The woman for whom the crew is building this new home, Tricia Urban, lost her husband to a heart attack the very day of their daughter's birth, nine hours before their baby was born. Having gone through labor and childbirth five times myself, I cannot imagine what it would have been like without the strong presence of my husband. The thought of going through it with the fresh knowledge that he had only just died and would never be there as our child grew up is simply inconceivable.
As with all of the families featured in the show, Tricia and her daughter have been sent away for the week. They are in Orlando at the Disney parks, and she has a personal assistant assigned to her whose job, among other things, is to keep her away from the internet to insure that she will be completely surprised when she returns to her new home. So, not only are they having a whole new house built for them, but they are having the vacation of a lifetime as well. This is a good deed on a massive scale.
One of the reasons that we have enjoyed watching this show is that it is so refreshing to see the selflessness and desire to help others that is demonstrated in each episode. The cast and crew choose from an avalanche of appeals for help, and they provide something which the families in question might never otherwise have the opportunity to have. The families range in tragic stories from having lost loved ones, to suffering from birth defects, debilitating disease, or accidents. There are always children involved, oftentimes many children. Their stories never fail to pull at our hearts and it is such a blessing to watch someone with the skill, talent, and the means reach out to help them.
Scripture clearly tells us that our greatest need, above all others, is our need of Christ.
As creatures who wear God's image we share, in a shattered and fallen aspect, and to a far lesser degree, some of His qualities. The desire to help others and do good for the downtrodden is certainly an image-bearing quality which ought to be encouraged and emulated. There is a good reason why so many people are drawn to this television show. Seeing the good done for these families in need, when so often we don't know how, or we don't possess the means to do it ourselves, is magnetically attractive. Doesn't Scripture encourage us to help those around us? Most assuredly, it does.
"Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it" -Proverbs 3:27
"And we urge you brothers,... encourage the fainthearted, help the weak,... always seek to do good to one another and to everyone." -1 Thessalonians 5:14-15"And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful" -Titus 3:14"If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and filled,' without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also, faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." -James 2:15-17
And yet, in a few days the cameras and crew will be gone, the excitement of the vacation will subside, and that dear, poor, lonely Mother will still be facing the days and nights ahead without her husband. There are needs that can be met by money, skill, and effort, but no amount of sponsor-financed altruism can replace Tricia's husband. From what I have seen, those on the cast of Extreme Makeover realize this. They are seeking not to replace an irreplaceable loss, but to bring a bit of heaven on earth to ease the life of a hurting family. This is common grace, and though it may come immediately from the hands of unbelievers, it ultimately comes from the decree of the Eternal God. In his teaching on the Providence of God, John Calvin writes:
"...we (teach) God the ruler and governor of all things, who in accordance with his wisdom has from the farthest limit of eternity decreed what he was going to do, and now by his might carries out what he has decreed. From this we declare that not only heaven and earth and the inanimate creatures, but also the plans and intentions of men, are so governed by his providence that they are borne by it straight to their appointed end." -Institutes, (I: XVI. 8)
So what has been accomplished in the construction of this magnificent home for Tricia and her daughter has been decreed by God himself. The cast and crew are carrying out God's work on behalf of a poor and hurting family. All good deeds are tainted in some way by our own sin, yet in the humanly-weighed balance, this deed is very, very good. Returning to our ultimate need however; the most comfortable house with the latest of updates and technology will not fill the hole in our lives for which only Christ is suitable. And on the other side of this coin, building such a house for one in need will not gain us Christ. The Bible teaches that only one who lives a perfectly righteous and sinless life will inherit the kingdom of God. The bad news is that it clearly teaches that we cannot live that kind of life; no amount of good deeds will weigh in God's balance if we have a single sin to our name.
"For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it." -James 2:10
"We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment." -Isaiah 64:6"None is righteous, no, not one..." -Romans 3:10
But there is one man who did live a perfect life, one hope given to us by God's rich mercy; our Savior, Jesus Christ, who obeyed the law perfectly and died the death of a criminal on behalf of those who would believe.
"But when the goodness and kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not by works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life." -Titus 3:4-7"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." -Ephesians 2:8-10
So the best and brightest hope for Tricia and her daughter, freely offered and eternally brilliant, is Christ. The beautiful home provided for them is still a gift from the hand of God. Those building it have not earned themselves a single rung on the ladder to heaven, but salvation awaits those who will believe in Christ alone. And we applaud these good gifts given by our Father above, looking to Him alone for grace and mercy in our own times of need.