible dictionaries I checked are wanting the manger to be the place where the food was kept for the animals. I was kind of ticked when read that. I thought the manure word-picture was lot more colorful. I supposed the results are the same. If you don’t have oxen, you aren’t out harvesting and if you aren’t out harvesting you aren’t going to have any food to feed the oxen you don’t have so you’ll starve to death, so you need oxen to harvest the crop and then you take the crop and feed the oxen…and then you’ll have manure (sorry, I couldn’t resist). It’s that cycle of life thing again.
But lets quit being literal and interpret the verse instead. Basically,
“If you are a lazy bum, you’ll starve to death.”
Or, taking my messy barn metaphor:
“Any time you work you’re gonna have a mess and that’s just fine. Mess = money; No mess = poverty, so count your blessings if you have a mess.”
Or, to say it another way:
“Messes are good. It means you are alive.”
I remember admiring my neighbor’s yard when we had little kids at home. He was a retired guy and he spent hours honing and perfecting it. I admired his yard. I didn’t admire him. I thought it was bit much to have a perfect lawn. It looked nice though. Our lawn was pretty crappy. Kids toys all over and worn places here and there. He probably looked at our lawn and got a real ego boost. I’m sure we tempted him with the sin of pride. I commented on his lawn to my wife once. She said:
“I’d rather have baseball paths in my yard then a perfect lawn.”
I loved her for saying that. She’s always saying funny things that make me laugh. And here she is quoting the Bible and all with a modern twist. Clever gal.
Which brings me to my point. I’m sorry it took so long to get here. I just don’t get these people who don’t want kids. I hear these excuses that sound an awful like an empty barn. Who wants an empty barn? What good is that? I just don’t like kids, I hear. Well, duh? They grow up! They’re only kids for little while. And then they call you up on the phone from the farthest reaches of the earth and tell you of the dragons they’ve slain and the dreams they’ve dreamed and the hopes they’ve had and the hopes that were dashed and the battles that were won and lost and you remember when and you shudder at their wisdom and now they are teaching you lessons and they are encouraging you, Dad, and they give you pats on the back and chide you once in awhile and they take your advice sometimes and sometimes not and it’s like a dance but the music is playing and then they come home and take you out to lunch and pay for it with a little pride in their eye or they send you that email when you were down or they come to see you when you are in the hospital and they ask if everything is alright and when they come for Thanksgiving they help fix the dinner and even clean up afterwards while you take a nap and you thought having kids was about messy diapers?