My children race to the beach, shovels and buckets in hand, ready to begin building for the day. They discuss plans, consider locations, and then they begin.
All day they build. They dig moats, construct walls, and erect castles. As I watch them create with delight, I am reminded that work is a good thing. God put Adam and Eve in the garden to work and keep it. It wasn’t a punishment, but a natural part of enjoying all the good that God made. While the Fall brought difficulty to our work (thorns and thistles and sweat), we are beings created to create.
My children build even though they know their work will not last. Eventually, the tide will come and it will take away their labors.
As I watch their work return to the sea, I’m reminded of Paul’s words to the church at Corinth:
According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. 1 Corinthians 3:10-15
I find great hope in this passage. Our lives here are not only spent building sandcastles that will fade with the passing of time. We have the opportunity to build for all eternity, if we build on the right foundation and with the right materials.
Therefore, Paul reminds us to take care how we build. Each of us is building something as we spend our days. Gold, silver, and precious stones will stand the test, while wood, hay, and straw are consumed by the fire. The question before us is simply this: How do we know if we are building with the right materials?
The Man of Heaven followed the will of the Father. The man of dust followed his own will. Insomuch as we build on the foundation of Christ—following his ways, loving his truth, sharing his gospel—we build with heavenly materials. As the Spirit transforms our minds and awakens our hearts, we are being made into the image of Christ. We walk in his ways. We obey his commands. We speak his words of truth. Whatever our calling—lawyer, doctor, teacher, stay at home mother, pastor, banker—we build for eternity as we build in accordance with the foundation, Jesus Christ.
My children know full well as they build sandcastles, that they will not stand the test of time. In fact, that are unable to last for even a day. Yet they build and take joy in their labors. Knowing that we have an opportunity to build for an eternal kingdom allows us to work with a deeper joy and purpose as we work. Our labors are not in vain! (1 Cor. 15:58). Whatever we’ve been called to do, may we live and labor as servants of the King. We have the privilege of a kingdom calling. We can go out whistling while we work:
Go, labor on: spend, and be spent,
Thy joy to do the Father’s will:
It is the way the Master went;
Should not the servant tread it still?
Toil on, faint not, keep watch and pray,
Be wise the erring soul to win;
Go forth into the world’s highway,
Compel the wanderer to come in.
Toil on, and in thy toil rejoice!
For toil comes rest, for exile home;
Soon shalt thou hear the Bridegroom’s voice,
The midnight peal, “Behold, I come!” — Horatius Bonar