Zhù nín xīnchūn kuàilè, niú nián dàjí!
Happy year of the Ox!
I am not a literal believer in horoscopes of any kind, either Western or Eastern ones, taken literally they are a form of the occult and not for Christians or anyone else who desires not to be led astray by them.
I do however recognise that the naming of years, months, days and other parts of life have a pagan origin, also in the West, and that for most of us these are not taken literally. We don’t baulk at the idea that our weekdays are named after planets which in turn are named for pagan deities, so likewise we accept that for Chinese people saying that the year we are now entering by their calendar is the year of the Ox is also part of the culture and to be valued as such, but any auguries made on that basis are to be taken with a pinch of salt.
Nevertheless, I like oxen, and having a year named for them is not a bad thing, really. When you consider all the benefits we have from cattle, in terms of dairy products, meat products, leather, fertiliser and traction.
The Bible moreover has a great deal to say about oxen. I would like to take one verse of the BIble and make it in a sense a “verse of the year” for this Year of the Ox.
1 Timothy 5v18 says:
“For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.” (KJV)
“λέγει γὰρ ἡ γραφή Βοῦν ἀλοῶντα οὐ φιμώσεις καί Ἄξιος ὁ ἐργάτης τοῦ μισθοῦ αὐτοῦ” (TR)
I have a couple of points to draw out of this verse:
- the immediate context is that of the people who have as it were offices in the Church, in this case elders or Presbyters, should make a living, and in says in the preceding verse “a double honour”. I take this to mean that the personal income of a faithful minister in the Gospel, if it’s double the average wages of the people in the congregation, isn’t excessive. Note (and this is for Brother Copeland and other rather richer pastors especially those where their own flock is not wealthy) it doesn’t say “quadruple honour” in that preceding verse, or “tenfold honour” but “double”. Those who keep their minister in poverty are mean and niggardly, those who keep him in luxury are fools and they all are poor witnesses.
- In a broader context, the Old Testament allowed oxen to eat as they worked. In the modern context we have people working on matters and being allowed no fringe benefits whatsoever from what they work on. OK I get the controls in diamond mines, you cannot go smuggling out small diamonds under your fingernails because you were paid for the work to get them and that’s what you are paid to deliver, where the value is. But the pay must be fair. More broadly, if you work with food all day it’s not fair if you have that food in front of you and cannot at least taste a bit, or have first dibs on the leftovers. Sitting next to a photocopier all day and breathing its ozone, but not being able now and again to use it for something your kid needs for school is also not normal. If we are to treat oxen as having a small share in the value they are creating, then for sure this ought to be a standard for humans also.
May 2021 be a year where people are more able to have a fair share of the value they co-create than they have been in previous times. I am no socialist, and I don’t wait this imposed on us by Big Government. I would prefer to have owners of businesses think again on their own accord and consider that an equitable, partnerly mindset that seeks to be fair to all the stakeholders, including Bob Cratchett, is the most satisfying and sustainable way of doing business and the only way in which a Christian business owner can give a worthy witness.
In the Greek original, which I gave above, we see emphasised in orange the word ox as Bos in Greek (Boun is accusative, for your information). In English we have the term Boss with an additional -s as the word for a chief in business, but not only the chief is an ox, everyone in the team is also a Bos and it’s no yoke if they are not muzzled and not treated fairly. He who would be master must be servant of all of his people.