10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care.
1 Corinthians 3:10
Our family had the privilege of being able to rebuild a 100+ year old cabin in Japan following the earthquake and tsunami in 2011. As we peeled back layers of outer wall and flooring we were amazed at the hidden craftsmanship. Walls were made by hand-woven meshes of bamboo and twine, each small square perfectly sized and spaced. The floors were built on rough hewn posts floating on rocks, and in areas not damaged by time or this massive earthquake still perfectly straight according to our modern laser level. The bones of the cabin, logs and beams mortised and tenoned together using hand saws and hammers, had flexed as designed under the spectacular stresses of what they call a 1000 year earthquake and remain strong and safe. In fact, most of the damage we repaired was because of modifications made later that undermined part of that masterfully built structure. As much as possible we tried to work with the existing craftsmanship rather than just replace it.
To fully appreciate this verse we have to keep it in the context of the chapter. Jesus is the foundation already laid (11), and we are all builders from that point forward. All of us are part of, and responsible for, the building of the Kingdom. From that firm foundation Paul talks about the materials of building in a way that quickly brings to mind the three little pigs: gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw (12). The craftsmanship will be “revealed with fire and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work”(13). But then we get a glimpse of incredible grace and acceptance when we are told that, even if our efforts are burned up, “the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved…”(15).
I also find great comfort in this chapter’s emphasis that we are not in this by ourselves but “co-workers,” and that we are “God’s building” (9).
If you are a worrier as I am, you might find yourself asking too often: “what have I really accomplished” or “am I up to the task”? The concepts of grace in the face of failure and being part of a larger team and scheme then come as welcome assurance.
~Brian Vander Haak