Building the Right House

By Rev. David Wilson Rogers |  July 27, 2013

            Were you to build a new house in which you and your family would live, it is safe to say you would want to use a hammer.  Although it sounds ludicrous, it is also safe to say that you would not want a home built out of hammers.  The hammer is a great tool for construction, but it makes for worthless construction material.

            Although we may all agree that there is a distinct difference between the tools that are used to build a house and the material that actually makes up the physical building, when it comes to our spiritual houses we often fail to make that same distinction.

            Christianity has many tools, like spiritual hammers, that are provided for us to build our spiritual houses.  They may include the Bible, our church rituals and traditions, the buildings in which we gather as a shared community in praise of God, the songs and hymns we sing, and important things like Bible Studies, prayer meetings, or confirmation and baptism classes.  Sometimes we get out special tools like spiritual retreats or revivals.  We may place a lot of emphasis on the really powerful tools like motivational worship or inspired preaching.  In all their variety, the tools used for building our Spiritual House are incredible and wonderful – and just as useful as a hammer at the construction site.

            Frequently, people find their spiritual houses – the very lives we live in Christ – to be woefully unsatisfying.  As is often the case, we may blame the church, blame its leaders, blame the music in worship, the preaching, the behavior of another Christian, or simply assume that we need to find God elsewhere.  Some people will move from spiritual experience to spiritual experience like a drug addict in the constant quest for the next high.

            In situations like these (and countless others like them) the fundamental problem is that people are trying to build spiritual lives out of the tools of faith rather than use the tools of faith to build a spiritual life.  It is like trying to build a house out of hammers.

            God has a very straightforward warning against this.  It is God’s prohibition against idolatry.  Even though many people tend to think of idolatry as bowing down to carved statues or inanimate objects, it does include making the tools of worship the real object of worship.  When we place more emphasis on the tools (call them methods, rituals, music, traditions, buildings, committees, or scriptures) than we do on actually serving and worshipping God, it is idolatry.  It is sin!

            The rituals, traditions, buildings, music, and scriptures of the faith are all very important and have a vital place.  They are, in many ways, the hammers we need to build the spiritual houses God has in mind for each of us.  It is vital, however, that we always keep them in proper perspective and use them only for what they are – tools to help us draw closer to God.

            The next time you find your spiritual house a little lacking – or if you are there right now and find the Christian faith discouraging and unfulfilling – consider looking at your tools of faith.  Perhaps you are placing too much expectation on the hammer to be the house when you need to be learning to use the hammer to build the house.  Put another way, perhaps we would all do better to stop expecting the church to be the faith for us and start working with the church to build a better faith for all.