A Lasting Contribution

Rev. Chip Hammond

Moses, the man of God, prayed, "Establish the work of our hands" (Ps. 90:17). It's the desire of every human heart. We do not want to work futilely. We want the things we invest ourselves in to be lasting, significant, important.

Certainly men are capable of tremendous things. The Great Pyramids of Egypt are ancient wonders, and engineers still wonder and marvel at how a "primitive" society could have constructed such works of symmetry and endurance.

A recent article I read indicated that it is important when you set a career path for yourself to discover whether you like to work with people or things. This seems to be a part of the creation pattern - we are very creative. We like to invent gadgets, and like to figure out how they work.

One of my heroes is Rev. Alexander John Forsythe, pastor of the Presbyterian Church at Bellhelvie, Scotland, in the middle of the 19th century. Forsythe was a competent pastor, but his place in history is set not because of his theological and pastoral work (which was no doubt considerable), but because of his hobby. Forsythe invented and patented the percussion cap and cap lock, thereby propelling firearms technology into the twentieth century and beyond.

If the stats are correct, most men like to invest themselves in things. I'll take a stab as to why. When you build things, and build them well, they last for a long time. I still have a percussion cap pistol that my dad and I build together when I was just a boy. I still have the gun, but dad has been gone for nearly a dozen years now.

Things last, people don't. Great edifices around the world are still standing, while their builders have long ago turned to dust. Things, if you do your part, don't disappoint you. They don't betray you. They do not, of their own accord, just disappear after you have put your blood, sweat, and tears into them.

Because of the yearning of our heart, we invest ourselves in things, even at the expense of people. How many grand structures, impressive businesses, and even churches have been built at the expense of the righteous treatment, or concern for people?

Our sense is not wrong. Created in God's image, we want the work of our hands to last. But we need a different perspective. We think things last and people don't. The truth is, it's just the other way around: people last, things don't.

The Scriptures tell us, "The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be?" (2 Pt. 3:10-11).

The truth is, things don't last forever. But people do. Their souls live on after death (see Lk. 16:20ff), and there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust (Jn 5:25-29). If we want to really invest in something that lasts, we will realize that it's really all about people.

"But it doesn't always work out," you might say. "People abandon, betray, and leave." This is true enough. But devoting ourselves to things does not always satisfy. We all know what it's like to at times have the "reverse Midas touch" - everything seems to break and turn to dust in our hands!

The difference is that all things will eventually break and turn to dust. While the people you invest yourself in may disappoint, betray, or abandon; while they may choose the wide and easy way that lures so many and leads to death; they are of incalculable value, and their souls of infinite worth.

If you invest yourself in people you will certainly minister to the elect, and their lives and persons are accounted so valuable by God that he sent His Son to die for them.

It is extremely painful to invest yourself in another person, only to have them betray you, abandon you, malign you, or depart from the Faith altogether. So painful, that we may be tempted to spend our lives working with things, for things can't shred your heart like another human being can.

But owing to the value of the human being, the risk is worth it. If you invest yourself in our people, it's not a question of it you will be betrayed and hurt, only a question of when. The life of our Lord is lasting proof. But along the way, you will also "edify" - build up - those who are being saved. You will help them along the way.

Moses prayed, "Establish the work of our hands." It's the inclination of your heart as well. Invest yourself in people, and that prayer will be answered.