“Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:12-14 NKJV).
One of my favorite church buildings in Bangladesh is the one used by the Bashara Church of Christ in Naogaon district. It is of mud walled construction with a tin roof. The walls are close to two feet thick, and about twelve feet high.
This keeps the inside of the building much cooler than most tin or brick walled structures. The members continually dress the outside of the building with fresh mud, using various colors and shades in decorative patterns to keep it looking almost new, though it is approaching twenty years old.
In almost any culture, plain dirt or mud is one of the cheapest and least regarded building materials. Yet here is an example of a very useful and even attractive and durable structure composed of a material that many would disdain.
One often hears of evangelistic efforts to reach the upper levels of society. “We need educated people, professional people, influential people in the Church,” it is said. “Just think how much we could accomplish if we were able to reach such persons in large numbers. What great churches we could have.”
Perhaps we need to be reminded that it is not so much the materials used as the skill and effort of the builder that results in “great churches.” When Paul discussed the rewards received or lost by the builders in the text quoted above, he was not judging their work based on the materials they selected.
Preachers often have little choice as to who they address; they must speak to whoever will listen and give them opportunity. Paul is saying, regardless of the nature of the audience, one must build carefully and well, selecting only the foundation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as his starting point.
With regard to the materials used, it is good to be reminded that God has chosen “the base things of the world and the things which are despised,” rather than that which is noble, mighty and wise as the world reckons such qualities (1 Corinthians 1:26-28).
What seems to be gold or silver to man may be considered much more common to God. Conversely that which we consider straw or mud may be of incomparable worth to him.
Rather than being so selective regarding the materials with which we build, let us use what is available and concentrate on doing the very best work we are able to perform. That way leads to reward.