Living in Central Europe not too long after the fall of the communism, it was interesting to see “adaptations” people made in life, to learn to cope with the challenges of such an oppressive system. Commonplace through almost every region I ever visited, were half built, unfinished homes.
Quite often I would get an invitation to just such a home, which on the inside was usually fully finished, totally complete, beautiful on the inside, just with an addition or a second floor that was nothing more than concrete, bricks and rebar. These additions were solidly built, concrete footers and foundation laid, plumbing and conduit in place, but usually that was it.
After observing this trend in building for quite some time, I asked one of my hosts, what they were building and when did they anticipate finishing the project. Leaning forward towards me as though to tell me a secret, he whispered “maybe never.” He went on to explain that when building homes in that region, you didn’t have to pay taxes on them until they were “complete.” So they generally made their building plans with the possibility of never completing the house, but built the house foundation so that it could still withstand the elements, should they ever need to. This was usually an extra room that would never be missed, but it needed to be part of the plan. Among themselves, they never needed to ask, “so what are you building?” Everyone knew the scheme. It was one way the average person was able to manage in that oppression, but never in their planning would they have invested in anything that wouldn’t still be standing if the day came they needed to finish building.
According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. I Corinthians 3:10-14 KJV
In context, following a response to people taking credit or at least bragging about their prominence or role in Christianity, Paul establishes that though he himself has built a level of “foundation,” there is really only one foundation. No one apart from Christ can lay the true foundation, that has been done, it is complete, it is perfect.
With that established, now Paul moves onto Christ followers “taking heed,” that is, being discerning about what they build on such a spectacular foundation.
Have you ever had to pick up where someone else left off? Like they started the project, laid the foundation for you to come and complete stage 2, but the work was so immaculate, you feared your contribution would possibly mess it up.
Well, this is Paul’s warning when he says, “take heed,” show discernment about what you build on such a perfect foundation, so that whatever you contribute will last. Some things will, some clearly won’t: gold, silver, precious stones… they have a chance. In fact, they are fitting for such an extraordinary foundation. But wood, hay, stubble… what chance will they have when the trials by fire come. And they will come.
The inference here is clear, it’s possible for us to waste our efforts on things that will not last, investing time, resources, energy only to discover that later it was all for nothing. Paul suggests here that we see our efforts as an investment, an investment in things that will stand the test of time. This begs the question of each of us, what exactly is it that we are building.
Dr. Ronald J. Barnes, Jr.
January 3, 2023