I have a certain admiration for handy people. The kind of people that rise early on a Saturday to gather building materials, tools, and supplies at their local mega-home improvement store, and then complete a home building project before the sun sets. There is a satisfying allure to the do-it-yourself [DIY] mystique. That message seems to be particularly attractive in a western culture that values individual achievement generally more than communal accomplishment.
I’m not a handy guy, but through the years I’ve discovered that God has called all of us to be builders. We are called to build with God in every realm of life. In considering the relationship between the labor of God and man it can be challenging to discern the proper balance or division of labor generally. Even more challenging is to understand that balance in the context of the various realms of life: personal, marriage, family, career, community, and calling. In an effort to discover the labor of God and man in every realm let’s contemplate Ps. 127 – a psalm for builders. Here are three essential truths about God’s building plan, or the FYI on DIY:
A. God must build: Unless the Lordbuilds the house, they labor in vain who build it [Ps. 127:1]. Without God’s divine leading and blessing, all of Solomon’s wisdom, wealth, workers, and wives were futile for what he was called to build. Man’s effort apart from God is vain or useless to produce any eternal or godly good. Earthly wisdom and resources are inadequate to build the house that God has planned. We are instructed to look to God and depend on Him for all that we are called to build. People tend to neglect God in the areas where they are strongest. Where I am most gifted by God (talented) I am likely to be lulled into thinking DIY. Similarly, as a result of experience and gaining a certain comfort level in any endeavor including marriage, parenting, career, or serving in a local church believers can engage in those routines without an awareness of our need for God.
B. Man must build; It is vanity for man to work to build the house , guard the city , or work long hours generally  apart from God’s blessing. Nevertheless, man is to work in the building endeavors that God has called Him to. Where I struggle to build I am most likely to avoid my work. I can justify my lack of building effort by pointing to God’s sovereignty [“His perfect will is going to happen regardless of what I do or don’t do”], or His grace [“It’s all about what Jesus has done, so I don’t have to do anything”]. Accordingly, we can attempt to justify our lack of building, and essentially shift all of our work in some areas to God. In every realm, the labor of God and man is called for.
C. The house is big: What does “the house” refer to? Certainly Solomon had experience building the temple and royal palace, and David would have instructed his son about the building of the temple. But the Psalm also refers to family [3-5], and the city . There is clearly more than the temple or royal palace involved. Let’s consider the need for God and man to build in every realm:
- Personal: Jesus concluded the Sermon on the Mount with an exhortation to be wise and build your house upon the rock [Matt. 7:24-27]. The wise man hears the teaching of Christ and does them. The greatest foundation for life is found in dependence upon Jesus and obedience to Him. Our labor is to do what Christ commands.
- Marriage: God has ordained marriage, created the institution of marriage, and blesses marriages. Yet a good marriage does not happen without effort. Married couples experience a unique reward for their labor, because there is no other human relationship where two become united as one [Eccl. 4:9-12, Gen. 2:24]. A good marriage takes work but a bad marriage takes more work. Thus it is wise to make the effort to bless your marriage along with God.
- Family: Ps. 127:3-5 reminds us that children are a heritage and reward from the Lord, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward.Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them …” God has established and blessed the family to pass the Christian faith from one generation to the next [Mal. 2:15]. Parents are responsible to model a healthy Christian life and transmit their faith to their children. Although a local church should support the family, it is primarily the parents’ responsibility and blessing.
- Career: Ps. 127:2 warns of the futility of excessive labor that is not required by God, “It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so He gives His beloved sleep.” Working to advance in your career or gain material wealth that jeopardizes personal and relation health with God and others is unwise. God will give us the strength to accomplish all that He has called us to do. And whatever we do should be done to please God. But God has called us to a balanced work life, “He gives His beloved sleep.” We are to enjoy the Sabbath, and a healthy measure of sleep each night, as we trust God’s provision.
- Community: Ps. 127:1 draws our attention to the community, “Unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” God is the ultimate source of protection and blessing for a community. And God’s people are called to love their neighbor’s as they love self. It requires effort, sacrifice, and margin to invest in befriending and building relationships where we live, work, study, and play. We are to be the ambassadors of Christ to our communities to transform our neighborhoods with the gospel.
- Calling: The house of God is a place where God’s people gather to worship. Jesus has assured us that He will build His Church [Matt. 16:18]. Yet each of Christ’s followers has received gifts to be used to build up the Body of Christ. The calling realm is where we advance God’s kingdom beyond the home and career spheres. Our labor in the calling realm is often connected to a local church or Para-church ministry.
What have you discovered about the labor of God and man?