I have always loved these verses from Psalm 127. Its a great reminder that we need God’s blessing for success. We can’t claim or hope for success on our own, and we can’t take pride in success because we are reliant on the Lord. All of our talent and ability comes from him. Our every breath comes from him. He deserves all the credit for all that we do that is good and worthwhile.
Our culture teaches us that we get good things if we work hard. We labor to reach our goals, and when things work out we take pride in our accomplishments. That’s the American way of doing things, the American way of seeing the world, right? Build a career. Earn a good income. Buy a home. Save for retirement. Take nice vacations. Build a secure future for yourself and your children. That way of life is a success, apparently. Look around at the prosperity in America, compared to most of the rest of history, and most of the rest of the world. The American view of work and self reliance is a success story, at least if your goal is material prosperity.
Jesus said that where we place our treasure, there our heart is also. He went on to say that we can’t serve two masters. Either we can serve money, or we can serve God, but we can’t do both. WE could substitute other words for “money” in that statement. We cannot serve bot God and other gods as well. It doesn’t work.
What I want to do is layer God over my American life and world view, like a veneer. I’m learning that this isn’t just about my attititude about material possessions, or bringing God into my life in the hope that he will bless me. It goes deeper, that when our purposes aren’t aimed at God, those efforts are also in vain. Usually when we say that we’re engaged in God’s work, we don’t really mean that its God’s work. We really mean it in the sense that it is our work, and he’s the sponsor. God hasn’t commissioned me to go off and do something on my own, with occasional input, feedback and resources from him. Psalm 127 doesn’t say “Unless the Lord blesses us, our efforts are in vain.” It is the Lord who builds the house, and guards the city. It isn’t just that we need the Lord to participate in our activities. The idea isn’t that we bring God along side and layer him over our work and lives. Rather, we pursue God, we discover his heart and his work, and he invites us into what he is doing.
In Matthew 6 Jesus said “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ … But seek first His kingdeom and righteasouness and all these things will be added to you.” Notice that he didn’t just say that we should not worry primarily about what we’ll eat, drink, and wear. He wasn’t saying that we should add His kingdom and righteousness to our list, and maybe bump it to the front of the other things. He said, “Do not worry about those other things. Instead, pursue God’s kingdom and righteousness.” We don’t add God to our lives and otherwise leave things the same. We have to replace our daily concerns, goals, and dreams with him and his goals. Then he will take care of all of those things that we used to worry about.
I was reminded this week of Gideon when God told him to send most of the army home. God was planning to save Israel from their enemies. He didn’t want anybody to mistake where the rescue came from. In fact, they did make that mistake, and elevated Gideon as the hero instead of God. That mistake cost them in the next generation. I find that I do this as well. I start out doing the activities that I think God is commissioning, and then I pray for him to bless it (especially when I find myself in trouble), and then when God actually does something good I want to take at least a healthy chunk of credit. Shouldn’t I take some credit for God choosing me for his work? Well no, God chose me because he’s like that, not because I was worthy. How about for saying “Yes,” do I get credit for that? Well no, not really any more than taking credit for God’s choice. What about for doing the work. Surely I can take pride in doing God’s work, for success in my ministry efforts.
“Think about the circumstances of your call, brothers and sisters. Not many were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were born to a privileged position. But God chose what the world thinks foolish to shame the wise, and God chose what the world thinks weak to shame the strong. God chose what is low and despised in the world, what is regarded as nothing, to set aside what is regarded as something, so that no one can boast in his presence. He is the reason you have a relationship with Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.'” (1 Corinthians 1: 26-31 NET)
When I consider that God chose me, that consideration includes that I am foolish, and weak, and low and despised. When I think of what God has called me to, and what he has done, I cannot boast that he has chosen me, or that he has done good things in and around me, or even in my assent. I bring nothing, but I gain so much in the process. God is so good, and he loves me so much, and I still have absolutely nothing to offer but what is foolish and weak and low.
Praise God for his grace, and mercy, and kindness! Praise him for his works, and for stooping so far as to allow me to be a part of what he does. It’s all him, and he’s all good.