Church buildings serve a purpose. They exist to provide for services by the Church. Whether this is related to making disciples or reaching the lost, that’s their role. They don’t exist to one day be a tourist destination, though if that happens, it happens. They certainly aren’t supposed to be a monument to the congregation that attends there. Homes also serve a purpose. They provide shelter for the family who dwells there. They may also serve as a classroom or an entertainment hub, but at the end of the day their purpose is also limited. Cars serve a purpose, too. They are designed to get us from one point to another as safely and as quickly as is possible. Finally, jobs serve a purpose as well. They provide the material resources to glorify God and provide for our own needs. They serve as a ready mission field for us. All of these are of limited purpose and limited duration. They aren’t to dominate our lives. As recent natural disasters have shown us, they could be gone in a split second. And in that brief moment, all of our work, effort, and resources will have been proven to be for naught if our efforts were for the purposes of that physical object or social position.
In that day man will look to his Maker, and his eyes will look on the Holy One of Israel. He will not look to the altars, the work of his hands, and he will not look on what his own fingers have made, either the Asherim or the altars of incense. In that day their strong cities will be like the deserted places of the wooded heights and the hilltops, which they deserted because of the children of Israel, and there will be desolation. – Isaiah 17:7-9, ESV
The full warning from Isaiah was that Israel would be brought low as a nation (17:4-6) because it had forgotten God (17:10-11). The verses I quoted describe the people in that day, when they stopped looking at their own creations, their false altars, their mighty cities, and the works of their hands because those things had been shown to be of no real value. Israel would be conquered and those things which once were the focus of the people there would be like dust. This is because God would deliver judgment since they had forgotten about Him, because they had put their things and their works before Him.
We can be so guilty of doing the same thing. There are plenty of tales of church congregations that focus on their buildings, on their land, on their pulpits, on their gyms which are often called “Life Centers.” They focus on these to the detriment of reaching the lost around them and being a mission-minded church trying to reach the lost throughout the world. None of these things, in the proper focus, are wrong. If they are kept in the proper focus, they are resources to use to build to Kingdom.
Other folks focus on their homes, on their cars, on their entertainment systems, and so many other material things that have no eternal value. And still others focus on nebulous things like jobs and positions and political capital and the like which won’t stand the test of time. All of these things have a particular purpose. Within their purposes they are fine. The problem comes when we take something outside of the purpose for which God intended. The real issue comes when we focus on these perishing things and take our eyes and our focus off the living God.
If we do that, we put ourselves in the same situation that the Israelites did. We build up something other than God’s glory and one day we’ll have to face the fact that God will wipe it all away. Even if we manage to make it through this lifetime without seeing the destruction of those ephemeral things we allow to consume our time more than they should, we are reminded that there will be a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:1). The monuments we build here, whether physical or not, won’t last. They will be bulldozed over for that which is eternal. We need to be ever mindful of this as we tackle our days, as we plan our time, as we judge where to spend our finances. Let us focus on the timeless, the one and only Living God and what He commands and puts into motion. Let our energies, efforts, and resources be devoted to His Kingdom, for then we build towards that which will last forever. Let us stop being myopic with the resources God has entrusted to us as stewards and instead use them wisely for that which never fades away. Let us cling to the eternal.