For God’s Sake

April 4, 2012 - 5:00 am

“After the king was settled in his palace and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, he [David] said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.” — 2 Samuel 7:1–2

After years of war and turbulence, King David finally had some respite. He settled into his palace for some peace and quiet. Yet, just as he was getting comfortable, he had an uncomfortable thought: “Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.” How can he enjoy his royal accommodations, while the ark of God had to make do with a tent?

Does the ark care? Does God need a house?

It reminds me of how a friend of mine remembers being baffled by a Jewish tradition performed at the Passover Seder (ritual meal) each year. At the point where Elijah the Prophet is invited to join the Seder, all those present get up, and one person will physically open the door for him to “enter.” My friend, as a child, thought that this was utterly ridiculous. If Elijah was a spirit, like Casper the ghost, why couldn’t he just come straight through the walls? What kind of ghost needs a door to be opened for him?

As an adult my friend understands that the act of opening the door for Elijah is not for Elijah. It is for the benefit of those present at the Seder. Tradition teaches us that Elijah will appear immediately before the messianic times arrive. By opening the door and getting up to greet him, the participants demonstrate that they must play an active role in bringing about redemption. It won’t just magically appear. Human participation is required for making the world a better place.

Similarly, while God certainly does not need a home, nor is it possible to contain the Almighty in any one place, the act of building a house of God is intended for our sake. If a group of families live in luxurious homes and their local place of worship lies in ruins, what does it say about that community? It says that God is pretty low on their list of priorities. However when a community makes it a priority to build a house of worship that they are proud to attend, it reinforces the centrality of God in every aspect of their lives.

We put our money into what we value most. If you want to know what you really care about, look at where you spend your money. If your expenditures match your priorities, then great! If not, maybe it’s time to make a check out to your favourite charity. Not for God’s sake, but for your own.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *