My wife and I had been out of town for most of the week. We got in on Friday evening and on Saturday morning I awoke to take care of some of my Saturday morning chores. One of those chores was getting the garbage out by the road to be picked up. I looked inside the garbage can only to discover it was empty, and it seemed as though it would be rather foolish to put an empty garbage can out, but then it quickly hit me we had not been there. Since the two of us are the main two messer-uppers in our house, things had stayed clean and un-messed up.
I got to thinking about how messy we are. I’m talking about people and other creatures. Have you ever thought about how much time we spend just cleaning all the stuff that we get messed up and dirty? We wash the clothes. We wash us. We wash our hair; well, some people do. We clean the floors. We clean the yard. We clean the car. We wash dishes. Wherever you find people, you often find that it gets messy.
Now, I’m not excluding some other messy things. If you’ve got a dog or a cat or a bird or a fishbowl or a horse or sheep or cows, you get the picture. It’s a messy world and as I thought about it, I thought that is a good thing. We could keep our house immaculate and nothing would ever be out of place and nothing would ever get dirty if we just stayed away. Just let it sit there, locked up and nothing going on, no meals ever cooked, no family and friends ever by, no laughter, no celebrations and everything would be clean and calm.
Long before I ever figured this out the wise man Solomon noted it and in Proverbs 14:4 he said, “Where no oxen are, the crib is clean.” Isn’t that a fascinating thought? With that in mind, I suppose a better title for this article rather than “No Garbage” would be a title “In Praise of Garbage.” The truth is that the messiness of life is an expression that life is actually going on and that, my friends, is a good thing.
It is the dilemma that sometimes exists in churches. For as churches begin to grow and expand their programs and involve more people, it is very likely that things may get a little messy at times. When churches seek to be what New Testament churches ought to encompass in being multi-generational or multi-linguistic or multi-racial or multi-political, there are going to be people with differing views at different phases of life and it can get messy. Truth is that the church is not just to focus on all these multi-facets, but on the one facet of following Jesus. He has a way of creating a right attitude and keeping us on track and on focus as we follow Him, but it does not mean that there won’t be a sheep wandering away from the fold or a child that is not exactly as perfect as your child is or a senior adult in the midst of many of the failures in life or inabilities that they may be faced with. Life gets a little bit messy.
Well, why not do this and solve all the mess problems? Just clean up the church real good, lock all the doors, have no activities for the kids, don’t generate a lot of energy, events, or excitement and you may find that everything stays clean as a whistle and your church is empty. The same thing is true in a family where things are always in a mess mode for all of us, not just the kids or grandkids. For you see, everyone is growing at a different pace and everyone is involved in different activities and all of us have different needs that probably will create their own messiness and garbage pile. Families live above all the messiness. They find a way to help clean up and enjoy the celebration that may be going on.
The other half of Solomon’s Proverb in 14:4 points out that “but much increase is by the strength of the ox.” Get that whole picture. Where there is no ox, the crib is clean, but when the ox is missing, there are a lot of things that are beneficial. So if things are messy, thank God. For while cleanliness might be wonderful there are tremendous benefits and blessings that come with the messiness. I suppose you could say that messiness and garbage are the costs of life itself; for church, for family, for each of us. For with each of us comes the spills, the broken things, the smudges and the dirty things, all of which need attention but many of which have brought great blessings.
While I didn’t have to carry the garbage out on Saturday morning, the next Saturday I said, “Thank you, God, that we have some garbage today.”
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.