Fifteen years ago when Lucy and I would travel to see her parents [Roanoke Rapids to Snow Camp] we would often notice the sign “Soul City” along the way. One day as I mentioned that to a friend, he told me it was a sight to behold. There the “city” stood…a grim tribute to man’s optimism in the form of a bankrupt, dying community that U. S. federal government spent $31 million to fund. It was started in 1973 by the Department of Housing and Urban Development as a means to promote capitalistic ventures in the black segment of society. The community was seen as one that “can’t miss”. “It will be like Utopia”, said one enthusiastic federal official. Yet at the time of my interest in the city (early 1990’s) had approximately 130 residents, a medical clinic, and a fire station. There were no businesses or industries in the area.
Inflation, recession, mismanagement, poor planning, and insufficient support from the government were reasons given for its failure. It is not my intention to pass judgment on any of these reasons or the failure of Soul City itself…but it seems to me that this story of the unfulfilled dream of a metropolis does highlight the failure of men to achieve a perfect place by their own strength and ingenuity.
We find in Psalm 127:1-2 a fitting commentary on the tragic failure of Soul City. “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; Unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors; For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.” (NASB)
Two men built similar houses, the Lord tells us (Matthew 7:24-27). One was built on sand and the other was built on a rock. The same storm rages against both houses. One still stands and the other falls. The Lord makes a distinction between the two builders by calling them “wise” and “foolish”. The wise person is the one who hears what the Lord commands/desires and puts those things into practice where as the foolish person is the one who hears the same things but does not put God’s words into practice.
Is it appropriate to say “Unless the Lord builds your life – your home – our church – then you/we are laboring in vain”? As we begin a new year, would you like to see the Lord build your life? Your home? Our church?
Who is the builder when it comes down to your life? Does God have full freedom to build? To build as he sees fit? Could it be that some of us are trying to erect a “Soul City” on our own…and erect it for our own glory? God made the soul and only He can build it and mold it into all that He intended it to be.
May we be like father Abraham who was looking and striving toward a “city with foundations whose architect and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10).
Unless the Lord builds – how does that play out in your life?