Our community group discussed Proverbs 14 last week. One of the verses created quite a bit of conversation:

Proverbs 14:4 Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest. (NLT)

No, our group does not have a bovine fascination. This verse isn’t about oxen – it’s about relationships.

In essence, the verse is telling us that life is simpler if you don’t get too close to people. It’s quieter, cleaner and less complicated. Your “stable” will stay clean if you are the only one in it.

And that philosophy guides the lives of a lot of folks. Isolationists. Loners. Or maybe just “non-people people.”  For whatever reason (shyness, past hurts/disappointments, or insecurities), some people just prefer to be alone. And some of us think that relationships just aren’t worth all the hassle.

But here is what I think: We were not intended to live life alone. True, it is easier not to bother with people. You can do what you want when you want without the worry of what other people think or do. But we were put on this earth to do life with one another. We are better together than we are apart – even with all of the complications of relationships.

Part of the development process is working through the challenges. There are things we learn only be growing through the frustrations of relationships. We must have this skill if we’re going to succeed in life. A mess can actually become a beautiful thing.

And by the way, the “harvest” part of this verse describes our purpose. God has given us a job to do, and it requires a team. If we intend to get anything done for God, it will involve and include other people. There is no way around that.

If you don’t have close friends and if you don’t like your family, life will be cleaner. But you won’t get anything done in life – especially in regard to relationships. Let’s stop looking for perfection in others. Let’s drop our expectations that life with other people will be easy. Of course there will be conflict. Other people will get on your nerves and let you down and make you mad. Welcome to the human race. But we have to keep running in that race.

If something is causing you to remain distant from the church, from friends, from your family – let’s ask God for healing. By the way, He probably won’t answer your prayer to change the other people around you – but He just may change you!

Let’s learn to deal with the dirty stable so we can produce a larger harvest--even if the oxen really smell.


Rick Whitter serves as the State Administrative Bishop for the Church of God in Minnesota. He is also the Director of International Orphan Support (iorphan.cc).