Strange title right?
Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox. Proverbs 14:4 ESV
The NKJV calls the manger a trough.
Have you seen those pictures around Christmas time of the baby Jesus in some sort of a wooden contraption with criss-cross legs and full of hay and such to look all cozy and comfortable? It always looks so sterile and “folksy”.
A manger is a feeding trough for animals. In the Proverb being clean is not a positive thing, it’s a negative. Let’s think about that for just a moment. When we have a clean barn, a clean trough, or even a tidy desk, so I tell myself, it means were not busy. Nothing here is really happening. It indicates a lack of activity.
If we look back to our verse the trough is dirty is because the ox must eat. He must be fed in order to have the energy to do what is required. This makes messes. He comes into the barn, eats, leaves droppings along the way, you get the picture.
Christian ministry is messy. People are messy.
I’m not implying that a Christian minister should make messes to be productive, but the reality is that it is a messy business.
Imagine a big, beautiful old church building. Like you see in Europe. They are pristine in design, architecture and from what I can tell well maintained. But they are dead. Dead religion, without activity. They benefit no one. Those troughs are clean.
Jesus Christ came into the world as a baby. Born in the most humble of all circumstances, born in a dirty animal trough. His mission was to seek and save the lost, and it was an underappreciated ministry. In fact, so underappreciated they nailed Him to a cross to die a sinner’s death.
But through His life, we have access to redemption. A way to be at peace with God. Through the messy ministry of Christ, we can be cleansed from our sin. We have access to God to restore a broken relationship that has been severed by our sin.
What a contrast.
And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:9-10