Pearls From Proverbs

By Irvin Himmel

Neat But Negative

Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox (Prov. 14:4).

Oxen were used for a variety of purposes in Bible times. They furnished the power for pulling a plow. Elisha was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen when the mantle of Elijah was cast upon him (1 Kgs. 19:19-21). They were used for treading out grain (Deut. 25:4). They were suitable for sacrifice under the law of Moses (Num. 7:17; 1 Kgs. 8:63). Their flesh was good for food (I Kgs. 1:25). Their strength made them useful in pulling carts with heavy loads. The wealth of a man was sometimes measured, at least in part, by the number of oxen he owned. Job had five hundred yoke of oxen (Job 1:3).

Cheaper Not To Own Oxen

Suppose a farmer in ancient times had reasoned, “My supply of grain is abundant. My ground is rich and fertile. My supply of corn will last longer if I don’t have to feed oxen. I’ll save money by getting rid of every ox I own.”

How would this farmer plow his ground? By what means would he move heavy loads? Disposing of his oxen to save money would prove costly in time, for “much increase is by the strength of the

Some people are penny wise and dollar foolish. One may pay dearly for a small saving. Often in the Lord’s work, we pinch pennies and thereby waste dollars. Many expensive replacements would be unnecessary if quality had been given more consideration than cutting costs at the outset. Thrift has its limitations.

The preacher who is willing to work for the lowest wages may prove to be a costly mistake. Cheap class room material may prove worthless. The cheapest building contractor may do shoddy work. Replacing a cheap sound system may cost substantially more than a good system would have cost at first.

Oxen Are Much Trouble

Suppose a farmer in the ancient past had decided that he wanted his crib or fodder-trough to always be clean. “The oxen make such a mess. I abhor the sight and smell of my barn. Oxen are just too much trouble.”

As the proverb says, “Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but. . . . ” Before deciding that oxen are too bothersome, the farmer needs to remember that “much increase is by the strength of the ox.”

Benefits often outweigh disadvantages, but sometimes we allow the inconveniences to blind us to desired results. Which is preferable, a clean crib or the increase resulting from the use of the ox?

The Cost of Increase

Labor and increase go together. No ox, clean crib. No ox, no increase. Better keep ox!

Without planting there can be no harvest. Without diligent study there will be no increase in knowledge and understanding. Without faithful effort there can be no growth in the kingdom of God.

The price of sowing is negligible in comparison with the value of what is reaped. Many want to see growth in the church without work. Some want discipleship without paying the price. A lot of folks want heaven without overcoming the world. Some young people want a successful career without preparation.

Getting rid of the ox makes for a clean crib. It also excludes a valuable means of increase. Some like things neat … and negative.

Guardian of Truth XXX: 14, p. 427
July 17, 1986