The Wise & Foolish Builders
April 19, 2020
24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. 25 The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!” 28 Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, 29 for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.
When I was in high school I always went on a spring break mission trip to Tijuana, Mexico with my church youth group, where each year we would build these very basic houses for the people down there. And I remember on one of these trips we were getting our first glimpse of the site where we would be building our house that week and we quickly noticed that we wouldn’t be building on rock or dirt or some other solid foundation, but rather something that looked like and felt more like sand. And I remember having this feeling of something’s not right here, and even this moment of ‘isn’t there a bible story about all this?’ ‘Doesn’t Jesus warn us not to do this very thing?’ And as it turns out, yes, yes there is. And it happens to be our story for today. It’s the story of the wise and foolish builders, where the wise man built his house up the rock and the foolish man built his house upon the sand.
And in this story we have Jesus’s final words on the Sermon on the Mount, and if you thought we were done with this series, well, turns out there’s one final story for us to look at. But I promise this is the last one. Here’s how Jesus finishes the Sermon on the Mount -
24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. 25 The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!”
This is the word of the Lord.
No doubt about it – Jesus’s final words here make for a powerful and dramatic conclusion and in it I want you to see three things, or three observations to take away from this story –
1. Wisdom comes from not only hearing God’s Word, but acting on it too.
I imagine what first comes to mind when we think about this passage is the story imagery itself – the homes, the storms, the sand and rock, the wise and foolish builders. Now, all of those are important details and we’ll discuss the details themselves in just a minute. But first things first, it’s important for us to remember that the story is meant to illustrate something else, that is, the choice you and I make of not simply hearing God’s Word, but whether or not we act on it too.
After all, here’s how Jesus distinguishes the two builders.
He first says, 24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.
Then later saying,
26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand.
As you can tell, the difference between the two builders is whether or not they act on Jesus’s words.
Consider this very moment for all those listening to the Sermon on the Mount. They’ve just heard this masterful sermon from Jesus where he’s articulated what it looks like to be a follower of Jesus, a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven. And now, as he comes to the end, as he puts these two choices in front of them, he’s essentially telling them, alright, now go live like this. Go act on what I’ve shared with you.
You see, one of the biggest mistakes we could make with this sermon is to treat it like a Broadway play, something that we’re in awe of or amazed by, yet doesn’t really change the way we live our everyday life.
And so what Jesus is saying is that this isn’t a sermon to be applauded, but rather a sermon to be lived.
And so as we come to end of this sermon, now may be a good time for each of us individually to read the whole sermon again all the way through, and to underline or highlight specific actions that Jesus is calling to, specific ways we can live this sermon out. Whether it’s in the Beatitudes, or the call to be the salt of the earth or light of the world, or Jesus’s words on anger or lust or oaths or loving your enemies. His words on praying and giving and putting our treasure in heaven. And then maybe focus on one or two things that you particularly want to practice or focus on in this season.
Jesus’ words here are words of wisdom and wisdom comes from not only hearing God’s Word, but acting on it too. And we can trust God’s word, because he’s a good, good Father who not only knows what’s best for us, but wants what’s best for us too.
There’s a great story about Tony Dungy, a former Super Bowl winning football coach who tells the story about trying to parent his high school aged son. And his son was complaining about not having enough energy throughout the day, while also admitting that he often didn’t eat breakfast in the morning. And Dungy remembers telling him just how important it was that he eat breakfast every morning and in response his son just shrugged him off instead. And Dungy recalled just how maddening that all was that his son wouldn’t listen to him, a Super Bowl winning parent, no less. So parents, if you’re listening to this, take heart – turns out, even Super Bowl winning parents sometimes struggle to get across to their kids too.
But more importantly, I wonder if this is to some extent how God must feel sometimes when we disobey or choose not to act on his word. Where he’s watching us thinking, ‘My goodness, don’t they know who I am? That I know more than them, that I’m wiser than them, that I want what’s best for them, and they still don’t listen?’
Friends, in Jesus, we have a God who not only knows what’s best for us, but wants what’s best for us too. Wisdom comes from not only hearing God’s Word, but acting on it too.
So that’s the first thing I want you to see. Here’s the second -
2. Everyone builds their house, or rather their life, on something.
It says that the wise man who built his house on rock while, the foolish man who built his house on sand.
