“Every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything.” -- Hebrews 3:4
Every Sunday on our way to Grace, my wife, daughter, and I pass the new Bucks arena and the complex that is being built up around it. As we cross Water Street on Knapp toward church, we go by the new MSOE building -- also under construction. Having spent many years in the construction industry, I have a deep appreciation for the complexity of building projects like these. I also have a lingering feeling of camaraderie for the men and women who do the hard (and often thankless) work of assembling wood, steel, glass, and a host of other materials to form something useful so that others may live or work in a sheltered and climate-controlled environment. Even if you haven’t spent time in the building trades, I’ll wager you’ve picked up a hammer, saw, or screwdriver at some point in your life to improve in some way -- whether large or small -- the shelter over your head.
It’s hard not to marvel at what our hands are capable of. Even Hamlet, that dismal and despondent Dane, took a quick time-out from despair to give a nod to humankind:
What a piece of work is man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculty, In form and moving how express and admirable, In action how like an Angel, In apprehension how like a god, The beauty of the world, The paragon of animals. (Hamlet, Act II Scene 2)
Of course, Hamlet follows this acknowledgement by naming humankind the “quintessence of dust,” a phrase echoing what God Himself says of us through His servant Solomon (Ecclesiastes 3:20). Yes, we are fearfully and wonderfully made, and God has given us the spark and means to build great things...but we, along with all the works of our hands, are bound for dust.
So we hold two competing longings in our hearts simultaneously: the longing to build and create as our Creator does, and the longing for the eternal, for that which doesn’t rot, or decay, or return to dust. For me, the passage from Hebrews contains these two longings. It acknowledges our ability and desire to build, but it also points to the originator and sustainer of all things. The passage also contains a common-sense logic: complexity does not arise spontaneously or by chance but rather reflects a designer. Even the most ardent atheists must admit that they do not have a satisfying answer for the origin of the universe.
It would be foolish to point to a new Bucks arena and say that it arose on its own and as part of a random series of events. It is infinitely more foolish to believe that our universe arrived by chance with no designer, no builder, and no sustainer. Praise be to God that he has revealed himself to us in his word and his creation. And Praise be to God that he sent his son to rescue us from decay and to fulfill the longing in our hearts for the permanence of heaven.