Psalm 127:1 says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders build in vain.”
Those are wise words to remember whether you’re building a church, a home, a relationship, or a life. Unfortunately, it’s easy to forget. In a church, the tendency is to focus on human effort and wisdom, or the vision of a single person. In our homes, the tendency is to focus on our plans. And in our lives, the tendency is to focus on our own ingenuity, timing and control.
Sure, you pray and you ask that God will build His church. Sure, you pray and ask for God’s guidance in your life. Sure, you say that you trust God to do the work to which He’s called you to do. But then what happens? If you’re a pastor, you live Sunday to Sunday by who’s there and who’s not. In our homes, God isn’t moving as fast as we’d like, then surely it’s because we need to do more work. And in our relationships, a curve ball comes and you insist that God must not be there after all.
So what do we do? While we believe that God has our best interest at heart; we live by “pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps” in order to get it done. Perhaps that’s why our culture applauds self-made people. And so we live into the tension: knowing that God is in control while still doing our part. We’re called to build, but are we doing it apart from God?
The book of Haggai has some amazing thoughts about this very subject. The Temple had been in ruins for nearly 20 years after being neglected during Babylonian captivity. Yet as the people returned to their homeland, they spent time and effort on their own homes and building up their own lives while neglecting God.
The reality was that, without a spiritual foundation, all their building was in vain…And it affected every other aspect of their lives. Just listen to what God said through Haggai in 1:4-10
4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? 5 Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. 6 You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.7 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. 8 Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the Lord. 9 You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house. 10 Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce.
Did you notice that God called them to build. They have work to do. But He also reminded them that if they don’t put Him first, their lives would be full of holes. If the spiritual foundation is neglected, we build in vain.
So what does this look like in our everyday lives? We use the gifts that God has given us to build our churches, to build our homes, to build our relationships, and to build our lives; but don’t neglect your relationship with God. Don’t go up to the hills and bring the wood down for our own houses, pleasure, and glory; use the materials for God’s pleasure and glory. As each of us seeks to use the gifts God has given us to further God’s Kingdom, let us humbly seek the “Builder of the House,” lest we build in vain.