Is Your Barn Clean?

(Proverbs 14:4 NLT) An empty stable stays clean, but no income comes from an empty stable.


This is one of my favorite proverbs! I grew up in a farming community full of men and women who knew the value of hard work. On a farm, there is no one to force you to get up and go to the fields each day. The field cannot till its own burrows, and the seed cannot plant itself in the ground. The hogs can’t slop themselves and the cattle can’t throw their own hay. A farm family must discipline themselves to rise early, work hard, and take advantage of the seasons.

Farming is not a clean job. It is not for the faint of heart. Fields are dusty in the dry summer and muddy in the rainy season. Pesticides are used, necessitating masks to cover the face. Barns are often full of unpleasant smells and vermin of various kinds.

While most farmers take pride in the way their farm looks, they realize that a productive farm will always have dirty dirt and smelly smells! Rather than becoming frustrated with the never ending accumulation of nastiness, they simply learn to appreciate the benefit that accompanies the environment. They know that to be profitable the farm must produce some unpleasant things.

The writer of Proverbs makes a very succinct observation. There is no debating it. No conversation or discussion is needed. It is simply a fact. One cannot have a clean stable and a profitable stable simultaneously. For the business to be profitable it must contain a messy ox. There you have it. You have to choose which you prefer.

This principle holds true on so many other levels. Life gets messy. Relationships are messy. Friendships are messy. Marriage, parenting, work, church families, all can produce a barn full of stink. We find ourselves just wishing we could clean it all up and have this tidy little package that just STAYS CLEAN. But, this is impossible. You either have to experience some frustrating relationships, or you have to be a hermit with no interaction with others. Remember, No ox = No mess. No mess = No profit.

Farmers also know that changing barns is of no benefit. They don’t look at their barns and decide to relocate to another barn down the road. They clean up and maintain the ox that lives in their own barn and they don’t worry about a little bit of mess. Why? Because the presence of the mess means they have been blessed with an ox that will benefit them greatly.

Let me ask you, what’s the name of the ox that keeps messing in your barn? Do you resent it? Do you want to get rid of it? Before you act irrationally, ask yourself what benefits the ox brings to your life. What blessings are directly tied to the presence of the ox in your barn? Be careful that you don’t let a messy moment cause you to remove the ox which God intends to use to produce spiritual fruit in your life.


PRAYER: Thank you Father for the wisdom of this proverb. Help me to identify the messy oxen in my life so I can give the proper thanks for the fruit that is borne because of them. Amen.

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