Sunday, September 16, 2007

"Unless the Lord buils the house, they labor in vain who build it" (Psalm 127)

A Song of Ascents, of Solomon

Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.
Unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain.
It is vain for you to rise up early, to delay sitting, to eat the bread of toils.
Foe He gives to His beloved sleep

Behold, children are a gift of the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth.
How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.
They shall not be ashamed when they speak with their enemies in the gate.

- Psalm 127

Psalm 127 leads us to ascend by humbling ourselves in our work and families, where through conceit we are so often humiliated.

Our work is the taproot of our pride. Pride is a drug, by which we banish our feelings of self-contempt and inadequacy in just the same way that some do with chemicals like cocaine or meth. A most efficient way to purchase pride is to accomplish something we can boast of. Junkies and crackheads gladly "rise early, delay sitting, and eat the bread of toils" to get their next fix - and so do pride addicts.

Here we read that all this work is vain - useless. The reason for that is not that building, watching, and other labor are in themselves useless. As Paul wrote elsewhere, if anyone is unwilling to work, neither let him eat. But we need, like Jesus, to work where we see our Father working, which is faith, rather than working because we think God won't, which is unbelief - and it's rebellion too, since if God doesn't want to do it, what are we in there for? That kind of labor is indeed useless. It all winds up in the fire, having done nothing for us except to feed our pride, which when the high is over leaves us only the opposition of heaven - and that gets old.

If our building succeeds because God is building, and our watching works because God is watching, we have nothing to brag about. But we have a real answer to our self-contempt: God himself is honoring us with the privilege of working with him on the job. We have satisfaction in our work, but it's clean. We're not vaunting ourselves against God or other people, but sharing in the life of God the Worker who has made us workers in his image and likeness.

In conclusion, children are a gift of the Lord, not monuments to our great skill and diligence as parents. The children of one's youth are the children we get when we don't have sense enough to come in out of the rain. I think that if our kids were the end product of a long life, like a business or one of the other works we do, our conceit would be completely without limit.

As I've begun reflecting on these things, I've seen that kids are not simply a burden and a lot of trouble. They just look that way when we want to make them the means to show the world how marvelous we are, what great families we have, so that seeing our family portraits on our campaign literature they will vote for us. Children are not given to us to build monuments to our glory before men; being "the gift of the Lord," they are not designed by God to be consumed on our pride.

The gift of the Lord is to lead us to humble ourselves so that God can lift us up. Some of my kids look to be in better shape than others. But all in different ways have given me nothing to brag about. That's not something wrong with them. In this they are working as designed, being the gift of the Lord to me. They're breaking my addiction to the pride which goes before stumbling, the haughty spirit that goes before a fall, by doing well often in spite of me. Last week Jacob spurned my advice when buying a car, and his choice was right.

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