Productivity Is a Messy Barn


Make clean up time a productive parenting moment.

"Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox." —Proverbs 14:4 ESV

Pardon the continued livestock references, but God seems to have something to teach us from sheep, barns, and oxen.

This little gem from Proverbs 14:4 has so much to show us about the beauty of a messy life. The writer contrasts two images. The first is a barn without an ox. True, it’s a clean barn. I can see how a clean barn might hold some appeal, especially considering the kind of yuck it would contain if an ox actually lived there (pee-yew!) But barns aren’t meant to be clean. They are meant to be used.

The second image includes the ox. What is the result of having an ox? According to this passage, it is abundant crops. Productivity. Usefulness. Fruitfulness! But that ox must go somewhere when he’s not in the field, and then what does the farmer get? A messy barn!

Two choices—small crops and a clean barn or abundant crops in exchange for the muck that comes with productivity.

Having children makes our lives messy. It makes our schedules chaotic. It makes our floors dirty. It makes our homes unkempt. But in exchange for all of that disorder, we get them. When we willingly take the trade-off—the messy life of motherhood instead of the clean barn that comes without children—we trade up for the promise of productivity in God’s kingdom.

Action Step: Let it get messy.

Warning: You Type A personalities are going to wig out on this one.

Let your house get messy today. Messier than usual kind of messy. Don’t pick up. Don’t wipe up. Don’t sweep up. I’m not trying to drive you crazy, but I do want it to sink in that messiness is not nearly as critical as productivity.

In the afternoon or evening, make cleaning up a family activity. Crank some fun music, promise a small reward to the family member that is the most productive, and turn that mess into order. This way a clean house is a result of productively mothering your kids. They learn the value of working together and keeping things in order, and you are reminded that while productivity means a messy barn, a clean stall sure is nice while it lasts.

A Mom’s Prayer: Lord, thank You for taking my messy life and using it. Help me to value usefulness over a clean house and productivity over having everything in order.

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