TODAY’S READING: DEUTERONOMY 21:10-25:19
I am not sure how many of you know this, but I was a missionary for 7 years. Right after college I joined Youth For Christ in Peoria, Illinois. I took the opportunity to use my degree in Criminal Justice, my training in the Navigators and my experiences as a staff member of the Peoria Rescue Mission to work with troubled youth. It was a great experience. I spent time with adolescents who were running afoul of society and the law. They came mostly from broken homes and they lived in risky neighborhoods. I spent time in jails and foster homes. I started basketball teams, activity nights, one on one activities and Bible Studies.
Admittedly, I was not the best youth mission worker out there. There are other people I know who really demonstrated a keen heart for the kids they were meeting with. In 1986 I went through my new staff training with Rod McKenzie. He was a different type of guy then me and admittedly we did not make an initial connection. But, God intervened and 14 months later we were working out of the same office for the same ministry director. I got to know Rod and his wife Jan well over the next few years. What I was privileged to see was a couple dedicated to reaching the troubled youth of their community. They had and still have a heart for the youth around them. Today they run a successful ministry called Higher Up Ministries in Mount Prospect, Illinois, USA.
What I know is that over the last 24 years of ministry Rod and Jan have never profited. They have sacrificed time, money and energy to keep their ministry alive and kicking. They are truly working for the Lord. My wife and I have been supporting them for years. As each newsletter comes we are excited to read what is going on as Rod and Jan reach out to the kids in their neighborhood.
So, now you are asking yourself what does this have to do with today’s reading or the title to today’s blog: “Don’t muzzle the ox when he treads the grain”. The title comes from a single verse in today’s reading.
Deuteronomy 25:4 (NLT)
4 “You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.
The verse kind of just stands there, it is not especially highlighted, it is lost in list of other laws and precepts. Left by itself it most likely is read and forgotten, relegated to that pile of verses we have called “Verses I don’t understand because they are related to the culture of the 3000 years ago”. Aha! it is time to move that verse into the other pile “Verses that have a message for me today in 2010.”
The point of the verse is that if you are using oxen to work grain to make flour, it is wrong for us to not allow them to eat why they are working. The deserver to earn from their hard labor. But was God really concerned about the oxen or did he have a deeper meaning for us? Thankfully, we have someone even wiser than I to tell us more about this. Paul wrote about this very topic in…
I Corinthians 9:7 – 14 (NIV)
7Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk? 8Do I say this merely from a human point of view? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing? 9For it is written in the Law of Moses: "Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain." Is it about oxen that God is concerned? 10Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because when the plowman plows and the thresher threshes, they ought to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. 11If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? 12If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more?
But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ. 13Don’t you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? 14In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.
I think that I Corinthians 9 is a great chapter to help explain why we need to support mission’s work in our neighborhoods, countries and around the world. The problem is this, I Corinthians 9 is a powerfully written and reasoned chapter written by Paul, a powerful writing apostle of Jesus Christ. It is difficult for a missionary themselves to try to teach others about this idea. They often feel uncomfortable challenging people on this topic. But seeing as I am no longer a paid missionary, I decided to do it for Rod and Jan and Higher Up Ministries. They deserve our support as they tread the grain, or spread the Word of God.
Can you consider being a partner with Higher Up Ministries or any other ministry that is interesting to you?