Parental sayings on the value and virtue of orderliness and cleanliness are not lacking. “Everything has a place, and a place for everything”, “Cleanliness is next to godliness” and sayings like that, are familiar to us.

Cleanliness is certain an important point of application of the command to “love your neighbour as yourself”, but as is always the case with Scripture, these practical matters of life are always held in a perfect balance. Sometimes each of us need a reminder to be a little more considerate in how we clean up, or do not clean up, around us. Other times we need to be cautioned against the idolatry that can form in our hearts regarding cleanliness.

And so, the book of Proverbs offers this wonderful nugget of truth to keep all things in balance.

Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean,
but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.

Proverbs 14:4

The picture is clear and simple. A farmer might love a clean barn, but then he’d have to get rid of his livestock. By keeping his livestock, he needs to realise the barn will smell a little, but the income gained by his livestock will be a blessing to many.

Balance your cleanliness with your usefulness. If your messiness is hindering your ability to accomplish things well, then clean up. But if your cleanliness is keeping your from joyful service to others, then be content with a little messiness, knowing that for much to get done, a little mess will be made.

Go, take any other of the practical matters of life, and search the Proverbs for the perfect balance.