To build…or not to build…

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Scripture: Exodus 25:10 (God said to Moses on the mountain) They shall make an ark of acacia wood; it shall be two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high. 11 You shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and outside you shall overlay it, and you shall make a molding of gold upon it all around. 12 You shall cast four rings of gold for it and put them on its four feet, two rings on the one side of it, and two rings on the other side. 13 You shall make poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold. 14 And you shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, by which to carry the ark. 15 The poles shall remain in the rings of the ark; they shall not be taken from it. 16 You shall put into the ark the covenant that I shall give you.

Observation: It’s obvious from these instructions that God intended the ark of the covenant to be opulent in every way, made of gold and other extremely valuable materials. No expense would be spared. A similar dynamic would be present when instructions were given for the tabernacle of God.

Application: My first reaction to this section of Exodus is to think, “Wow”. I’ll bet the ark was simply spectacular! Then I think, “Was all this really necessary?”. I have to admit I’ve not been a big fan of spending huge amounts of money on church buildings. Why? Churches regularly spend millions of dollars on buildings and such, with little impact on their surrounding communities – or people in need. And decades later, it’s common for church members to struggle to maintain and repair what a prior generation built. What was once a blessing can become a burden. Happens all the time.

That said, I may be softening up a bit on this thinking. As our church has continued to grow and reach new people, we are increasingly finding ourselves out of space – despite the fact that much of the ministry doesn’t happen at the church site. I’m all about finding ways to utilize available public space, businesses, personal homes, and so forth when possible. Church doesn’t have to happen “at church”. Even so, it’s getting very tight, and some leaders have mentioned the possibility of needing to build. And I find myself impulsively resisting on the inside. Yet, I can see from this and other passages of scripture that God himself directed the people to build when necessary. Has me thinking…

Prayer: Gracious God, we know that arks and tabernacles and temples and churches are not articles to be worshipped, but can be valuable tools for ministry. Give us grace to wisely assess our need for these kinds of resource intensive assets. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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