I first became a homeowner when I was 25. It was a small run-down rental in a suburb of Sacramento, California. My wife and I decided we could buy it at a good price and “fix it up” ourselves in preparation for our soon-to-arrive first child. I had never done any kind of remodel work or even basic house projects for that matter. And this was before YouTube do-it-yourself videos. But it seemed like a good idea at the time. And thus I began to climb a steep learning curve: painting, wallpapering, roofing, siding, wiring, digging (an inground sprinkler system). Many mistakes, and a lot of money, later, our house was pretty much the way we wanted it. And then we sold it and joined Youth With A Mission (YWAM), all five of us living in one bedroom for more than a year.
Upon reflection, there are a couple of valuable life-lessons I learned, besides “measuring twice to cut only once” and that aligning wallpaper patterns does matter. For one, it is not good for someone with a red-green color blind condition to do household electrical work (a true story for another time). But probably even more important to be applied to the big picture of life is that the quality of the materials you use in your projects makes a difference – especially long-term.
My tendency has been to go cheap to save money. There are always less expensive toilet-repair kits, garden hoses, and brands of paint that catch my eye and keep more in my wallet. In contrast, my wife’s mantra has always been, you get what you pay for, so go with quality for the things that are important. We have had more than a few disagreements over this topic when money was tight (more true stories for another time). But, as the years have gone by and after many repeated repair jobs, paying again to replace the same part, I have come pretty close to now agreeing with her. The bottom line is, I want things to last. And making that happen never comes cheap.
The Most Important Investments
Yes, the Bible does have some things to say about quality building materials and lasting dwelling places. There is Jesus’ parable about the man who built his house on the rock (Matthew 7:24-27). We’re told that it is the quality and wisdom of Jesus’ teachings that are solid enough to be the foundation of our lives and keep us from collapsing in the storm. Of course, there is the cost of studying, meditating on, memorizing, and loving His word to actually have the benefits of this foundation.
But there is another passage that intrigues me, found in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15:
“According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw – each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (ESV).
We are being told here that the choices we followers of Jesus make in this life are the basis of the building materials for our dwelling place in the next life. The promise is that in order to enter our eternal existence we will be raised up with a new incorruptible body (like Jesus’s resurrection body). An eternal physical body will need an eternal physical home in the Kingdom of God where heaven and earth are finally fully joined together. We are instructed to start the construction process now. But what are the building materials that will make such a house?
Temporal Stuff and Eternal Substance
Gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, and straw. None of them sound spiritual or eternal. But they represent various qualities of value and permanence in our human experience. The first three are what we associate in this life with costly substances that endure through time. The final three are not necessarily that valuable in and of themselves and are very much temporary. Fire, we are told, will test the eternal quality of what we have chosen to invest in our lives. Some investments will be completely consumed to extinction, while others will come out glowing, revealing their eternal, innate value.
I don’t know if the fire is referring to trials and suffering in this world or if it is something that we experience after death. But the point is, if we have invested in inferior, combustible building materials for our eternal home, they will be exposed, and we will end up with nothing to show for all our labor in this life. Interestingly, the Apostle Paul does add that we will still be saved, but we won’t have what we could have if we had given our attention to eternally valuable heavenly qualities.
As beautiful and valuable as gold, silver, and precious stones are, I do not believe they are literally going to be the building materials of our future homes. Here’s my thought: several times in the New Testament, there are three qualities mentioned together that we are to treasure and pursue now. “Three things will last forever – faith, hope, and love – and the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13 NLT).
The Most Solid Assets of All Time
Yes, I believe here we have a short list of what we need to stock up on for the future big construction project. Faith, or trust, or complete reliance on God’s goodness. Its value does not end with our final earthly breath. The faith we exercise now prepares us for what is coming and somehow, I believe, will translate into wealth for our eternal dwelling place.
In the same way, hope, or confidence that the future is always leading us closer to God’s goodness, is also that which will continue to be necessary for our eternal future. Enduring now with hope in God’s faithfulness regardless what things look like is not only important for this life but is vital preparation for our never-ending existence.
And of course there is love. It is the greatest quality we can commit ourselves to now as well as the essence of life to come. We must learn what it means to love God above all other things and then to love the people around us with that same love. It’s the fundamental fabric of our future homes – but also the most costly in this life.
Resist Spiritual Cheapness
How committed are we to stockpiling these “materials”? These three are what take us through the fires of life and eternity and allow us to come out the other side strong, polished, and even more beautiful. We must recognize the temporary, inferior quality of the “wood, hay, and straw” we are tempted to collect and give ourselves to now. None of it will last. And it certainly will not make a suitable forever-home.
High quality building materials always cost more. Don’t be afraid to invest into that which lasts forever. You won’t regret it.