"'Everyone then who hears these words of Mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.'
And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at His teaching, for He was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes."
The words Jesus has just spoken in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) are not only counter-cultural; they are counter-human nature. Instead of preaching a message of self-preservation and self-promotion, He preached a message of self-denial and humility. He calls us to be peacemakers at all costs, forgiving, and putting others first, even our enemies. Instead of preaching a message of outward lifestyle change for others to see and praise, He preached a message of true heart change that only God can see but will produce true fruit in our lives. God’s way is not about following the rules, but it is about being changed from the inside out by earnestly seeking Him, which results in a life lived according to the love we have been shown by God. He taught that private prayer and humble dependence on God are at the center of living out His words. And He warned them not to live for the things of the world, not to strive for them, or to let them cause anxiety or worry in their hearts, because life is more than those things. Rather than living for anything in this world, we are to seek Him and live according to only one master, our loving Father in heaven.
As Jesus concludes this teaching, He gives the crowd a warning and an encouragement through the analogy of two home builders. Both had the same knowledge and understanding of how to build a home, yet one chose not to apply what he had learned and the other did, resulting in two very different outcomes. When the storms came, one house stood strong while the other fell. And just as there were only two options for the home builders, there are only two options for us as well. It is a fact of life that storms will come that can’t be prevented. We will face struggles of all kinds and walk through many trials, big and small. And Jesus says, how our lives look on the other side of those storms will be determined by what we do with what we have heard from Him. Will we hear these words of Jesus and act on them, or will we go on to live how we see best, forgetting what we have heard?
For the one who built his house on the sand, who did not heed what he had heard, the storms hit, and the house fell. Sand was never meant to be a firm foundation for anything. By its very nature it is meant to shift and to be easily moved by wind, wave, and even bare feet. In the same way, you and I are tempted to build our lives on things that were never meant to be a firm foundation and therefore will fail us. When we let our social standing, a spotless reputation, or what others think define us and determine our happiness, we have asked too much of it, and it will eventually fail us. When we strive to have more, to find our worth and meaning in our homes, cars, clothes, and travel, we defy the purpose of those things and expect from them what they cannot give. When our jobs, successes, titles, and promotions consume our hearts and minds, we are given false hope and false assurance that everything will be ok, until it’s not ok. Then we are left hopeless, confused, angry, and in despair. Seeking revenge, holding grudges, and always seeking our own fair treatment will never satisfy. Jesus even says that our best efforts at righteousness done for the wrong reasons will result in no reward.
Just like sand, these things will eventually fail, because they were never meant to bear the weight of our lives. Only one foundation was made for that. Jesus is warning us to stop and consider: what are we striving for, what defines us, what gives us worth and meaning, and what are we living for? What is the foundation of your life, and how do you live day to day? Is it sand? Or is it rock?
The home builder who applied what he had learned was careful, intentional, and patient as he dug down to the bedrock, ensuring his home would have a sure foundation. When the storms came, the house endured because it had been built on the rock, the only firm foundation that could hold the house up. This is the encouragement you and I both need to hear. When we make the often difficult and counter-cultural decision to be doers of God’s Word, not just hearers, we are promised to endure the storms of life. The storms will still hit us, yet those who have chosen to live according to God’s Words will stay standing. James tells us that those who study God’s Word, abide by it, and do it will be blessed in what they do (James 1:25). Looking back over these three chapters we have been studying for over a year, are you a wise doer of these words of Jesus? Or are you merely a foolish hearer?
I have found that the only way I can be a wise doer of God’s Word is with help. I can’t do it alone. And it’s a daily choice. It involves daily listening, studying, meditating, writing things down, talking about it with others, seeking further understanding through the many resources available to us, confession, repentance, prayer, and the help of the Holy Spirit. And then doing it again the next day. This is how the wise man lives. Are you choosing to live wisely today? If not, stop, re-dedicate this day and this moment to Him, and seek Him earnestly. Like the wise builder, re-consider what you have heard and learned from Jesus, and apply His words to every situation in your life. And remember Jesus’ promise that when you do this, you will be founded on the rock, and you will stand strong against the storms of life.