When Others Tear Down What You’ve Built (a parable for these times)

demolish-498443_640The man sat on the park bench staring. No joy from the children in the park. No interest in the chess tournament at the tables to the left.

Jesus settled beside him and elbowed him in the ribs. “What gives, John? Why the long face?”

John shrugged. “I just thought I was building something, you know.”

“What did you think you were building?”

“Well, I worked hard to be a good husband and thought I was building a solid marriage.”

Jesus nodded, smiling at the children. “Stella left you for that guy who owns the car dealership where you’ve bought every car you’ve ever owned.”

“Yeah. And I’ve worked to be a faithful pastor. I thought I was building a ministry but a lot of people want me to step down now that my marriage is over. People are talking behind my back – people I’ve trusted and loved.”

“This, I’ve heard.”

“Plus, I’ve worked hard to build a family. Prayed for my children and taught them about you. The girls are doing well but Tyler is so angryalone-513525_640 with Stella, so disappointed, he’s walked away from you and he’s shut me out. Everything I’ve worked to build someone else is tearing down. I have so little to show for all my labors.”

Jesus touched John’s arm and kept His hand in place until John looked into His eyes. “’Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.'”

“Seriously? My bank account barely even qualifies as one and we’ll have to sell the house I worked so hard to buy. I have no treasure. What does that mean to me right now?”

“It should mean everything, John. You’ve stockpiled more treasure than you know. You think that what I seek are people who can accomplish things. People who build things that will stand here on earth. But, you see, I am the builder and the labors of your heart, soul, mind, and strength provide the material I use to build a home for you.”

“So, I’ll be spending eternity in a shack on Heaven’s beach?”

Jesus laughed. A rolling belly laugh so loud the chess players stopped to stare. “What’s so funny?” John asked, bewildered at Jesus’ amusement.

“You’re funny, John. That’s one of the things I love about you. You hold onto your sense of humor even when life beats you down. And there’s  a spark of fight left in you, yes?” Jesus inhaled and collected Himself. “Your faithful labors matter in my eyes and in my kingdom. You were an imperfect but faithful and loving husband. You are an imperfect but godly, persistent father. You are an imperfect but loving and truthful shepherd who handles the Word with care. These choices you’ve made are investments in a treasure no one on earth will be able to steal even if right now they haven’t achieved what you desired they would.”

sad-659422_640Donna sat in her car in the parking lot of corporate headquarters trying to collect herself before the others left for the day. Jesus rapped on the passenger window, opened the door, and slid in beside her, offering her a tissue.

She couldn’t look in His direction without falling apart. If she started crying now, a warehouse of tissues wouldn’t absorb her tears. They sat without speaking for a long time.

“It’s not fair, you know, Jesus. All my hard work, everything I’ve built, it’s all about to be torn down.”

“Is that what you think?” He replied.

“What else is there to think? I’ve never smoked a day in my life and somehow I end up with lung cancer. I’ve devoted my entire career to building this company but now my father’s turning the reins over to my brother because I can’t keep up through the treatments that don’t appear to be working. You saw them standing together discussing Doug’s proposed changes. All he considers is the bottom line and he’s always resisted the charitable programs and employee benefits programs I’ve championed. My whole life is falling down around me. I took care of this business. I took care of my body. And now, here I am, unmarried, childless, facing death and I have nothing.”

“You feel as though you have nothing?”

“C’mon, don’t act as though you don’t get it. I stood up at every missions conference in college promising you I’d go anywhere to build your kingdom. When it was clear my calling was here, I worked hard to represent you even in corporate America. I pleaded for a husband and family but I surrendered my dreams to you when it was clear they weren’t in the plans and I started that mentoring program through our church but now, I don’t even have the strength to see that through. Everything I’ve built is being destroyed.”

Jesus placed His hand over Donna’s and leaned toward her lowering His voice, “‘For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.’ There is a place, a dimension of reality, for which you don’t yet have the eyes, Donna, but soon, you’ll clearly see that your labors provided rich material with which I could prepare a place for you. Your prayers for everyone you encountered in the corporate world, your witness to your family and staff, the impact you had on many young lives that has yet to bear visible fruit – it was like the finest marble and oak and stone in my hands. What awaits you cannot be torn down and will stand forever.

Donna leaned into Jesus and believed.window-1404515_640

Loved ones, we long to build because we are the children of a Builder. When our efforts fall short of our hopes or when others tear down the visible evidence of what we’ve built in the name of Jesus, we can know there is a place where nothing is lost, nothing is stolen or destroyed, and every choice we’ve made for Jesus matters forever. In the days to come, it will matter even more that we grip this truth with the fist of faith God provides for our endurance.

“As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

Stay the course. Labor in His name. Encourage one another. Don’t lose heart. His kingdom is at hand.


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1 Comment

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  1. favorite line, read with tears in my eyes … tears of confidence in the Father’s hands

    “In the days to come, it will matter even more that we grip this truth with the fist of faith God provides for our endurance.”

    Thank you!