Summer Blockbusters: The Two Builders
The Wise and Foolish Builders
24 “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. 25 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. 26 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. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.
Will you pray with me?
Almighty God, in you are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Open our eyes that we may see the wonders of your Word; and give us grace that we may clearly understand and freely choose the way of your wisdom; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Just for a moment, I want you to close your eyes and think about the pictures you see in the newspapers and on TV when tornadoes hit or hurricanes come through. Think about the devastation; the pictures where a whole neighborhood is gone except maybe one or two houses. Now, I want you to think way back to 1992, before some of you were born, but when Hurricane Andrew came through south Florida. Hurricane Andrew almost wiped out the town of Homestead, Florida and, until Hurricane Katrina, was the costliest hurricane to hit the United States.
I am taking us back that far because I remember looking at those pictures of entire neighborhoods gone. But the next neighborhood over just suffered some damage, maybe broken windows, missing shingles, trees and bushes upended, but houses mostly still intact. A friend of mine from college lived in one of those houses that was mostly still there. His family had built the house while he was in high school and were the focus of a lot of ridicule for the way his father had the house built. His dad was an engineer who had lived in south Florida his whole life and knew the big one was coming. So when they built, he actually dug down as much as you can in south Florida to reinforce the foundation. He had the walls reinforced with concrete. The windows were hurricane proof. The roof tiles used adhesive as well as nails. People thought it was overkill. He went way above the minimum building standards. But when the big one came, their house was still standing.
Today’s scripture is a similar story. It is a parable that Jesus taught at the end of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus had been teaching and instructing the people about right ways of living, the things they should and should not do. And then he tells this parable of the two builders. If you are looking in a New Revised Standard Version, the title is “Hearers and Doers.” You see, Jesus wanted to make sure that the people following him and listening to his teachings were more than hearers. He wanted to make sure they were not merely possessing the teachings of Jesus but were also acting upon them.
In today’s parable, we hear the story of two houses built, one on rock and one on sand. In Palestine, during the dry summer months, it would seem easy and secure to build on the open sandy areas. It took effort to dig down to find the rock and then build on it. But the one who built on rock was looking ahead, preparing. Because when the rainy season came, a house built on sand could quickly find its foundation washed out from under it.
We all know something about Jesus’ background. We know he was the son of a carpenter and was a craftsman himself. So he would have known all about building houses. When he spoke about the foundations of a house, he knew what he was talking about. If you go back to the story of Homestead, Florida, the one who built on rock was like my friend’s father. It took extra time and effort and going well beyond the required building standards to build the house. That builder went the extra mile while the one who built on sand did the minimum. We know how the story turns out. The one who put in the work is the one whose house was still standing.
Unlike last week’s parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, which was about the churches and unchurched, in today’s parable Jesus is addressing those who gathered around him. He was talking to the people, like you and me, who were there listening to his sermons. The people who sat at his feet to drink it in were who he was trying to reach. Today’s parable is not about those who do not know Jesus. It is about the faithful. And from today’s lesson, we should learn that only a life whose foundations are sure can stand the test.
So what is a sure, firm foundation? The first step to the Christian life is simply to give Jesus a chance to be heard. We have to clear our minds of all the busyness of life and truly listen. But if we are to be in any sense followers of Jesus, we must hear and do. When you put hearing and doing together, you have obedience. We must be obedient to Jesus. It is Jesus’ claim that obedience to him is the only sure foundation for life. Obedience to Him is safe, no matter what storms may come.
The parable sharply contrasts two ways of responding to Jesus’ teaching. The “outstanding church leaders” mentioned in versus 21-23 have indeed heard Jesus’ words over and over again, but they have refused to make those words the rule of life. These people have deceived themselves into thinking that there is saving merit in having heard Jesus preach. They have the teachings, yet their lives show no evidence of obedience, of acting on what they have heard. As a result, their reputation as eminent Christians is built on nothing more than shifting sand. These are the foolish ones.
On the other hand, there are humble Christians who can claim no special gifts but who listen intently to Jesus’ words and strive to live by them. The lives they build upon the rock will be able to withstand the storms of this life and of the final judgment. The wise person acts on what has been heard.
The two houses represent not good and bad construction practices but wise and foolish choices of site. When the storms hit, the difference between the life of obedience and the life of listening alone will be dramatically evident. The difference between the “wise” and the “foolish” builders is not a matter of intellect, but one of insight into what is required for eternal life. While both builders seem to be getting along well in the present, only the one who has built with the coming storm in mind is secure.
