Where no oxen are, the trough is clean;
But much increase comes from the strength of an ox.
– Proverbs 14.4
Harvest time is upon us again, with our familiar services coming at the end of the month as usual. Our text this month is a proverb that has a rural, farming background to it.
The basic meaning of it is that everything around the farmyard will be clean and tidy without animals — no expensive feed needed in the trough, no waste to clear up. In today’s terms it would be like having a tractor with immaculate bodywork … but no engine. It might look good and cost nothing to run, but nothing will be achieved. Without the Oxen doing their work, the ancient farmer wouldn’t get very far, and so even though they were smelly, expensive to feed, and made a lot of mess, they were absolutely essential. You wouldn’t get very far trying to pull the plough along by yourself!
It can be quite easy to operate a church which appears to be ‘clean’. Things happen when they should, there are regular services, a smart church magazine perhaps, a building in good working order, and so on.
But we are seeking more than that, aren’t we? We are longing to see increase — that is, people being added to the Kingdom of God and those who are in the Kingdom already growing in grace and understanding. If increase is what you want, then things will get ‘messy’. We want a Pastor, well, he has to be supported, and that costs money. We want to see people reached with the gospel, well, we have to speak to them — we cannot leave it to others. That costs time, and effort. Regular attendance at church costs us something too, as does growing as disciples and helping others to grow. Sometimes, things can go wrong, and church discipline is needed. Again, it is costly to us, uncomfortable, inconvenient. It seems like it would be much easier just to keep the trough clean.
Make no mistake, we have a great need to see increase at Morton in the coming months. Do I mean greater numbers? That would be great, but I’d rather see people who are already here following Christ in Baptism, becoming members, spending more time in the Word, engaging in outreach, and most of all coming out midweek to pray. That’s real increase. Is it too inconvenient for you? Are you too busy? Increase requires effort, and it costs us something. If you don’t know Jesus Christ as Saviour then you’ll never want to pay, because you’ll have no motivation — but if you do, then His love will enable and empower you.
How is it with your soul? Whose kingdom are you trying to increase?