On Becoming Plumb

“It’s a beautiful house, but there’s not a plumb wall in the entire place.”

His face was puckered in disgust as he assessed the property. The tone of his voice indicated that no more need be said. We walked away without so much as a backward glance.

I’d heard that phrase before, but I just wasn’t sure what it really meant. From the context, the most I could gather was that it meant the house was not well built. Not long after,I came across the these Bible passages:

‘This is what he showed me: The Lord was standing by a wall that had been built true to plumb, with a plumb line in his hand. And the Lord asked me, “What do you see, Amos?” “A plumb line,” I replied. Then the Lord said, “Look, I am setting a plumb line among my people Israel; I will spare them no longer.”’
Amos 7:7-8

‘So this is what the Sovereign Lord says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed. I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the plumb line; hail will sweep away your refuge, the lie, and water will over flow your hiding place.”’ Isaiah 28:16-17

My mind wandered back to my father-in-law’s words.

An online dictionary clarified the term a bit, but I was still confused about its use in scripture. Wordsmyth.net defined plumb line as: “a cord from which a weight is suspended to determine true vertical, or depth…” or “an imaginary line considered to point directly to the center of the earth”.

I decided to go straight to the horse’s mouth. My father-in-law was more than happy to oblige.

He explained that the string with the weight on the bottom was used to make a line that was the standard. The walls of the house were built around this line. In this way, it was ensured that the walls were plumb, or straight. Since the weight at the bottom of the string was pulled by gravity, it was considered as “true” as you could get to the perfect vertical.

So, asked I, if the walls are not plumb, then does that mean the house is not well built?

My father-in-law replied, “That, or something happened to it. Like the earth shifting or something else to cause the foundation to move.”

This was not good either, he went on to explain. Seems a wall that was not “plumb” could indicate a more serious underlying problem.

Sooo…A plumb line is the line that all the walls are built around. It is true, or grounded in the laws of nature. And its absence can indicate underlying problems.

The True Standard

The Lord has a standard he is measuring us against.

The Lord said, “Look, I am setting a plumb line among my people…”

Isaiah 28 says the plumb line is righteousness. Wordsmyth.net defines righteousness as “displaying a feeling of moral correctness or virtuousness”. The Compact Bible Dictionary takes this definition even further. It defines the word righteousness as “Holy and upright living, in accordance with God’s standard.” It goes on to say that the word “comes from a root word that means ‘straightness’. It refers to a state that conforms to an authoritative standard…The Lord’s character is the definition and all source of righteousness (Gen. 18:25; Rom. 9:14). Therefore, the righteousness of human beings is defined in terms of God’s.”

Our Lord is our plumb line. He is the standard that we are being measured against. His righteousness is what we are to constantly aspire.

What’s more, He knows that we can never measure up. His “blueprints” accounted for this imperfection. By sacrificing his one and only son He made sure that our walls will always be plumb.

Cracks in the Foundation

So, because of grace, then, do we need not try? Since we can never obtain that true plumb, should we just give up? Herein we encounter the “underlying problem” of the lack of plumb. If we are not imitating Christ to the best of our ability, there is some fatal flaw within us that prevents us from finding true happiness.

Whether it’s pride, fear, or just plain ‘ol lack of faith, at any given moment our sinful nature can rear it’s ugly head and shift our foundation. We all know what happens when the foundation shifts. The cracks that are left in our lives can often leave us feeling broken and empty.

But it is never too late to fix a broken foundation. Ask any owner of a beloved old house. With gentle care and wise choices the cracks can be mended. The walls can be made true.

A Real Fixer Upper

No, we should never stop trying. We must be very careful how we fill those cracks. Rather than spackling on the pleasures of worldly desires, every second of every minute of every hour of every day we should continue to try to imitate Jesus Christ. This is the only plan the structural engineer will recommend. Increasing our attempts will increase our successes. Because, believe me, we will have plenty of failures!

Romans 8:29 says, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

We are being conformed!

It is part of God’s plan that we become like Jesus. That thought takes my breath away.

Whenever we have questions about how we should be living our lives, we must turn to the life of Jesus for answers. The weight is dangling from our Heavenly Father’s hand and Jesus’ life is as true as it gets.

I want to build my walls around him. Now that will be one heavenly house, won’t it?


  1. says

    That was so interesting, Laura. I read it aloud to my husband as well. He is a plumber by trade, so we know all about plumb lines, but we did not realize the term was used so much in Scripture.

    Being very “visual” that helps me so much to see how my life needs to “line” up with Christ, so that I can withstand the storms that will inevitably come my way.

    I want to thank you for your kind words and prayers for me and my family. You are a special lady, and I’m so blessed to have met you.

    Have a lovely weekend, Laura!
    Much love,

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