I watched them tearing a building down,
A gang of men in a busy town.
With a ho-heave-ho and lusty yell,
They swung a beam and a sidewall fell.
I asked the foreman, “Are these men skilled,
The men you’d hire if you had to build?”
He gave me a laugh and said, “No indeed!
Just common labor is all I need.
I can easily wreck in a day or two
What builders have taken a year to do.”
And I thought to myself as I went my way,
Which of these two roles have I tried to play?
Am I a builder who works with care,
Measuring life by the rule and square?
Am I shaping my deeds by a well-made plan,
Patiently doing the best I can?
Or am I a wrecker who walks the town,
Content with the labor of tearing down?
This poem by Edgar Guest raises an important and serious question for all of us: “Am I a builder or a wrecker?”
Wreckers in life are good at discouraging. Depressing. Demoralizing. Depreciating. And destroying. They know how to ruin friendships. Wreck homes. And undermine peace and unity in the Lord’s church. Sometimes it’s a subtle word. Maybe it’s an overt action. Juicy gossip. An unfounded charge. Or just a critical spirit that finds fault with everything. And everyone.
The attitude and actions of the wrecker is opposed to all the good, godly and Biblical. God desires that we be builders.
Builders in life are skilled at encouraging. Edifying. Educating. Enlightening. Energizing. And Elevating. They know how to bring a smile to your face. Lift your spirit. Warm your heart. Put a spring in your step. Their friendships are closer. Their homes are happier. And brethren are build up by their very presence. They know how to say a good word. Offer a helping hand. And sow seeds of faith, hope and love.
Christians are collectively characterized as “the house of God’, “the building of God,” and the “Temple of God.” Peter says we like “living stones, are being built up a spiritual house” (1Pet.2:5). Jesus Christ is the foundation. But He is building up the church one stone at a time. And we are workers together with God in the building process.
The Bible teaches that the role of preachers, pastors and teachers is to equip Christians to do ministry “for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12). When that occurs Paul says it results in the “effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (Eph. 4:16).
Edification was both the cause and the effect of the spiritual growth and success of the first century churches. Luke writes, “Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied” (Acts 9:31).
Building up and edifying should be the desire and work of every Christian. It was Paul’s inspired plea to first century churches. “Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another,” he admonished the church at Rome (Rom.14:19). To the Thessalonians he penned, “Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing. (1Thess. 5:11). And to the Corinthian church he simply said, “Let all things be done for edification” (1 Cor 14:26).
What about you? And me? It’s a fair question to ask: “Am I a builder or a wrecker?”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman
12 responses to “Am I a Builder or a Wrecker?”
Dear Bro. Ken: Excellent blog entry! The poem @ the beginning really makes you think, huh?! 🙂 Have a JOYOUS day! Julie
Ken, do I have your permission to use a part of this post in my sermon on “goodness” from Galatians 5:22 on Sunday? The two paragraphs dealing with the destroying and the edifying of the church. Thanks, Mike
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Sure, Mike. Feel free to use in any way that you find helpful. And, if you think it will hurt your influence, you don’t even have to site your source! 🙂
I found this poem when I was about 10 years old in fifth grade (1958) I read it in class and got the highest grade. At the time i did not know who wrote it (the publication showed Unknown as the author). These words stuck with me all these years and was handed down to my daughters, grandchildren and anyone who would listen. TIMELESS
Thanks for sharing that story, Barbara. Yes, its message is indeed timeless.
This happened to me too! I found and memorized this poem in 5th grade and didn’t see an author name. I have not been able to find this poem since but I am so glad I did! I completely agree TIMELESS!
Great, except the poem apparently was attributed to the wrong author, and that should be corrected. It wasn’t written by Edgar A. Guest, but its author was Carmelo Benvenga (1913 – 1989) of Baltimore, Maryland, USA. It was first published in 1967 under Mr. Benvenga’s pseudonym, Charles Benvegar. It was published in the book ‘Songs of the Free State Bards’, a poetry anthology edited by Vincent Godfrey Burns, Poet Laureate of Maryland, and printed by New World Books of Washington D.C., copyright 1967.
Hmm. You may be right. I have seen that attributed to different other people as well as guest. Thanks for the info. I will check it out
I think this poem goes back earlier than that attributed to H.S. Harp in August of 1943 at this site: https://archive.org/stream/thisdothoushaltl00meeh/thisdothoushaltl00meeh_djvu.txt and in December 1945 at this site:
Click to access fa1104a044f24cbfbd9b535503e7b3cb.pdf
I just found a copy on stationary from my great grandparents dairy that closed in the 1945 also attributing the poem to H.S. Harp. Coincidence? I don’t know.
Hmm. That’s interesting. Thanks for sharing
Hi Ken my name is Mike. I was just wondering if I can use the poem. I work with young couples or a group of people and this goes into line with what I do. By encouraging people and adding as much value as I can. Have a great evening. Oh one more thing this was a great poem. It makes you wonder what you do on a day to day basis.
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