I recently visited a model home and it looked amazing with its perfect décor and lack of clutter. It is a powerful selling tool because, after all, who doesn’t want a home that looks like that? As I surveyed the house, I saw no dirty dishes on the counter, no toys in the living room, and no socks strewn about the floor. In other words, no one lived there! I’m reminded of Proverbs 14:4 (the 4th verse in chapter 14 of the book of Proverbs in the Old Testament): “Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.” In other words, if you want a model home, don’t have kids! If you build a manger to house farm animals, then you should expect it to get dirty and if you buy a house for your family, it will get dusty, messy and cluttered! Does the mess bother you? You are raising kids, not model homes! The inevitable transition from clean to messy reminds me of entropy in thermodynamics – the tendency for disorder in nature to increase over time. Scientists know that given enough time, order always gives way to disorder, as evidenced by rust and decay. Our children are like little entropy accelerators hastening the onset of disorder in our homes!
To better understand entropy, I will describe two scenarios and ask you to put them into sequential order. In one scenario, you walk into your child’s bedroom and observe a long chain of dominos set up but the first domino hasn’t been tipped over yet. In another scenario you walk into the same room but you observe the dominos fallen and scattered. Which scenario happened first? Clearly, the scenario with precisely arranged dominos occurred first. It is intuitively obvious because entropy is something we live with every day. Things go from order to disorder, as any parent can attest. This reality applies to our physical bodies as well and I think the second clause in our verse speaks to precisely that. Not only can our kids help around the home with chores and yard work today, but they can assume increasing responsibilities as they grow up and eventually care for their elderly parents in the decades to come. Our children will be our legacy so we must inculcate in them our values and work ethic so that they may yield abundant crops. If we undertake the raising of children, we will soon discover how fitting the oxen metaphor is because kids can be messy, stubborn and strong just like the ox. Just remember, next time you’re bothered by a mysterious trail of sand down the hallway, remind yourself that where there are no oxen, the manger is clean.