Here’s a quandary for you. When you see a building going up — who gets the credit? Is it the contractor, the supplier, the fund-raiser? Or what about the architect, or the laborers? I know that a whole bunch of people will be at least partially taking credit for my church’s new building. The contractor and the stone supplier and the stained glass guy have already asked for pictures to use in their advertising. I’m sure the architect will have our picture up in his office soon, and I’m sure that, before long, the foundation that gave us our loan will have our picture on their flyers. And I can name a few people who’ve been instrumental in this whole thing in the congregation, too. So who’s right?
Who can really claim responsibility for the finished product? I don’t want to start any quarrels among our building community, so I won’t give an answer for that question. But having three people within a week ask if they could use our picture for their advertising did make me think. We like to take credit for good things, don’t we? That comes to us naturally. Here’s the issue: We do it spiritually too. We don’t always notice it, but we try to take the credit from God.
In Hebrews 3, God’s word really addresses this issue. Written to believers who were looking for reasons for all the good things in their lives (and starting to look to themselves for those reasons), Hebrews 3:4 says: "Every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything…. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast."
If you read this article last week, you may remember the theme: "Be a builder." Look at what God’s word tells us is so vital this week. In order to be a builder — we need to be built up. And only God can do that.
I know, our hearts that are self-centered by nature try to take credit. Whether it is trying to convince ourselves that we somehow chose God, or that God knew we’d be so great so he chose us… whether it is looking at our actions as reason for God’s love or as cause of his blessings… our hearts want to take credit. They want to take credit that is only God’s. If that weren’t so, you’d never be envious of someone else’s blessings. If we were giving credit to God, you’d never feel slighted if you don’t feel appreciated enough. If we truly remembered that God is the builder of everything, that he made us and repairs us with his forgiveness and strength, that he builds us… if we remembered that — you would each get along perfectly with everyone else. But we forget. Yes, every house, every heart, every good thing is built by someone — but it is not you. Sometimes you’ve got to remind yourselves of that. It’s not me. It’s him. God is the builder of everything.
And for all the times we forget, God built our salvation through his son Jesus. Hebrews 3:1 tells us to "fix our thoughts" on him because, seeing what he did, we have to realize that our efforts can’t build the perfection God requires — Jesus already has. He built our salvation with the wood and nails of the cross, paying the price for our sins. He built our salvation with his blood, sweat and tears as he lived perfection in our place. He builds our salvation by attaching us to that house of faith and forgiveness with some things we might not think of as building materials: the water of baptism, the bread and wine of communion, the word.
And his building will stand. Thank God that God is the builder of everything. Let’s return to him and be built up.
The Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.