By Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell (Guest Blogger)
Scripture Readings: Psalms 125-127
Key Scripture Verses: Psalm 127:1 (NIV, Life Application Bible)
“Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.”
Psalm 127 was written by Solomon, son of David, the wise king of Israel. Solomon was the king whom God blessed and allowed to build his temple. When God asked him how he could bless him for his faithfulness, Solomon asked for wisdom in ruling his people. As a result, God blessed him, not only with wisdom, but with wealth and honor.
Solomon knew about building and he knew that his purposes were right with God. Solomon understood this truth that is so clearly stated in the New Testament, “If God is with us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)
As the commentary in the NIV, Life Application Bible says, God is not against human labor and hard work, as hard work honors God; however, if a person works so hard that he neglects the duties of his family, because he is chasing wealth and prestige, honor for himself, then he labors for the wrong reasons.
Working and worshiping money is a form of idolatry and is not pleasing to God. And working for prestige, honor, and power instead of honoring God is also idolatry. Just because we do not create golden calves to worship does not mean that we are not guilty of idolatry. Idolatry is very real and lives among us in insidious ways—we may not even realize we are guilty of worshiping false gods. We may need to take a moral inventory.
When I was in my late 20’s, my mother was living alone in a nice neighborhood, and I met one of her neighbors who was a pretty, young woman in her 30’s who had four small children, lived in a big house, and was married to a professional who worked all of the time. I remember her telling me that he was barely home because his work took so much out of him. And, I remember thinking to myself—he’s missing out, he’s missing the blessings of enjoying this lovely family of his, because he’s not there to enjoy the very reasons he supposedly works so hard. It saddened me, because I thought if he had a smaller house and a job that didn’t demand so much of him, he would enjoy this family life he had created with his wife. But, instead, she was raising the children and he was working all of the time—they had lost their vision of why they had gotten together to begin with. To me, it seemed he labored in vain.
When God is the center of our lives and the reason we do what we do, he blesses us, and we can be sure we are doing his will, because he will direct our actions. When we put God first and his spirit dwells within us, he watches over us. But, when we choose our own path and we do things for the wrong reasons, we “labor in vain.”
I like to use the expression, “spinning our wheels,” when describing this labor we do in vain. It reminds me of the pet hamster who gets on his little wheel exerciser and keeps going and going, but going nowhere. That’s not what God wants for us.
God wants us to live with purpose, to live with intention—his intention. He wants us to seek him and to trust him. When we follow his direction, we will be at peace with whatever we are doing, because we do it to his glory.
Solomon’s temple glorified God—it was built to his specifications, it was built to be beautiful, majestic, and a place of worship and praise. And God was pleased with their celebration when it was finished and celebrated with them. The people celebrated the fruit of their labor with trumpets and were at peace and satisfied with their work. That’s how God wants it to be for all of us.
May we work hard, but not labor in vain. May we not “spin our wheels” chasing our own tails, going nowhere. May we follow God and trust that he will lead us where we need to go and in the work that is pleasing to him. It is only his work that we will find satisfying, anyway.