Dear Sisters and Brothers,
The Sermon on the Mount concludes with the parable of “the wise and foolish builders.” As parables go, it is very easy to understand, because Jesus spells out the meaning of its metaphor very clearly.
Matthew 7: 24-39
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.
We can all understand the image of a solid foundation. If a house is built upon something firm, then it is less likely to wash away or collapse from age or other circumstances. Many old buildings that had weak foundations had to be torn down because the weight of the roof slowly pushed the walls outward or inward. When a building has a firm foundation, it can draw additional structural strength from the earth.
As a carpenter with many thoughts about building houses, Jesus would also have known that solid stone foundations take a lot of work with hammer and chisel to make them ready to support a structure. To say that his teachings can be the foundation of someone’s life, it is a structure that they can receive in its prepared state. If the foundation is already made ready, the structure itself becomes easier to build.
The words of Jesus are the rock upon which we build, but we know it is a metaphor and that we are talking about rooting our spiritual welfare to his words. To build upon this foundation, we are saying that the basic and enduring strength of the teachings of Jesus are stronger than rival teachings.
Rival teachings are the sand of the parable. In earlier verse, Jesus point out that some people have built on foundations of earthly wealth. But wealth can be stolen or simply bleed away in hard times and leave you with nothing. If the strength and security of your house depend upon your own health and stamina, you can also lose those gifts to time, injury, and starvation. You could build your house on a philosophy (like stoicism) but a philosophy or worldview has no internal power or personality to back you up. You can build a house based on a defiant attitude of chutzpah, but you can’t maintain it for long.
The very simple truth is that everyone and everything we encounter is temporary except God. We all have an idea of things that could be permanent, but even the stones in our world will eventually turn to dust. The teachings of Christ are actually stronger and more permanent than stone, because “God” is our word for the one true permanence. We can have permanence only by being in relationship with the One who is permanent.
Jesus is inviting us to make something permanent in our lives. To have a foundation in his words means that we are securely attached to God forever. It would be wise to secure ourselves to the only permanence we know. To ignore the invitation to having relationship with eternity would truly be foolish.
One Christian writer said that the sentence “God is eternal” means that “God is eternally young,” but I would add that it means that “God is eternally now.” Think about it and see if you can think of anything or anyone can be permanent without God’s support and love.
Another question to ponder: Where do you look for support in times of trouble?