Lest you think some are favored and others are not, this parable tells us both houses suffered the same tribulations. Jesus does not indicate that his faithful followers will be spared any of this world’s adversity, but rather that they will endure and ultimately be saved. This message from Jesus knows of grace, but for it the grace of God is known only in that community committed to doing God’s will revealed in Jesus.
Jesus tells us it is not simply about listening. If it were, then being a disciple of Jesus would be easy. No, Jesus tells us it is about hearing His word and putting it into action. Think of it this way, would you buy your child or grandchild a bike, read all of the instructions for assembly and know exactly how to put it together but leave it in the garage in pieces? Or, would you go to the doctor and hear all he or she had to say and then refuse to follow the prescribe changes to your lifestyle? I mean, it’s not like doctors give out lollipops anymore, so you don’t go for that reason. You go in order to stay or get healthy. You have to listen to the doctor and follow their orders.
In my study of this scripture and preparation this week, William Barclay put it this way, “There is little point in going to an expert unless we are prepared to act upon the advice given to us. And yet there are thousands of people who listen to the teaching of Jesus Christ every Sunday, and who have a very good knowledge of what Jesus taught, and who yet make little or no deliberate attempt to put it into practice.” That’s a pretty bold statement and it might be making some of you a little uncomfortable about now. But Jesus requires obedience from His followers. Jesus claimed that obedience to him is the only sure foundation for life. If you are claiming to be a disciple of Jesus and you are going to sit here and listen, you have to be prepared to put the teachings into action.
So how do you build a firm foundation? This morning I am going to give you some practical, everyday ways you can work to build your foundation. For all of you here, you’ve taken the first step. You are here and listening
Building our foundation is about being obedient to the teachings of Jesus. Obedience is a combining of hearing and doing. Jesus demanded that we should listen. One of the great difficulties which face us today is the simple fact that people often do not know what Jesus said or what the Church teaches. In fact, many have a mistaken notion of what Jesus said and of what the Church teaches. How can you gain a better understanding? Participate in a Bible study. Attend a Sunday school class. Take a Disciple Bible Study class. In Disciple Bible Study, you dig into the scriptures and discuss them with your fellow class members. You really get to understand the scriptures, Old and New Testaments. In your bulletins this morning, you have the opportunity to sign up for Disciple Bible Study. Yes, it takes time each day to prepare and time each week to meet with your class. But if you are waiting for the right time, it is now.
Jesus also demanded that we do. Knowledge only becomes relevant when it is translated into action. Knowledge must become action; theory must become practice; theology must become life. We have to do, in order to be obedient.
You can do by helping with any number of ministries in this church and any number of ministries outside of it. If you want to do while also growing in understanding, why not consider teaching a children’s Sunday school class this year? Helping a child start the foundation of their Christian life is not only fun and exciting, it is also very rewarding for you. And they just might give you some new insight into your understanding of the Bible.
You can do by participating in Hands Together Day, which we have coming up in September and sign-ups will start soon. You can volunteer at the Bethesda Center, Bethany Café, Next Step Ministries, the Shepherd’s Center. And surprisingly enough, you can do by serving on one of the church committees. And most importantly, you can do by praying for one another.
Now, let me caution you just a bit. In this passage, Jesus is calling us to be hearers and doers. It is both and, not either or. Do not think you can build your foundation just by hearing and neither can you build it only by doing. It takes both to have a balanced life as a disciple.
In today’s scripture, Jesus does not differentiate that only those who build on sand will face storms. Each and every one of us will endure storms in our lives. Some of you have faced them in the past. Some of you are struggling through storms right now. And some of you are fortunate enough not to have been hit, yet. Do not wait for the storms of life to come to test your foundation. Do not wait until life seems to be coming at you from every direction to see if you can withstand the trauma. Start building today. Build your foundation on the rock that is Jesus Christ. Build your foundation by being a hearer and a doer. Take the extra time to build your foundation the right way, through study, prayer and serving.
Jesus has called us to be obedient to his teachings. He has called us to build our lives upon his Word and to go forth and share it with the world. When we are building the foundations of our lives, we must take the extra time to find the rock on which to build. We are going to sing one of my favorite hymns next, “My Hope Is Built.” The hymn says, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness.” And the refrain goes on, “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand.” My friends, the lesson from today’s scripture is that if you build your foundation on anything or anyone other than the solid rock of Christ, you are on sinking sand. Amen.
Please stand as we sing.