My devotional blog for January 14 on Proverbs 14:1 would have been ideal for a Valentine’s Day blog. However, having studied verse 1, I dare to choose a verse that, though lacking a romantic tone, is thematically practical for today.
The agrarian theme of Proverbs 14:4 is one some may not relate to readily; however, those who grew up around farm animals can grasp the point of Solomon’s proverb and I hope my explanation might be thought-provoking for others. Solomon writes:
Proverbs 14:4 – “Where no oxen are, the crib [stall] is clean: but much increase [increase of crops and harvest] is by the strength [power] of the ox.”
Oxen and other draft animals were the John Deere tractors for farming in centuries past. I need not be graphic for you to grasp the waste oxen leave in their stalls and the intense labor required keeping them clean. Stabling and caring for farm animals requires a discipline few can appreciate in our day of technology; however, until this past century, the employment of draft animals for farming was a necessity.
In our parable, Solomon asks us to consider a farmer who boasts that the stalls in his barn are pristine and unsoiled. How foolish for a shortsighted farmer to fail to value the increase in crop production made possible by farming with oxen. Even worse, to realize too late that his stalls were clean, but his cupboards went empty!
Allow me a parallel thought on this Valentine’s Day. Instead of oxen, let us consider a childless couple who pour their lives into purchasing and furnishing a house. Like a museum of fine furnishings, spotless floors and immaculate pieces, their home is the envy of friends and acquaintances that covet the serenity and quiet of their house. Sadly, their house is just that—a house!
Everything comes with a price, and the couple that boasts a museum-like house has made an enormous sacrifice. Like the farmer with no oxen, clean stalls and empty cupboards, they are childless by choice. They have an immaculate home and fancy cars, but at the sacrifice of the joy, laughter and play of children. Like our farmer, they risk facing the winter of life and old age without the devotion and love of family. Indeed, the bedrooms are pristine, but their lives are empty.
I challenge you to cherish your loved ones this Valentine’s Day and yes, accept the reality it is better to have a stall to clean (Proverbs 17:6) than be unloved and alone.