Summary: God enables us to find fulfillment in vocation and in family relationships. How are we touching the lives of others?
Psalm Steps> Psalm 127, “Faith or Futility” Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts
There’s an old German saying: “An Gottes Segen ist alles gelegen”, or “Everything depends on God’s blessing. In Edinburgh, Scotland, the city seal reads in Latin, “Nisi Dominus Frusta”, i.e. “Without the Lord, Frustration.” This motto appears on all city documents. Both of these sayings ought to be inscribed where we work.
To these mottos we add, “Unless the Lord builds the house its builders labor in vain.” Benjamin Franklin quoted the opening words of Psalm 127 in a challenge to to the Continental Congress, adding, “Do we imagine that we no longer need God’s assistance? The longer I live the more convincing proof I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of men…without His concurring aid we shall proceed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel.”
Solomon, the author of this psalm, did some building of his own; viz. the Temple in Jerusalem. Psalm 127 reflects his observations about the vanity of life apart from God found in Ecclesiastes. He knew that, without the right priorities, his work was in vain. Unless God blesses our efforts, unless He is a part of what we’re doing, our labor is worthless. All of life is meaningless—if we leave God out of the picture. We have choices: faith or futility; self-reliance or trust in God. Self-reliance ends in despair, while trusting the Architect of our home leads us to find purpose and meaning in our lives and livelihood.
One day Henry Ford was driving in the Michigan countryside when he came upon a man whose Model T had broken down. The guy was bent under the hood trying to figure what was wrong. Mr. Ford stopped and asked if he could take a look. In a few minutes, he had the car running. The grateful owner said, “I’m amazed at your ability; you fixed my car so easily.” Ford replied, “I ought to be able to fix it, because I’m the one who designed it.” The same is true with God—He designed us, and He can fix whatever’s wrong with us.
Unless God does the building, the effort is useless. People pour their energies into useless aspirations. R.C. Sproul writes that “useless is the word I hate the most. I don’t mind working hard, foregoing pleasures, but not if my efforts are useless. If you say what I do is useless, you’re saying that I am useless, that somehow I don’t count.”
A car commercial posed some pointed questions: “Why do you work so hard? Why do you start early and stay late? Why do you care?” These are good questions. Unfortunately the answer given was, in order to buy a luxury car. Our hard work is without value if all we get out of it in the end are material possessions. Our culture tends to exalt human effort and temporal rewards. I saw a bumper sticker on a yacht which stated, “He who dies with the most toys, wins.” Those who die with the most toys are simply dead—and may be spiritually dead, if all they’ve trusted in is material prosperity.
The focus of Psalm 127 is on people, not things. Our relationships, how we touch the lives of others, is infinitely more significant that the possessions we accumulate. Nonetheless, people drive themselves to exhaustion, then wonder why. Or they give up, figuring “What’s the use?” We shouldn’t want to be workaholics or dropouts.
God makes our work meaningful—He gives us job satisfaction. We can go to work on Monday morning with eager anticipation, if we’ve taken the time to consider how Biblical values ought to impact our work. We are successful in God’s eyes when we labor for His glory, and by His strength. This may take some restructuring of our priorities. God wants us to trust Him for promotion, for job security, and for a sense of accomplishment. He also wants us to become sensitive to the spiritual needs of our co-workers.
Our desire to do meaningful, satisfying work, to make a difference, is evident in the number of job applications the CIA have received since the September tragedy. They normally get 600 a month, but since Sep 11 they’ve been receiving over 600 a week.
Paul gives similar counsel to the Colossian church: “Work hard and cheerfully at whatever you do, as working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward and the Master you are serving is Christ” (3:23-24). Each of Paul’s letters ends with practical instructions on how we can participate in God’s work.
In verse 2 we find a promise to those who work for God’s credit—they will be able to rest, because they leave the results of their labor in God’s hands. We slumber with a quiet conscience, with contentment and security. We can buy sleeping pills and an expensive mattress, but only God can give us rest.