Becoming a Wise Builder Songs of Ascent: Practices of the Lifelong Journey Series  Psalm 127
Psalm 127 [ESV] A Song of Ascents. Of Solomon. 1Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. 2It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.
Psalm 127 [ESV] A Song of Ascents. Of Solomon. 3Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. 4Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. 5Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.
PSALM 127: A WISDOM PSALM ABOUT WORK & FAMILY Work & family are two most demanding areas of life. We spend most of our time and energy in these two areas (other than sleep). We also get much joy and heartache from work and family. These two areas often compete with each other for our attention and energy. Psalm 127 is about finding the right perspective on work & family. We can easily lose perspective on work & family. We are often offered superficial answers for balancing our work & family. This wisdom psalm offers overarching principles of building work & family wisely.
BECOMING A WISE BUILDER OF WORK & FAMILY 1)Principle #1: Unless the LORD is with us, our work is in vain. Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. (v.1)
BECOMING A WISE BUILDER OF WORK & FAMILY 1)Principle #1: Unless the LORD is with us, our work is in vain. “Nisi Dominus Frustra”: Without God, all is in vain. (This first principle is the city motto of Edinburgh, Scotland—this is the direct quote from psalm 127:1.) Our work is in vain (1) if God is not with us (Genesis 11, the tower of Babel); (2) if the foundation is weak (Matt 7, built on sand); (3) if we die before completion (Eccl. 2:20-21); (4) if it becomes a house of turmoil (Prov. 17:1). Therefore, we must acknowledge God as the ultimate builder and keeper of our work—trusting, being patient for, and submitting to God’s will.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men… Colossians 3:23
BECOMING A WISE BUILDER OF WORK & FAMILY 2)Principle #2: Anxious, fanatical work is in vain—it comes from a distorted view of work. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. (v.2)
BECOMING A WISE BUILDER OF WORK & FAMILY 2)Principle #2: Anxious, fanatical work is in vain—it comes from a distorted view of work. Two poles of unbalanced approach to work: (1) Babel [self-reliant workaholism] Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth."... Genesis 11:4 (2) Thessalonica [over-spiritualized laziness]. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: "If a man will not work, he shall not eat." 2 Thessalonians 3:10
BECOMING A WISE BUILDER OF WORK & FAMILY 2)Principle #2: Anxious, fanatically excessive work is in vain—it comes from a distorted view of work. Two poles of distortion: (1) workaholism and (2) laziness. The right view of work: Work in itself is good—but it can be distorted by (1) wrong motives (selfishness), (2) wrong values (materialism), and (3) wrong beliefs (self-sufficiency). Two possible translations/meanings of verse 2b: (1) “he gives to his beloved sleep” [God gives us rest from work]; (2) “he gives to his beloved in his sleep” [God provides for us even while we sleep]. Therefore, we need to be vigilant against these worldly vices that distort our view of work.
At the Root of Workaholism The selfishness of the perfectionist [workaholic] is much more subtle. While he is out in society saving humanity at a work pace of eighty to a hundred hours a week, he is selfishly ignoring his wife and children. He is burying his emotions and working like a computerized robot. He helps mankind partially out of love and compassion, but mostly as an unconscious compensation for his insecurity, and as a means of fulfilling both his strong need for society’s approval and his driving urge to be perfect. He is self- critical and deep within himself feels inferior. He feels like a nobody, and spends the bulk of his life working at a frantic pace to prove to himself that he is really not (as he suspects deep within) a nobody. In his own eyes, and in the eyes of society, he is the epitome of human dedication… In reality, his wife and children are correct, and they are suffering severely because of his subtle selfishness. - Frank Minirth and Paul Meier
BECOMING A WISE BUILDER OF WORK & FAMILY 3)Principle #3: The key to becoming a wise builder of work & family is GOD-CENTERED LIVING. 3Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. 4Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. 5Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate. (vs.3-5)
BECOMING A WISE BUILDER OF WORK & FAMILY 3)Principle #3: The key to becoming a wise builder of work & family is GOD-CENTERED LIVING. Children are an illustration of God’s grace for us—they are a gift/heritage from God. Children, God’s gift, provide us with the very things for which we labor in vain: home/family & security/protection. God-centered living leads us to God-intended work and God-intended family in which we experience God’s grace through daily trust and obedience. Therefore, a healthy balanced life in work & family is a result of God-centered living—i.e., life is simplified and well-ordered by the “right center”!
Who Is at the Center? The entire miracle of procreation and reproduction requires our participation, but hardly in the form of what we call our work. We did not make these marvelous creatures that walk and talk and grow among us. We participated in an act of love which was provided for us in the structure of God’s creation... Relentless, compulsive work habits which our society rewards and admires are seen by the psalmist as a sign of weak faith and assertive pride, as if God could not be trusted to accomplish his will, as if we could rearrange the universe by our own effort... The pilgrimage is not at the center; the Lord is at the center. No matter how hard they struggled to get there, no matter what they did in the way of heroics—fending off bandits, clubbing lions and crushing wolves—that is not what is to be sung. Psalm 127 insists on a perspective in which our effort is at the periphery and God’s work is at the center. - Eugene Peterson
Praying the Songs of Ascent #8 — Psalm 127 [MSG] A Pilgrim Song of Solomon 1-2 If God doesn't build the house, the builders only build shacks. If God doesn't guard the city, the night watchman might as well nap. It's useless to rise early and go to bed late, and work your worried fingers to the bone. Don't you know he enjoys giving rest to those he loves?
Praying the Songs of Ascent #8 — Psalm 127 [MSG] A Pilgrim Song of Solomon 3-5 Don't you see that children are God's best gift? the fruit of the womb his generous legacy? Like a warrior's fistful of arrows are the children of a vigorous youth. Oh, how blessed are you parents, with your quivers full of children! Your enemies don't stand a chance against you; you'll sweep them right off your doorstep.
PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS FOR OUR EVERYDAY LIFE 1.Be vigilant against THE WORLDLY VICES THAT DISTORT YOUR VIEW of work and family. Know what they are for you and be ready for it (e.g., materialism, prestige, self-sufficiency, envy, pride, etc.) Make “pre-decisions” about key issues of your work and family. Pursue godly values in community. 2.Seek GOD-CENTERED LIVING in all areas of your lifelong journey. Keep a God-centered perspective on work & family. Be crystal clear on your priorities in life. Live a balanced life by surrendering your center to God.
Take My Life And Let It Be by Frances R. Havergal, 1874 Take my life, and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee. Take my moments and my days; let them flow in ceaseless praise. Take my hands, and let them move at the impulse of Thy love. Take my feet, and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee. Take my voice, and let me sing always, only, for my King. Take my lips, and let them be filled with messages from Thee. Take my silver and my gold; not a mite would I withhold. Take my intellect, and use every power as Thou shalt choose. Take my will, and make it Thine; it shall be no longer mine. Take my heart, it is Thine own; it shall be Thy royal throne. Take my love, my Lord, I pour at Thy feet its treasure store. Take myself, and I will be ever, only, all for Thee.