Friday, March 17, 2017

"Unhook the Muzzle"

Deuteronomy 25.4 NASB

“You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing.”

The literal meaning and original purpose of this Mosaic law was to allow a certain level of freedom to a working beast. It should not be muzzled when harnessed to a threshing wheel. Further restriction of the animal would be cruel and unnecessary and would impair its ability to complete the threshing task.

About 1,500 years later senior apostle Paul instructed his young protégé Timothy in leading the church at Ephesus by use of the same text…

For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle the ox while
it is threshing’ and ‘The laborer is worthy of his wages.’”
1st Timothy 5.17-18 NASU

Paul quoted Deuteronomy 25.4 verbatim. He made an application that helped Timothy financially support his preaching and teaching elders staff. “Muzzle the ox” was understood by the early church as a monetary limitation on those called to the pastoral ministry. Paul said a limitation of this kind should not be imposed.

About 2,000 years later still, I am commanded not to “muzzle the ox.” I don’t own livestock nor do I have direct responsibility for the wages of preachers. May I, then, toss out this verse as inapplicable or irrelevant, filing it away as Bible trivia? Or, does the same God who inspired Moses to write the these words and Paul to apply these words, prompt me to find fresh meaning from the mandate: “Do not muzzle the ox?

This Scripture serves as a reminder that I will be called upon to interact with working men and women, harnessed to the threshing wheels of their vocational calling. I will be given ample opportunities to support or restrict my brother or sister in their work. They could use my support without which I become guilty of “muzzling the ox.

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