Are We Building Up or Tearing Down?
Though we may not always appreciate it, one of the great values of the wonderful book of Proverbs is that the inspired wisdom frequently hits close to home. We do well to reflect upon the sayings and make personal application to self as warranted.
Consider, if you will, the rather pointed observation of Proverbs 14:1: “Every wise woman builds up her home, but a foolish one tears it down with her own hands.” (CJB)
The proverb is not speaking about the building or destroying of a physical structure, but to the building up of a family. A wise woman makes decisions which make her family stronger, more loving, more united and better than it otherwise would have been. Through her tireless dedication, she nurtures, admonishes, and loves those in her care so that at the end of the task, when she is closing her eyes and preparing to sleep, she knows that the home she has built will weather her absence.
The foolish woman, on the other hand ends up with a broken family – and it is her fault based entirely on the choices she made, the words she used, the behavior she encouraged, and the way she drove those close to her away. That’s a hard lesson because we so often want to blame others when we ourselves are the ones destroying the relationships we hold dear.
As an immediate application, God is reminding us that if you want a strong home: wisdom, drawn from His Word, and applied to the family life, is key; otherwise, sinful, selfish words and actions will only destroy that which we want to preserve. And, as a warning, we do well to realize that years of work can be undone by moments of foolishness. Though a potter may labor for days over a particular vessel, it is the works of mere seconds to shatter the same.
While the proverb is pointed at women in particular, it is equally applied to men. Husbands and fathers who want a strong family must work to build the same up in wisdom, while guarding against those foolish words and actions which will undo all the labor that has gone before.
What is true of the home, is true of the larger world beyond. The proverb’s application stretches to encompass many walks of life: our community, our jobs, our friendships, and even the church itself.
In each case, there is a community built upon relationships between people. These relationships are made stronger through the values and wisdom God teaches in His word. Honesty, integrity, selflessness, faithfulness, love, compassion, kindness, goodness, self-control… values such as these can only strengthen the bonds between people. Likewise, gossip, theft, ridicule, scorn, infidelity, violence, drunkenness, selfishness and greed… these sorts of behaviors tear apart the fabrics of societies, breeding distrust and isolation, and making life more difficult for all involved.
Strong homes, strong communities, strong churches and strong friendships: none of these things happen by accidents. They are built up through wisdom and perseverance, with each member of the community in question acting responsible and loving. When we choose to act otherwise, we bear responsibility for the damage that follows.
The world around us is too often torn apart by those who give no thought to the future of their respective communities as they act irresponsible, selfishly and sometimes even violently. We see images on the television of men and women tearing apart their own homes, their own towns and their own families as they lash out, engaging in self-destructive behavior. This behavior can take the form of rioting, drug-abuse, theft, divorce, alcohol, or a myriad of other sinful behaviors. In each case, the damage done does not just harm those around the perpetrator, but rebounds upon themselves with consequence after consequence.
It may sound cliché, but it’s still true – we must choose to be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem. We bear responsibility for our own actions and how we are choosing to build up our relationships with those around us. Rather than blaming others for the misfortunes that befall our relationships, we do better to examine our own conduct and whether we are building up or tearing down that which we hold dear.