I have a small garden in our back yard. It’s about 30′ by 12′ (give or take). Every spring we work on getting the soil ready. We have a small tiller that we use to get the manure and nutrients ground into the soil. We could do it with a hoe and garden rake but that would take too much time and too much energy; something neither of us have. Now imagine a real farmer who has acres and acres of land. He doesn’t use a hoe and garden rake to break up his ground. He doesn’t even use a tiller. He has tractors that he and others use to break up the ground, make rows, plant seeds, and so forth.
Those farmers would be fools if they did not take care of their tractors. It’s their livelihood. They have to keep them gassed, change the oils, lubricate and grease the axles, along with who knows what else. Farmhands need to be paid, fed, and hydrated. If there are animals, they need to be fed, cleaned, and the eggs need to be fetched from the hen-house. All in all, its hard work running or working on a farm.
Back in the day, before John Deere and Masey Ferguson, mules and oxen were used. They too had to be taken care of as they were the life-blood of the farm. They had to be fed, tended, and watered. Then of course, their stables had to be cleaned out. No one likes cleaning out a messy stable. It’s smelly. It’s gross. It’s heavy. But, it’s necessary. Without those oxen the land doesn’t get plowed. Without the plowing, seeds don’t get planted. Without planting there is no crop. Without crops, there is no farm. Without a farm, there is no farmer (or farmer’s family).
How horrible would it be for the farmer to say to himself, “Self, I can plow this field without any mules and oxen. Just give me a hoe and a garden rake and I’ll get the job done lickety-split. Then, I don’t have to clean up that smelly mess in the stable.” Anyone and everyone would try to knock some sense into that man. He’s cutting off his nose to spite his face.
Many of those sense-knockers would be hypocritical in their arguments. Many of us would be also. You see, often we just want to do the work ourselves. Dealing with people is messy (and sometimes smelly). In our minds, we think that life and work and projects and goals would all go better if we were able to do it by ourselves. In reality, it tends to not be the case. Progress is messy. We must deal with the mess of other people and the mess we make ourselves. We’re all mess-makers; it’s better if we understand that early on in life. Cleaning up a mess is never fun; no one likes cleaning messes, but it is a necessity in order to make progress in life, in families, in jobs, in every aspect of living.
Solomon wrote, “Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox,” (Proverbs 14:4, ESV). The abundant crop does not come by the strength of the farmer, but the oxen–the very ones making the mess in the stable. If we want the crop, we need the oxen, and we must accept the messiness. Yes, cleaning up the mess will cost us time; in fact, it might cost us money (troughs broken, food eaten or wasted, gates cracked). It’s all part of progress. Unless we are willing to starve in our lives, families, jobs, churches, goals, et cetera, then we had better learn to accept the messiness of cooperation.