"For everything there is a time, and a season for every matter under heaven." Such is the wisdom of Ecclesiastes. Included in the list is this: "a time to tear down, and a time to build up" (Eccl 3:3).
Since the tornado of last year, Joplin has seen a great deal of tearing down and building up. Thousands of homes and businesses, as well as the schools and a hospital, were left in total ruin but still partly standing. Thousands of volunteers came to help tear down and carry away the debris. Then it became "time to build up."
The Greek word for "build up" is oikodomeo (oi koh doh MEH oh). The first part means "house" and the last part means "I erect a domicile." It is the word for the wise man building a house on the rock, for Jesus building the church on a solid foundation, and even for "building" the temple of his body in three days. In addition, the word goes beyond the literal sense of building houses to a deeper sense of building up people. In this sense we call it "edification."
But in the New Testament this "building up" or edification can be either good or bad. It is bad when it is individual and selfish. Paul speaks harshly of the man who only seeks to edify himself instead of edifying the whole church (see 1 Cor 14, esp. vs 4 & 12). He urges, "Let all things be done for edification."
Interestingly, when "building up" is used in a positive sense, it is always in the context of community. When the world has destroyed people's lives, it is the church's job to help clear away the wreckage and to build them up. When bad choices have left guilt and sorrow, it is the church's job to bring forgiveness and restoration in Christ. As Paul summed it up in another letter, "Therefore encourage one another and build one another up" (1 Thess 5:11).