In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus shares a parable comparing two builders: a wise one who builds his house on the rock, and a foolish one who builds his house on the sand. A storm ravages both houses but only one remains.
The entire parable contains just four sentences, yet contains a deep spiritual truth. This truth can be easily missed if we read it too fast. Notice we don’t read this as the parable of the smart and stupid builder. Both builders seem to know what they were doing in building a house. Jesus tells us nothing about how the house was built. The scriptures reveal the foundation as the only difference between the two homes.
In reading this passage, I noticed that this parable is not necessarily about Christians building their lives on Christ while those without Christ are building their lives on metaphorical sand, although one could certainly make that application. Notice the context around which Jesus shares this parable. In Matthew chapter 7:15, Jesus warns of false prophets. He tells the listeners to judge the false from the true by the fruit evidenced in a person’s life. In verse 21, Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven will enter.” The same thought carries down to verse 24, which begins with “therefore.” A wise pastor once pointed out that when you see a “therefore” in the scripture, you should always find out what it is “there for.”
In this case, the “therefore” presents a logical flow from one idea to the next. Jesus makes the point that the wise build their lives by acting on His words. Calling yourself a Christian is not enough. Jesus wants us to hear what He is saying and act accordingly. In order to hear what Jesus says we must be continually reading, studying, and meditating on the scriptures. We must understand what God has to say in all respects and not just isolate feel-good scriptures. When we isolate scriptures, especially out of context, we run the risk of missing the full counsel of what God has to say and distorting His message. A Christian should develop a strong understanding of what the scriptures say and how they relate to all areas of life. Understanding the Bible is not just for the select few who attend Bible school or seminary.
The parable of the wise and foolish builder answers a question that has always bothered me. I would see some of my fellow Christians go through proverbial storms in their lives. As a young man, I remember a leader in our men’s ministry who had all the earmarks of a serious Christian. He attended church regularly with his family, taught Sunday school, and made friendships with the right Christian leaders. This man organized our men’s outing to the Promise Keepers event. He went through a deep personal trial and ended up leaving his wife and children for another woman. Of course, each situation contains its own nuance, but both stories share one common detail. In both cases a Christian who did know better chose a path radically different from what the teaching of Jesus would prescribe. I once thought all Christians were examples of the wise builder; I’ve since learned better. The storm exposes the foundation upon which a person has based his or her life decisions. Not all “Christians” base their choices on the words of God. These Christians might think they built on the solid rock but are shaken to the core when calamity hits. Let’s be wise and make our decisions based on the words of Jesus, His apostles, and His prophets. I speak to myself in this as much as I speak to anyone else.
-by Pastor Shawn Martin