January 3, 2018
Decades of putting up Christmas lights on the exterior of our house has become a routine that requires little thought. I just do it. But on Monday, as I removed them, I experienced a needed reminder. I realized that I spent the usual several hours putting them up, but removing them took about 20 minutes.
I thought about the process of building a house and how quickly years of effort can be destroyed. A family saves money, draws plans, lives in limited space, works extra hours and finally occupies the house. But through a natural disaster or because of a careless deed, that house can be destroyed in minutes.
We all know of people who were dedicated students and committed interns entering exciting careers, building a reputation of excellence. But a foolish relationship – often the result of one inappropriate conversation – destroyed their reputation and hurt many other people.
Words have building power that can encourage the faint-hearted and give hope to the hurting. But a thoughtless word can destroy a relationship and a reputation – often beyond repair.
The writer of Ecclesiastes said, “There is a time to tear down and a time to rebuild” and that God has made everything beautiful (or appropriate) in its time. There is a time to put up the lights and a time to take them down. But it is never beautiful to ruin someone’s reputation or to destroy our own potential. Building involves far too much effort to allow careless tearing down.
James 1:19 is a good reminder for today, the New Year and the rest of our life: “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” It offers a context for building and a caution against tearing down.
Pastor Bill Ehmann