First… The best perspective…
They which builded on the wall, and they that bare burdens, with those that laded, every one with one of his hands wrought in the
work, and with the other hand held a weapon. For the builders,
every one had his sword girded by his side, and so builded.
– Nehemiah 4:17-18a
Those of us who are committed Christian believers understand the use of the Bible as a ‘sword’ and as a tool of ministry. We trust in the Word of God to accomplish its work, remembering the words found in Hebrews 4:12… “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit…”
We also understand the need to serve others, as represented by the trowel – a tool used in construction. Indeed much of our ministry is conducted through building into the lives of people – offering our heart, our mind, our hands, indeed our very lives to help others as the Lord Jesus taught us and as was reported in Acts 10:38… “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good…” (emphasis mine).
The sword. The trowel. These are the tools of our faith and both are required to conduct effective ministry. The sword (the Bible) is used to help us come to know God and learn of His ways. In addition, the Bible is the text used for preaching, teaching, and sharing our faith. The trowel is emblematic of our service, offered to the Lord and to our fellow man. Whether the deeds are small and quiet or perhaps larger, more visible projects, the trowel of servanthood is what accomplishes the work of ministry.
Both tools are needed to build anything of genuine spiritual value –
to touch hearts and mend lives, enabling us to boldly stand for that which is good, pure, and righteous, and to effectively serve with love and compassion. Christians must be familiar with and well-practiced with the sword and the trowel, learning and growing in our wisdom concerning how and when to wield them in the most effective and skillful manner.
In Nehemiah chapter 4. The statement is written that the builders had a sword strapped to their side. Their weapon was always ready
if needed, but the work of building continued – the wall received their attention and progress was made. However, there were enemies and detractors – those who wanted to hinder and ultimately destroy the work. The enemies were ignored, but the workers remained alert. If the enemy threatened to use more than words, then they would be met with force. The swords were sharp and those who would wield their weapons were ready if needed. The sword was necessary as a means of protection to counter the threat.
The sword is a tool designed and used for personal protection and to thwart the advances of the enemy. It’s the same with God’s word. It was written to provide a means of protection – spiritual protection – and if used properly, it will defeat the attacks of the evil one.
Yet it seems clear from the text that the trowel was used much more than the sword. The walls of Jerusalem had to be rebuilt and the physical labor of stonework and masonry was required. The people who were building had an assignment – a work to accomplish – and something to build. They were not to be deterred in their efforts and the trowel was used extensively.
What about you? You have a trowel – the tool of a servant-worker. Where has God called you and placed you? What part of the wall have you been assigned to complete? This is the place where you
can have a strong and lasting impact serving God and others, all
to His honor and glory!
Use the sword and the trowel as needed – with wisdom and as the Lord leads, but strive to maintain good balance. Be selective in the use of the sword and do not allow the sword to hinder the work or the ministry you accomplish with your trowel. Most of our effort –
the ministry of building into the lives of people – will be done with
the trowel – the work of doing good, serving others, and building ministry into the lives of spiritually needy people.
What is it that God has called you to build? You stand before your assigned section of the uncompleted wall with trowel in hand and sword in sheath. Like those assigned to sections of the wall in the time of Nehemiah, be vigilant as a servant of the Most High God,
but be busy with your trowel… serve, build, strengthen, and bless!