Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.
In our lives, we either work for ourselves, or we work for One greater than ourselves. In other words, we are either working, or studying, or building, or whatever we are doing, for our own gain, or for the glory of God. It is possible, of course, to do both. We can earn a living, buy a house, go on vacation, etc. and still glorify God. We can still acquire for ourselves while giving away to others. We can still help our families and help others. The question is, however, what is the foundation of what we are doing in our lives—is it ourselves, or it is God? Because there is only one foundation for a house. And there is only one foundation for life.
The foundation is the surface on which an entire building is built. I recently saw a building that was remodeled to the point where it was torn down all the way to its foundation. A building was built with a foundation that was solid. And then the owner decided to remodel the building, to the degree that they just decided to build the entire structure again. Except the foundation remained intact, because it was a good footprint for the building and a solid foundation on which to rebuild.
There will be times (and there should be times) in our lives when we remodel ourselves. We transition from being a student to being a worker, from being single to being married, from being married with no children to having children, then to an empty nest, then to retirement, etc. There may be a move, or a career change, or a marital crisis that is survived, or not survived, and other transitions. There are several remodels during our lives. However, our lives change, the foundation of our life should always be the same. It should be our faith.
Let’s imagine building, a building with a faulty foundation. If the foundation is crumbling, the building will eventually crumble. To continue building onto a crumbling building is foolish. To continue building on a cracked foundation will not be successful. Only a firm foundation can hold up a building.
What is holding up your life? What happens if everything is stripped away from your life? Career, travel, hobbies, even family and health. What remains? In I Corinthians 3: 10-15, we read:
According to the grace of God given me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and another man is building upon it. Let each man take care how he builds upon it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
Saint Paul is telling us that the foundation of our lives will be revealed at the end of our lives. We will have to stand in front of God and answer for the kind of life we built, the kind of foundation on which our life stood. And if that foundation was faith in Jesus Christ, we will receive a reward.
In Luke 6: 47-49, Jesus also speaks to us about foundations when He says:
Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep, and laid the foundation upon rock; and when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house, and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But he who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation; against which the stream broke, and immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.
This year has been like a flood over our houses so to speak. We’ve suffered frayed nerves, if nothing else. Some of us have gotten sick. Others have had financial distress. If Christ remains the foundation of our lives, these setbacks are like cracked walls that can be fixed or even rebuilt without damaging the integrity of the structure. The goal is to build a foundation in Christ so that any crisis does not destroy the essential us, does not destroy our core, which is our faith.
One last comment, which pertains to the Church. Throughout my ministry, I have reflected on Psalm 127:1 as regards the Church. Sometimes I have wondered, did we build a community but without Christ? Because when a church community is dominated by fundraisers and capital campaigns, when the main effort is just keeping the doors open, when social events are more popular than worship, then it makes me question: is it the Lord Who has built this house, or is it people and their interests that form the foundation of the community. One of the challenges of the Covid pandemic is the suspension of “programs” at the church. Without GOYA, Sunday school, social gatherings, and other programs, the church has been stripped to its foundation because of circumstance. The foundation of the church is Jesus Christ, celebrated first and foremost through worship. There seems to be a disconnect between programs and worship. For instance, when there are no programs, it is harder to attract people to worship. Hence in many communities, as we begin to open up after the pandemic, we are finding that the older segment of the congregation, ironically the ones most at risk, are the first to return, while it is the younger generation, the generation raised with church programs, that are the ones not returning. It brings Psalm 127:1 to mind, that we all have to do a better job in understanding that the foundation of the church is the Lord and worship of and Communion with the Lord. The youth programs, social programs and cultural programs might be nice wings of the building, but they are not the foundation. Just like in our regular lives, our families, our jobs and our hobbies are nice wings, but the foundation has to be Christ. Because when a wing is destroyed, there still has to be something holding up the building. And when all of the building is stripped away, as it will be at the end of life, we will stand in front of Christ not without our impressive structure, but with only our foundation.
Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he give to his beloved sleep. Lo, sons are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the sons of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate. Psalm 127
Do what you do, build as high as you want in your life, but make sure the foundation is solid, and make sure that that foundation is faith in Jesus Christ!