What is important to a nation? Look at her monuments. In our country we raise monuments to political leaders like the Washington Monument, the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, and presidential libraries. We build shrines to honor wars and those who die in war like the World War II memorial or the Vietnam Wall. In our own town we honor veterans and even sports teams for their victories. Monuments show us our values and priorities. Every monument, great or small, requires an investment of time and money to build. We only invest in those things that are important to us.
God had his people build monuments too. The Lord had the Israelites build a memorial of stones taken from the Jordan River. These dozen stones commemorated the crossing of the Jordan when Israel finally entered the Promised Land (Joshua 4:1-7). Monuments are significant because they declare our values and publicize our priorities.
All of us are building monuments. We don’t think about it because we are not cutting stone and erecting great walls and statues. Nevertheless, we are building monuments to our personal values and priorities. Where you invest your time, energy and money proclaims what is most important to you. As you might expect, some monuments are worthy but many are not.
Monuments to Self
For some, they alone are the most important priority in life. We know this because their shrines are all about themselves. They are built to draw attention to their lives. Someone might invest heavily in clothing and jewelry to adorn themselves beautifully. A man might spend untold hours in the gym sculpting his physique. Some preachers are even known to primp and prep before a sermon not to better glorify God but to look better themselves.
Nebuchadnezzar is the Biblical example of a narcissist who built monuments to himself (Daniel 4:28-33). He lifted himself up through his great building projects only to be shattered in humiliation by the God of heaven. There really is no place for self-worship or self-aggrandizement in the Kingdom. We are simply servants (Luke 17:10).
Monuments to Wealth
For many, we pursue things. We collect wealth in our accounts and material items in and around our homes. Sometimes our choices have little to do with need or value. Instead we seek to seen and noticed for our display of wealth. Our choice of automobiles, address and clothing often signifies what is most important in our lives. Our career pursuits are linked to wealth monuments because the clearest sign of job success is the paycheck.
Paul reminds us how temporary wealth can be. In 1 Timothy 6:7 he writes, “we brought nothing into the world and we cannot take anything out of the world.” As tortured Job said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I shall return” (Job 1:21). Just as we would never think of building a great war memorial out of paper, we should rethink the personal monuments we build too.
Monuments to God
It is also possible, and desirable, to build monuments to God. This is akin to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount encouragement to store up treasures in heaven and not on earth (Matthew 6:19-21). Just as we build shrines here to our values, we also build up monuments in heaven. Unlike earthly constructs the heavenly monuments are lasting and eternal. They neither age nor corrupt. Even the Washington Monument, at 555 feet of granite, marble and gneiss, will one day collapse. But our heavenly monuments never tarnish and never fade.
We build these monuments to God through our faith, dedication, attitudes, worship and money. The one who skimps toward God in any of these areas lessens the memorial he offers to God. Paul calls on us to present our very lives as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1).
I wonder, how’s your heavenly monument coming along?