If The Lord Builds The House

Photo by Randy Fath on Unsplash.com

The Necessary Tools If The Lord Builds Your House

by Eric Elkin

Unless it is the Lord who builds the house,
    the builders’ work is pointless.
— Ps. 127:1

This morning when I sat down to pray and read Psalm 127, my mind could not move beyond the first verse. “Unless it is the Lord who builds the house, the builders’ work is pointless.” The verse sounds like something a televangelist would say when criticizing the state of the nation. But, what do these words mean to me?

My mind was immediately drawn to our experiences in the Koinonia Community. The day after Peggy and I were married, we loaded up a car with all our possessions and left southern Minnesota for New York. We would spend most of the next seven years living in intentional Christian community.  Our experiences there taught me how to build a house.

For most of our time at Koinonia, we didn’t have a maintenance person. Through local tradesmen and volunteers, I learned how to frame walls, roof houses, basic plumbing, and electrical work. When I say I learned to build a house, some of that answer is literal. The more profound lessons about building, though, I learned from Pastor Bob Nervig, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Henri Nouwen, and the experience of living in intentional community.

A Christian fellowship lives and exists by the intercession of its members for one another, or it collapses. I can no longer condemn or hate (another) for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble (they) cause me. (Their) face...is transformed in intercession into the countenance of a brother/sister for whom Christ died, the face of a forgiven sinner.
— Dietrich Bonhoeffer

To me, if the Lord builds your house, it will be filled with Grace. I have a difficult time reading books about grace. They tend to be too flowery and clean. Authors tend to focus on grace received and a sanitized version of grace extended. Pastor Bob taught me the truth about grace and grace held Koinonia’s house together. 

The truth about grace is it is a pain in the ass. Excuse the language, but I don’t know how else to describe it. Grace is not just something you receive. It is something you give, even to the person who does not deserve it.

Pastor Bob had a gift for identifying both the prodigal son and the child who stayed home. He knew how to comfort the one and challenge the other. The truth is we all like to be the prodigal son, but more often than not, we stayed home. If the child who stayed home learns grace, life will be a joyful as it is for the father and child returned. If not, the house cannot stand.

If the Lord builds your house, it will be filled with hope. Hope shapes the beat of the heart. It transforms the way your eyes connect to your brain.  A heart-shaped by hope looks at the world, and its creatures and sees beauty, potential, and dreams. Pessimism is the enemy of hope. Matter of fact, I think pessimism is the most destructive force to any house. 

In my experience, even people who hate tend to yearn for hope. Pessimistic people shut down hope before it can take hold. Literally, it destroys everything. We build with hope to hold out the threat of a pessimistic invader.

A house needs to be built with prayer. We are spiritual creatures. Our desire to be connected with God or the life force greater than ourselves is genetically woven into us. You can fight it all you want, but in the end, we desire God. Like St. Augustine wrote, “O Lord, our hearts are restless until it rests in you.” How can you find rest unless you speak to and listen for God?

Finally, if the Lord builds your house, it will be filled with community. The truth is the human heart needs more than God. Even God knows this to be true. No matter what happens with technology, the human heart yearns to be with friends and strangers. Community is like breathing, sometimes it can be difficult, but we cannot live without it.

You can build a house without these tools, but I think the endeavor will be pointless. At least, this is what Psalm 127 means to me.


Click to read Psalm 127

Reflection Questions:

  • When has a construction project seemed pointless?

  • What tools would you see as necessary for building?

  • How often have you dealt with the difficulty of grace?

  • Where are you currently in the middle of a spiritual construction project?

Like it? Take a moment to support Ordinary Voices on Patreon.


More for you . . .

From the blog . . .


Share to Care