Did you know that it’s possible to turn our blessings into burdens? That doesn’t make sense, does it? How could a blessing be anything but a blessing? The Bible explains how, but I must warn you, the verse sounds a bit odd and out of place. Still, we know that every word of the Bible is inspired, and if you pay attention, even strange sayings like the following will provide an education.
Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox. - Proverbs 14:4
Okay, let’s put that first phrase into today’s language to make sure everyone understands: if you don’t have an ox, you don’t have ox poop. Clear enough, right? As for the second phrase, it tells us that the ox is an important tool in the work of farming. So, you can have the strength of the ox along with his droppings, or you can forfeit both, but you simply cannot have the benefits of the ox without also having the—well—the poop!
Most blessings are that way. They’re wonderful. We’re thankful for them. But they, too, have a downside. That fabulous husband comes complete with dirty socks that he has a tendency to leave in his wake like the debris of a hurricane. The beautiful new baby means dirty diapers and feedings all through the night. That job is wonderful except when the boss is screaming at you and your coworkers are laughing at you. The blessing of a car turns into a burden when the battery is dead or the tire is flat. The blessing of the heat pump becomes a burden when you flip the switch and nothing happens.
I was even reminded of this fact Sunday morning when I turned on my electric kettle for my morning cup of hot tea, and the crazy thing refused to come on. I drink hot tea like most people drink coffee, and I especially need my tea on Sunday mornings. Sure, I could heat up water on the stove or in the microwave (and, in fact, that’s what I did), but it isn’t the same. I wanted my kettle to work. I expected it to work like it has nearly every morning since I’ve had it. Not only had I taken my blessing for granted, but I had also forgotten Proverbs 14:4. This is life—life in a fallen world. Things break. People die. And blessings can become burdens if we’re not careful with our perspective.
It’s so tempting to grumble and complain when things don’t work the way we expect them too. When anyone or anything puts a crimp in our plans, watch out, buddy! But what would happen if we stopped, took a breath and, instead of complaining about what’s not working right, give thanks that we have the blessings to begin with. Instead of fussing about the flat tire, how about we thank God for the transportation we have and for the many, many days that it has been reliable? Instead of bemoaning the loss of a beloved electric kettle, how about I praise God for the pleasure it has given me and to still have several alternative methods to heat up the water for my morning tea? Perspective. That’s all it is.
Proverbs 14:4 is basically asking, “Are you willing to muck out the stalls in exchange for the benefit of the ox?” Today, I’m asking you the same. Are you willing to overlook the frustrations for the many benefits of the blessings? Are you prepared to focus on the ox instead of the ox poop? Don’t allow your blessings to become burdens. Give thanks to God for the many things He’s given that we are so unworthy of, and keep a proper perspective. Better to have a pooping ox than no ox at all, right?