We are either building up or tearing down. It’s up or down, folks!
19 Better the poor whose walk is blameless than a [rich] fool whose lips are perverse.
When each decision we make has blessings or consequences both great or small, the idea that we are always building up or tearing down makes sense. This concept is an old one; we have it on record about 3,000 years ago. Jesus confirmed it in His teachings about 2,000 years ago. We will begin with Proverbs and then move to Jesus:
24 The path of life leads upward for the wise
to keep them from going down to the grave. Proverbs 15:24
It’s a lot like rowing a canoe upstream. If one ever stops rowing, the canoe does not stay in one place, but begins to drift back downstream. Jesus put it this way,
30 “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Matthew 12:30
Another metaphor used to describe whether we are building up or tearing down is building a temple. Jesus first used the metaphor in Scripture in Matthew 16,
18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
Paul elaborated on this metaphor in Ephesians 2 when he was describing the new humanity that God was making out of two (Jews and Gentiles).
19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.
Paul refers to the foundation of eye-witnesses and prophecy; he then uses a 3,000-year-old psalm to tie it to Jesus, who did the tying Himself. The reference is Psalm 118:22-23, which Jesus quotes,
17 Jesus looked directly at them and asked, “Then what is the meaning of that which is written:
“‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’? Luke 20:17
Paul does something extraordinary next:
21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
He uses people as the building blocks of a new temple in which God lives by His Spirit! One of the interpretations of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21:9-27 is that it is a metaphor of the people of God, His Church, His Bride, which follows Paul’s analogy quite closely.
If we are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), then we are either building up the temple of God or tearing it down, so to speak, with our actions and our words. May we ask the Spirit each and every time if what we are about to say or do is going to build up or tear down. I am always reminded of Proverbs 17:28, which says, “Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.” Just because we “think it” doesn’t mean we have to say it. Let’s be wise in the Lord, shall we?
Abba, thank You for patiently instructing me to ask before speaking or doing. I just wish I thought to ask every time! I know that sin destroys us along with whatever we are doing, including relationships, and You don’t want us to destroy ourselves or others. May we all learn to listen to Your Spirit ever more closely each day. Amen.