For anyone looking to the Bible to support laziness, the two phrases “unless the Lord builds” it and “unless the Lord guards” it could serve as a foundation. Our resignation that only God can build the house or that only God can guard the city can easily result in proverbial hand-wringing that absolves everyone of responsibility. However, to conclude that God is the exclusive actor and that humanity is the debt-free recipient overlooks the critical transformation that occurs when we strive to live as followers of God.
At some level, everyone builds and guards. Even establishing a family can help us build and guard for the future. Children provide security and stability for old age. They also provide support during difficult times. But whether building or guarding a physical structure or a family, our labor is futile unless we rely upon God.
During a conversation with a surgeon, I heard him describe occasions during surgery in which he felt that he had exhausted the limits of his knowledge and training. Nevertheless, he could feel God taking over and working through him—guiding his hands and decisions—to complete the procedure successfully.
For all of us, our labor does not focus upon personal goals and achievements; our efforts are for the glory of God. In these efforts, there is no shame.
God of all wisdom, help us always to celebrate you when we labor to build or protect. Amen.
Ruth’s story forms part of the background of the family of Jesus. The son of Ruth and Boaz, Obed, is David’s grandfather. The women of Bethlehem rejoice with Naomi at the birth of her grandson, and the psalmist declares that children are a blessing from God. In the scriptures children are spoken of only as a blessing, never as a liability (unlike some narratives in our culture). The Hebrew writer builds upon the eternal nature of Christ’s sacrifice, proclaiming that his death was sufficient once for all. In Mark, Jesus warns his disciples not to be fooled by appearances. Those who put on a big show of piety do not impress God. God wants us instead to give from the heart, even if no one but God sees.
• Read Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17. How has your life been enriched through the diversity of people around you?
• Read Psalm 127. How do you actively ensure the shaping of your household around godly practice?
• Read Hebrews 9:24-28. What spiritual income do you draw upon to keep your faith and hope alive?
• Read Mark 12:38-44. How do you guard against duplicitous living?
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