“For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 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” (1 Corinthians 3:11–14).
WASTED TIME AND WASTED EFFORT ARE THINGS MOST PEOPLE LIKE TO AVOID. When some activity in which we engage turns out to be a meaningless waste, we are disheartened, but if it ever became apparent that our whole lives had been wasted, “disheartened” would hardly be the word. A wasted life would be the ultimate human tragedy. Yet the only way to ensure that we’re not wasting our lives is to build our actions on truth. Nothing else will stand the test of time. In the end, nothing else will matter.
Actions that aren’t based on true principles will come to nothing, perhaps not immediately but eventually. Reality happens to be very strong; it’s an anvil that will break our hammer long before our hammer breaks it. To see the point, consider a principle like honesty. A person who deviates from honesty in order to achieve some short-term goal is going to find, in the long run, that the tactic did not work. The effort will have come to nothing.
Even now, there is a testing that is going on. Our actions are always being tested by the truth, and those that don’t meet its standards will falter and fail at some point. Those that are based on truth, however, will stand. “Time will tell,” as we say. Or as Jesus put it, “Wisdom is justified by her children” (Matthew 11:19).
But a much greater testing is ahead: a day of judgment before the God of all truth. Paul said that “each one’s work will become clear,” whether it is built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ or not. “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.”
Knowing that truth is what we’ll be tested by is both comforting and sobering. It is comforting to know that our work “in the Lord” will endure and not be “in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58). But it is sobering to realize that death will strip us of every advantage we’ve ever gained by sidestepping the truth. So, my friend, is there anything about you that is going to last? Time will surely tell.
“Death cancels everything but truth” (Anonymous).