Proverbs 14:4 teaches a lot in it’s brilliant phrasing, but the main warning is against being boastful about the wrong things.
Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox. (ESV)
If someone ignores the strength of a few oxen, just because they don’t want to clean up the corresponding mess, they have their priorities wrong. Mangers are meant to get dirty, to smell like animals. That’s their purpose. A clean manger is a wasted manger, and pointing to it in justification is foolishness.
What are some modern day mangers?
- Houses – A house that doesn’t need to be cleaned is a wasted house, and the owners miss out on abundant fruit. The house is never “lived in” by the resident family, or the doors are never open to others in hospitality. Perhaps some of the furniture is still covered in cellophane wrap. The carpets almost never need to be cleaned. There are rooms that no one is allowed to enter. The kids are shooed outside at the earliest convenience. There are so many coasters covering the tables that you can’t see the wood underneath.
- Vehicles – The whole point of a car is to get passengers from one point on the map to another, not to show off how great the upholstery looks. Would you brag about how the tread on the tires you bought 7 years ago shows no sign of wear? And if someone, somewhere, would be crazy enough to be impressed by unused tires, you probably shouldn’t be making eye contact with them.
There is a certain pride of ownership that is needed. After all, the manger needs to be cleaned. Its not left to wallow in the filth of the oxen. But the pride of ownership isn’t the point of ownership. Always be asking why God gave this blessing to you.
What are some other modern day mangers, in the context of this proverb? What else is it warning against?