Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.(Psalms 127:1-5 ESV)
Men have the privilege and responsibility to protect and provide for their families. I know that sounds kind of old fashioned. But even today’s male, as metro and PC as he now is, if he is honest with himself, deep down he has the drive to protect and provide for women and children. It’s part of his God-given masculinity.
However, that good drive gets tainted by our culture of broken masculinity which says that we must do everything on our own. It says that real men can do it all independently and in their own strength and power. We don’t need help. We don’t need to ask for directions. We’ve got it all figured out. Our intelligence and ingenuity are all we need to build a successful relationship, a home, a family, a career, and a life.
And so we macho and muscle our way through. We build. We provide. We protect. We try to build a life, a home, a marriage, and a family the best we know how. We struggle, and so we try to build harder and faster. Life as we designed it starts looking great! Unfortunately, it is a sandcastle and can’t withstand the waves.
Fast forward seven years or so, and we find ourselves stuck in a job we don’t like, in a house that’s upside down, and over half of us have already lost our wives, or we soon will. And most of us, married or divorced, feel like we don’t even know our kids. They won’t even talk to us. Who can blame them? We didn’t talk much to them all those years we were working so hard to give them a “better life.”
Ever feel like all you do is in vain? Ever feel like you have nothing to show for your years of effort? Does eating the bread of anxious toil still leave you hungry?
Many guys are trying to live in the house that Jack built. (Emphasis is on the name, “Jack,” as in “male donkey.”) We’ve done all we know to do. We’ve given it all we’ve got. It still seems to be in vain. We feel like we’ve been spinning our wheels.
Three times the word “vain” is used in the first few verses of Psalm 127.
Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil.
God does not want men to go at it alone. He wants us to humble ourselves and admit that we need help. We must build our lives on his principles. He invented the family, and he wants us to hand the building of our homes over to him. He wants us to do life, work, and family his way and in his strength, not in our own ways and our own strength.
When I do it my own way and in my own strength, I fail and fall. As the man of the house, when I fail and fall, a lot of people get hurt. A lot of innocent little vulnerable people that I’m supposed to be protecting get hurt.
How can we live in the house that God builds?
1. Follow God’s Principles
Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.
Jesus said that a wise man builds his house on the rock. “The Rock” is hearing and obeying the teachings of Jesus in The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Read through that sermon and seek to apply the principles in your marriage and parenting. You’ll begin to start living in a house that’s being built by God.
2. Ask for God’s Protection
Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.
Look, there is nothing wrong with keeping a loaded 45 in your nightstand. But after that, say your prayers, go to bed, and get some sleep. Don’t worry yourself into the grave. Anxiety and fear will kill you. Pray, then sleep. It will do wonders for you.
Pray regularly for your family’s protection. Pray for your wife and pray for your children. Pray that God would not only protect them from evil but from the Evil One himself. Pray that God will preserve them through temptation and make them wise unto salvation. Their protection is ultimately up to him. He gave them to us and so we must entrust their care to him.
3. Trust in God’s Provision
It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.
Guys, again, some of us just need to get some more sleep. Working harder and longer just isn’t working. The bread of anxious toil still leaves us hungry, and it leaves us neglecting other more important priorities.
God will provide for us everything we need, but that doesn’t mean he will give us everything we want. Some of us should probably downsize. Driving an older car, living in a smaller house, staying out of restaurants, and budgeting our money is worth the extra peace, sleep, and time devoted to more important things.
It’s sad when a guy comes in for marriage counseling, and he explains how he just can’t afford to cut back his work hours to spend more time at home. He needs the overtime. Or, he just can’t get away to take a vacation with his family because of the demands and expense of owning his own business. Time is money. Then he pulls out of the parking lot in a $40,000 pick up truck.
4. Have God’s Priorities
Speaking of spending time on priorities….
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.
A “heritage from the Lord” means that our children come from the Lord as gifts, like an inheritance that’s been passed down to us. Children are a blessing and a reward from him. Our children are not ours to do with as we please. God has entrusted them to us as stewards. This means we must raise them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
Someday, like arrows in the hand of a mighty warrior, we will shoot out children into the world where they will make their own mark. If they are going to leave a positive mark, we must make sure we value our children. We must give them lots of time, lots of talk, and lots of touch. Treating them as gifts from God means that we treasure them, honor them, and give ourselves to them.
I was just reflecting this morning on the reality that my daughter is 12 years old. If she goes off to college at 18, this means that two-thirds of my time with her is already gone! The years go by so fast!
I want to live in a house the God builds. I don’t want to be a Jack. I don’t want to try and muscle my way through this marriage, family, and parenting thing on my own. I can’t. You can’t either. Thankfully, we don’t have to.
Instead of putting that kind of pressure on ourselves, we need to follow God’s principles so that we build our house on the rock. We need to quit spending our time and treasure on what doesn’t matter and trust God for his protection and his provision of our families. Our obligation is to hold those little arrows in our hands and give them all the nurture, love, acceptance, and direction we can so that they will make their mark in this world.