“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;”
The relationship between causes and their effects has loomed large in philosophy at least since the days of Aristotle. The great philosopher was a causal pluralist, concluding that for any effect there are different kinds of causes. The material cause of things is particularly intriguing. The sun, for instance, is the material cause of the earth being flooded with light and heat. Interestingly, a material cause, in this case the sun, is capable of creating two opposite effects at the same time; it can make clay as hard as rock even as it makes wax as soft as putty. God’s word works much the same way. His special revelation softens some hearts even as it hardens others. The Thessalonians are examples of the former (1 Thessalonians 2:13), the Pharaoh of Egypt is a tragic example of the latter (Exodus 7-11, 14). Disappointingly, the first generation of Israelites who came out of Egypt in the Exodus ended up following the pharaoh’s terrible example, choosing to harden their own hearts to the revealed will of God (Psalm 95:7-11). We are encouraged to learn about these interactions between God and His covenant people in the past so that we might be instructed, encouraged, and fully persuaded not to follow their bad examples (1 Corinthians 10:1-7; Hebrews 3:7). Like shadowy, limited, finite, and dependent versions of the infinite, holy God whose image we bear, our words also have an enormous amount of causative power. With great power comes great responsibility, however, and unfortunately many have chosen to use their words to build up that which God has decreed must be broken down (2 Corinthians 10:5; Galatians 2:18; 4:9). Conversely, many are actively tearing down that which God desires to be built up (2 Timothy 2:14-18). May God grant us the necessary wisdom and discernment to know how and when to build up and to tear down. May our godly words cause the building up of faith, hope, and love in the hearts of others in our redeemed community, even as they tear down pride, doubt, and discouragement in those very same hearts. May our speech and conduct cause the body of Christ to be built up and strengthened for faithful service, even as they tear down the high things that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10:5). May these things be so, dear saints, for God’s own glory and for the good of those He loves.