Introducing the Why

Jimmy Phillips

writes from Bakersfield, California, where he is director of marketing and communications for San Joaquin Community Hospital.

​Tearin’ Down the House

Home ownership and me isn’t really a good match.

It’s not because I’m an irresponsible slob, or anything like that. In fact, those of you who know me know that I’m fairly tidy and organized (that sound you just heard was my wife groaning and rolling her eyes).

OK, fine! I’m a bit . . . OCD. I have a hard time sleeping with dirty dishes in the sink, and I use moments of spare time to reorganize things I’ve already organized. There, I said it.

The problem with owning a house—and the inevitable breakdowns that come with it—is that I’m about as handy as a ceiling fan. I live by the mantra of “play to your strengths.” My strengths are more centered on molding words than laying tile.

So naturally, in the months after my wife and I got married, we had a stirring stretch of catastrophes around the house (before going any further, I admit that these are “first world problems,” but frustrating nonetheless).

First, our garbage disposal broke, and the little Allen wrench trick—the only fix I knew—didn’t work.

Then the water/ice feature in the refrigerator malfunctioned and covered everything in our freezer with a thick layer of ice.

Then the washer and dryer began showing signs that they were on their last legs.

Finally, my outdoor sprinkler system began to leak. I had no idea how to find the leak, of course, and so it created a large puddle of muddy water in my front yard.

The only reason I was more valuable than a ceiling fan was that I could call a repairman (my brother-in-law) and drive to Lowe’s to buy new appliances (like I said, play to your strengths).

Our Default Condition

As a learning-on-the-job homeowner, I recently came across a verse in Proverbs that grabbed my attention: “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down” (Prov. 14:1).

The imagery is striking. Intruders are not breaking in and causing widespread damage; appliances are not failing left and right; the house is being torn down by the very hands that should be building it: those of the homeowner.

Picture me walking around my home with a baseball bat, destroying everything my family and I have worked for. Taking swings at major appliances, bashing windows, and finally tearing down the very walls that create the spaces we live in.

Ridiculous, right? Well, perhaps not.

The default condition of material things is that they disintegrate and become weaker with age. If you’re not building your home—painting, doing routine maintenance, proactively replacing old appliances before they fail—by definition you’re tearing it down. There is no middle ground.

The same is true of our spiritual house.

We may have a rock-solid foundation, born and raised in a strong Christian home that instilled accurate biblical knowledge, sound morals, and the importance of daily devotions.

But like a home, if we don’t intentionally fortify our relationship with God, we’re actively tearing it down. There’s no middle ground, no room for blaming outside influences or circumstances.

In his book Why Our Teenagers Leave the Church Roger Dudley notesthat roughly 50 percent of Seventh-day Adventist teenagers in North America are “essentially leaving the church by their middle 20s.” Yet more sobering, those who remain members are not necessarily active. According to Dudley’s research, of those who remain members, only 55 percent attend church services regularly; only 34 percent attend Sabbath school regularly; and only 25 percent attend other meetings such as prayer meeting or small study groups.

What if we asked every member of the Adventist Church the same questions? What if we took it a step further and asked how many pray and study their Bibles on a daily basis?

If we’re not building our house, we’re tearing it down. There is no middle ground.

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