Tag Archives: Proverbs

Progress is Messy (and Costly)

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.


Hope for the Humble

I was reading my Proverb of the day (Proverbs 26) and I must admit that this is probably my favorite of all Proverb chapters.  But I noticed something this morning that I had never noticed before.  If you were to look at this chapter you’d find the first 11 verses are dealing harshly with foolish people.  Here’s some examples of what is being said:

Honor is not fitting for a fool anymore than snow is fitting for summer,

Rods were invented for smacking fools on the back,

Fools should be ignored, unless it causes them to look wise in their own eyes,

Sending a message by way of a fool is like cutting your legs out from under you,

and it goes on and on.  But then, we see a verse that shifts the focus from the fool.  Verse 12, still dealing with fools, takes the focus from the fool and puts it on the wise.  Read this verses closely: “Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than him,” (ESV). This is the culmination of all the previous verses.  All those previous proverbs written were setting us up for this one verse.  This is the proverbial equivalent of Nathan’s story to David.  Do you remember that story?

And the Lord sent Nathan to David. He came to him and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds, but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms,and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.”

Nathan said to David, “You are the man! 

The whole story was to get David to see his sin of taking Uzziah’s wife to his own bed.  The whole point of verses 1-11 in Proverbs 26, is to get us to see that as bad as being a fool is, it is worse to be haughty and prideful.  Looking at the first 11 verses, one must come to the conclusion that there is no hope for a fool. But when verse 12 comes, having concluded there is no hope for a fool, we find there is more hope for him than there is for the one wise in his own eyes. Let that sink in.

A man who sees himself to be wise, thus a haughty, prideful man has less hope of change than a fool.  There is hope in humility, but almost none in haughtiness. May we remember that God gives grace to the humble, but resists the proud (cf. James 4:6).