Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing~ 1st Thessalonians 5:11 NIV
When our oldest daughter was in the ninth grade, her science teacher had each of his students construct a Rube Goldberg device over Christmas break. For the uninitiated, a Rube Goldberg machine is a device built using an excess of absurdly complicated pulleys, levers, moving parts and gizmos that all work together to tell a funny story and perform a simple task. The project represented a sizable portion of our daughter’s semester grade.
Five things were apparent within an hour of receiving the details of the assignment:
- Rube Goldberg machines are not the sort of project the average student can complete without parental assistance.
- The teacher was a vacation-spoiling troll
- The assignment was clearly intended to separate mechanically skilled (smart) parents from mechanically challenged (stupid) parents.
- My husband and I fell solidly into the second category.
- I was harboring some very unhealthy feelings towards the teacher.
Thank heavens I married a clever man because I quickly devolved into a puddle of emotional goo and proceeded to rant bitterly against tyrannical teachers who assign tasks that are impossible to accomplish without time and money from parents. I might very well have been standing in the exact same spot ranting when school started back up if it were not for the rational actions of my quick-witted husband.
Alan called his stepdad (who happened to have an engineering degree) and invited him and my mother-in-law to visit over the Christmas break. It turned out to be a win for everyone. The in-laws were elated to spend some quality time with our kids and the grown-ups had a very pleasant visit. Her teacher was spared an unpleasant phone call and our daughter got an A on the project.
The experience taught me that the building of anything is serious business. I still couldn’t build a Rube Goldberg machine if my life depended on it. But I did learn there are some some parallels to the building of things and the building-up of people.
Both require a solid plan, careful thought and some real skill.
The New Testament has precious little to say about the constructing of structures. But it does give a great deal of coaching on the building-up of people. Christians are told repeatedly to grow the body of Christ by looking for ways to build others up (1st Thessalonians 5:9-11, Ephesians 4:29, Romans 15:2, Hebrews 10:24-25). Parents are to build up children, husbands are to build-up their wives, wives should build-up their husbands, and Church leaders and members are to look for ways to build one another (Colossians 3, Ephesians 5:1-6:13). There is a lot that goes into the building–up of others but it all begins with three foundational elements:
Relationship- 1st Corinthians 16:14
One of the more profound truths I learned from watching my father-in-law build that device is that the wrong foundation will doom an otherwise well-constructed device (Matthew 7:24-27). The same is true with people. For people the foundation for building needs to be a loving relationship and healthy communication. Without relationship and rapport, efforts to build up another person can feel an awful lot like meddling or even malice.
Encouragement- Hebrews 3:13
Too often encouragement devolves into hollow praise and gracious but meaningless words we express to the people we like. Biblical encouragement is a form of nurturing that is intended to stimulate spiritual and emotional growth in people. This empowers people to become the totality of what God intends them to be. Well-timed words of encouragement and exhortation can spur others on towards love and good deeds when life gets tough and faith is fading. Encouragement can be life-changing when it is born out of relationship and careful observation of the character, abilities and gifts of person we want to encourage.
Truthful words- Ephesians 4:15
Building people occasionally necessitates some gentle and kindhearted truth telling. When someone we love is headed in the wrong direction or engaging in potentially damaging behavior the most loving thing we can do is to tell him or her what the outcome of that behavior might be. Truth telling should never be harsh or punitive. Truth telling should be done lovingly with relationship and the long-term spiritual growth of the person in mind.
Building others up is not about ignoring bad behavior or raising self-esteem through empty words of flattery. The building of people is serious business that, if done right, empowers others to do and be all they can for the Kingdom of God. The building of people is not optional for Christians. It is a command that, if obeyed, does as much for the one doing the building as it does for those being built up.