“Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox” (Proverbs 14:4)
The crib/manger is the place where the ox drinks water from. You can imagine it is usually filthy, and it would take effort to clean it every day. One way to keep it clean… is to have no cows! No cows, no dirt, no need to clean. However, “much increase is by the strength of the ox.” It is only when the farmer has cows to plow the fields, that the crops can grow and increase, and he can profit from it. No cows, no crops, no cash.
The meaning of the proverb is this: in order to gain a benefit, we must be willing to put in effort, and even to get our hands dirty. Why do people engage in physical exercise? It makes you exhausted, sweaty and dirty. However, except we put in the effort to exercise, we will not receive the health benefits. No pain, no gain. Why do we work? If we do not work, we won’t have money to buy food for the family (2 Thessalonians 3:10). As Christians, what are some areas that require us to get down and dirty?
1. Personal Hospitality
“Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality” (Romans 12:13)
Christians are called to be ready to show hospitality. To be hospitable is to show love and generosity to brethren and visitors. Hospitality can be demonstrated in several ways: opening our homes for fellowship; inviting brethren for meals; inviting visiting brethren to stay at our house. However, hospitality requires effort! To invite visitors to our homes means more cleaning to do!
However, no pain, no gain. Without putting in the effort to demonstrate hospitality, we will never reap the blessings it produces. We are exhorted to “be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2). The Hebrews writer brings our minds back to Abraham who unwittingly showed hospitality to three men who turned out to be angels of God. Imagine if Abraham had not welcomed them! Is it not a blessing even for us to have the opportunity to show kindness to God’s messengers? Furthermore, we know that Jesus will judge us based on our deeds of hospitality, and reward those who have shown hospitality to strangers and those in need (Matthew 25:31-46).
2. Personal Evangelism
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:19)
Christians are called to preach the gospel and spread the good news of Christ. Every Christian has unique opportunities to share the gospel with our circle of friends and day-to-day acquaintances. We can evangelize by talking to somebody about Jesus or conducting bible studies with our friends. We can also contribute by simply passing our flyers and tracts, or inviting our friends to attend our services. However, evangelism requires effort! It requires us to pluck up our courage and confess Christ! It may even require us to get dirty and sweaty, especially after tract distribution sessions.
However, no pain, no gain. How can the world believe in Jesus unless Christians go and preach the gospel? (Romans 10:13-15). Furthermore, we will not receive the joy and reward that Paul did. Paul described those he helped to convert to Christ as his “glory and joy” (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20). We experience the rewards of Christianity when we help others to obey the gospel. Ultimately, we obtain the approval of Christ when we preach His gospel: “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32)
3. Personal Bible Study
“As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2)
Christians are called to grow in the knowledge of God’s word. Christians ought to be engaged in daily meditation of God’s word (Psalm 1:2). In addition to our daily meditation, it is helpful to participate in bible classes on Sunday and Thursday, where a teacher guides us through the study. There are many online resources available for our use as well. However, Bible study requires effort! It requires setting aside time for daily reading and time in attending bible classes. It requires mental effort as we seek to understand and reflect upon the verses we read.
However, no pain, no gain. Without studying the Bible, how can we grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus? (2 Peter 3:18). Without studying God’s Word, how can we grow in faith? (Romans 10:17). Without studying, how can we rightly divide the truth and discern between right and wrong? (2 Timothy 2:15). Only by growing in the knowledge of God’s word can we grow in Christian maturity and prepare ourselves to be teachers of God’s word (Hebrews 5:12-14).
Clean or Dirty?
A manger is meant to be dirty, that is its purpose. We don’t buy a new pair of shoes so that we could keep it spotless and unused in the cupboard do we? Shoes are meant to be used and dirtied. Do you want your Christian life to be clean or dirty? If we want our Christian life to be fruitful and rewarding, we need to be prepared to get down and dirty, and to put in effort. If we prefer to keep clean, then we can do nothing… but then why be a Christian in the first place? Let’s put in the effort for God’s glory!