Notice the similarities and the differences here. Both people build a house – that they have in common. The difference is the foundation that they build it on – rock or sand.
And this brings us to a rather obvious observation, and yet in another way is rather profound as well, and this observation and point at large comes from Earl Palmer, former senior pastor at University Presbyterian Church in Seattle where I grew up.
And the observation is this - everyone is building something. Everyone is building their house, or rather their life, on something.
You see, the choice that Jesus puts before us isn’t whether we build a house or not. The choice is what we build our life on – will build our life on Jesus and His word or will we build it on something else entirely?
That is to say, everyone finds their meaning in life, their purpose, their worth, their sense of identity in something or someone. For some people, they try to find their identity in their work or through their careers and ultimately find their sense of worth through their success in their given profession. For others they find their worth in how much money they can make or in the possessions they accumulate. For others it’s their family, or spouse, or health, or status, or accomplishments, the list goes on and on. There’s an endless list of things that we can try and build our life on.
I’m pretty sure I’ve shared this story with you all before, but one of the key turning points in my faith journey happened on one of these spring break mission trips I mentioned at the beginning. It was my senior year of high school and due to injuries, I couldn’t play football or baseball, my two favorite sports that year. Now let the record show, I really wasn’t all that good at either of them, but that’s not the point. What I realized when those things were taken away from me was just how much I had staked my sense of identity in being Daniel the football player or baseball player.
And it was on one of those trips that we were laying down the cement foundation and I began to realize that what I was building my life on wasn’t working and how it might as well had been sinking sand. And in that moment, in a way, I was beginning to see that I needed to build my life on a different foundation, a foundation that would not crumble, and could withstand life’s greatest storms.
And this brings me to our third and final observation, and that is,
3. Storms will come and storms reveal our real foundation.
Here’s the reality that you and I know all too well, and that is,
Storms will come. It doesn’t matter if you’re the wise builder or foolish builder, or who you are for that matter, the truth is, storms will come. They just will. It’s just part of the deal given the fallen world we live in.
Now, as for what storms are in the context of this illustration, I suppose it could be a bunch of different things. Maybe it’s a literal storm, like the recent tornadoes in the South, that have wrecked people’s homes. Or maybe it’s the death of a loved one, or a cancer diagnosis, or a divorce, or the loss of a job or small business, a severe or sudden financial loss, or any number of things that could potentially turn your life upside down.
You and I know all too well that storms are a part of life and so we need a foundation that can keep us upright and withstand even the greatest of storms.
And in addition, notice the other key detail about this story, and that is, storms have a way of revealing our true foundation. Storms have a way of exposing whether or not we’ve built on rock or sand. If you were to compare the two homes when the weather is good, when life is great, during seasons of plenty and abundance, the two homes would look almost identical. Yet, it’s in the storm that our true foundation put to the test.
Now, is our current reality surrounding Covid-19 what we would consider a storm? Well, truth is, it probably depends on who you are. For some, it’s simply an inconvenience. For others, it’s a very serious storm. For those who are living in cities or in hotspots around the country where the spread of this virus has run rampant, this is very likely a storm for them. But of course, as we know, given both the experience of others and maybe our own as well, this virus has far reaching implications that has affected just about everything. As I shared with you all before the potential economic and social ramifications of all this are so very real and I know there are those within our congregation that have felt these realities. For example, I know there are a handful of people within our church family who are unable to be with their elderly parents or relatives in this season. I can’t imagine how difficult that might be, especially in a season when our physical presence would be very comforting now more than ever.
And to be clear, I don’t mean to communicate that following Jesus or building your house upon the rock keeps any of this from being hard. It’s hard regardless. Rather, choosing to follow Jesus, by not only hearing his words but acting on them too, gives us the spiritual resources and strength to help withstand and endure the greatest storms life brings our way.
So you all, as you reflect back on these last 6 weeks, what has it revealed to you about your real foundation? As things in your life have been taken away, as your lives have been disrupted, as you’ve tried to adjust to a new normal, what has it revealed to you about your true foundation, and where you find your meaning, your purpose, your identity, your worth? And what steps might you need to take, what changes might you need to make for Jesus to be your firm foundation?
As the hymn goes,
His oath His covenant His blood Supports me in the 'whelming flood When all around my soul gives way He then is all my hope and stay
On Christ the solid rock I stand All other ground is sinking sand All other ground is sinking sand