May 10, 2019

A Foolish Ox for Dinner

A story is told of two oxen that worked for many years in the fields of a poor old farmer. The farmer was very kind to them, especially when the work was particularly hard. 

Even so, one of the oxen decided that it wanted to go to a larger, nicer farm down the road. It said, “I’m tired of working in these small fields and only enjoying these small, small bits of grass! Today, I’m leaving this small farm and going to the large one where oxen like me can be properly appreciated!”

So, the story goes, the foolish ox left its partner and went to the large farm, where it hoped to be invited to a nice barn with lots of juicy grass to eat. Unfortunately, the workers on the large farm already had more than enough oxen to plow their fields and decided that the best way to appreciate this fine ox was to serve it up for dinner!

What We Think We Deserve 

Just like the foolish ox, we create trouble for ourselves when we try to operate based on what we think we deserve rather than based on what we have been given.

In Genesis chapter 3 we see that God had given Adam and Eve an entire world to enjoy. They had important work to do for Him, all of the food they could eat, and a beautiful garden as their home. They enjoyed the companionship of a perfect spouse, who was perfectly designed to complement them. 

It would seem natural for human beings to start believing that they had a right to own all that was in the world. The very fact that God had the power to forbid them from touching the tree in the center of the garden was a constant reminder that it was not them but God who owned the world. 

Stealing from the tree by eating the fruit was a denial of God’s ownership. It was a bold declaration that the couple believed that they had a right even to this tree, even though they had no real need of anything more.  

Applications to Marriage

In marriage, many of us make the mistake of believing that we deserve more than we truly have a right to. Even though we have been given so much, we allow ourselves to be like the ox, who rejects what it has been given because of what it thinks it can take. 

Marriage allows us to appreciate God and His gifts. When we do this, we show our respect for the sovereignty of God in His choice of blessings that He has provided to us. When we allow ourselves to complain and grumble, we become blind and foolish and are unable to truly enjoy the gifts that God has given us to bring delight to our hearts. 

In marriage, it is well to focus on the blessings that we receive through it instead of always comparing and complaining. I have witnessed too many times how people have destroyed the purposes that God had intended for them by abandoning God’s gifts because they were hoping to steal something else for themselves that God had not given to them. 

Unlimited joy belongs to us if we will only decide to trust God and delight in His goodness to us! 

Of course, there will be problems in our lives and our marriages. At times we must make sacrifices and carry burdens. But just like the one forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden, these things serve to remind us that we are not in control of everything. These trials remind us that our lives and our world belong to God and that we must trust Him for everything that we need.

When we do this, then we will be able to fully enjoy our lives and our marriages the way God designed for us to enjoy them. 

When we are tempted to think that God owes us something more, let’s remember the lesson of the ox that stayed on the small farm. That ox would tell you the same thing that Christ told us so long ago: “It is much more blessed to give than it is to receive.”  

The original version of this commentary was posted on the East-Central Africa Division blog.