Worthy of its keep

by Michael E. Brooks

“Where no oxen are, the trough is clean; but much increase comes by the strength of an ox” (Proverbs 14:4, NJKB).

Mission work is often “high maintenance.” That is, it takes a lot of effort and often requires a lot of financial support.

Travel is expensive and tiring. Printed materials, meeting facilities, necessary workers and other expenses add up very quickly. Many individuals and congregations alike seriously ask, “Is it really worth it? Are we getting sufficient bang for our bucks?”

Modern Christians who ask these questions should review Paul’s list of costs for his mission trips.

Second Corinthians 11:22-29 contains one such list. In addition to multiple imprisonments, shipwrecks, beatings, and one stoning, he lists weariness, toil, sleeplessness, hunger, thirst, cold, nakedness, and “my deep concern for all the churches.”

Such sacrificial expenditure makes our quibbles over meeting the budget seem a little inappropriate does it not?

When we consider the cost of doing business in any field, including missions, one element to be included is efficiency, or the rate of return compared to expenditure.

When that comes into play, one cardinal principle must be remembered-nothing in life is free (yes, even “salvation by grace” comes at a price; the difference is that Christ paid that price for us–Ephesians 2:8-9). In order to gain positive results, there must be expense.

This is the principle we are reminded of in Proverbs 14:4. It is easy to keep a clean barn and to reduce one’s feed bill – just get rid of the ox.

But then the question arises, how is the field to be plowed, the crop planted, and the harvest obtained?

Solomon’s point is that a good ox is worthy of his keep. One may resent the effort of cleaning out the manger, or of refilling it with hay, but when the crop is gathered the worth of all that labor is plain.

Familiar modern proverbs express this truth. “You get what you pay for.” “No pain (i.e., cost), no gain.”

These and other such sayings remind us that if we spend nothing we receive nothing. And that includes our service in the Kingdom of God.

The elders’ responsibility is not to save the Church’s money, but rather to ensure that it is used efficiently.

If the ox is strong, and plows faithfully, he is worthy of his keep. This applies to all aspects of the work of the church, whether it is local evangelism, edification, benevolence, or foreign missions.

“You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain” (1 Corinthians 9:9).

Let us pray that the Lord gives us many strong oxen to plow his field (the world, Matthew 13:38). And let us ensure that they are well fed.

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Michael Brooks

Since 1988 Mike and his wife Brenda have been involved in foreign missions in South America, Africa, and South Asia. Beginning in 1999 they devoted full time to missions, primarily in Bangladesh and Nepal.

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