Thursday, June 26, 2008

The parable of the wise and foolish builders

The parable of the wise and foolish builders

“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.”
Matthew 7:24-27 (Also Luke 6:47-49)

* This parable was told as part of a larger sermon, in which Jesus was teaching His followers how to live their lives. It was actually the last thing, the final closing statement for the sermon on the mount. The final statement to a sermon usually summarises everything that is spoken in the sermon. The summary is not a message unto itself but a summary, therefore the parable is hard to understand properly unless it is considered in its context.
* The parable starts with the word "therefore" which means that it is supposed to follow on from the bit directly before it, which in the Matthew account is about judgement day and how God is going to judge the human race (Christians and non-Christians) on the fruits (ie the visible signs of faith).
* The statement "everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice" seems to indicate not just a belief but a response to the words that Jesus has spoken. It is an extremely practical sermon and Christ is saying that we are to put it into practice. This need to put into practice is supported by the fact that the verses just before this parable talk about people who merely profess to be Christians not being allowed into Heaven but only those who do the will of the God (verse 21)
* Weather elements mentioned in this parable probably refer to Gods judgement. I say this because the verses before the parable are about judgement.
* The builders represent people that "hear the word of God". I say this because Christ says it in the telling of the parable.
* The wise builder represents he who hears Christs words and obey and the foolish builder represents he who hears Christs words and does not obey. I say this because Christ says it in the telling of the parable. Christ does not mention in this parable the ones who don't hear Christs words.
* The context looks different in Luke but it is the same. The reason it looks different is that Luke seems to have abridged the sermon on the mount, whilst Matthew has included greater detail.

This is often taught in Sunday school as a cute story about how the one who trusts in Christ is wise and will survive the "bad-weather-of-life". I'm afraid that I have even taught the cute watered down version before (it was only now that I have thought about it as a parable that follows a teaching on judgement). It is a shame that it is not taught in its proper context because it is a much more important and drastic lesson. It is about the judgement of God and the weather is not talking about "weather-of-life-type-stuff" but rather "heaven-and-Hell-type-stuff". The parable backs up the statement that Christ makes about believing He exists is not good enough, but rather obeying what He taught- practicing obedience becomes solid foundation on the day of Judgement.

The whole picture of what Christ is asking us to obey is found in the context- the sermon is about Christian life (ie life that follows after someone has first trusted in His sacrifice on the cross as a necessary payment for their own sins, and decided to follow Him). Throughout the sermon Jesus talks about many of Gods commandments, and is saying in this final closing statement that it is necessary to do what He says. Jesus laid it out clearly that there was a storm of judgement coming. I think it is a tragedy that in the parable the foolish man is likened to the person that hears and does not do anything with what he has heard. Judgement destroys the fool.

A shocking lesson on judgement or a cute story about a comfortable peaceful shelter in the storms of life? What do you think? The fact that the storms come later tells me that Christ is warning the hearers of something that will come later as well. It seems to be judgement to me. This makes a more literary sense as the parable follows on from verses 21-23.

The greatest response to a statement about Gods coming judgement on sin would be acknowledgement, reverence and holy fear and then repentance. I say that because when we read the sermon on the mount we see a lot of things that God has commanded us not to do that we have done (lust, anger, lying, idolising money, worrying and critcising others). We also see things that God has told us to do that we haven't done (loving, peacemaking, humility, obedience, prayer, generosity). If these are the things that God is going to judge us by on Judgement day then we need to acknowledge we are truelly stuffed. We also need to have a fear and reverence of what the outcome of Gods judgement will be for us (Heaven or Hell), and we need to start building our house on the rock through obedience to God.

I recommend reading back over the sermon on the mount with the closing statements of Jesus about Gods judgment in mind (Matt 7:21-27). It has rocked me to the core.

God help me to keep in mind Your judgement and to live with eternity in mind. Teach me to obey Your commands. If there are times when I am tempted to break Your commandments remind me of this parable and help me to have the desire and the conviction to obey Your Word.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The speck and the log (Matthew 7:1-5, Luke 6:41-42)

The parable of the speck and the log

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."
Matthew 7:1-5 (Also Luke 6:41-42)

* This parable was told as part of a larger sermon, in which Jesus was teaching His followers how to live their lives.
* The parable starts with a statement about what the parable is about. A lot of Jesus' parables end with the meaning, or sometimes go without Him giving the meaning. Here he gives the command, and embelishes with the parable to explain His point.
* The command "do not judge" is followed by a warning "or you will be judged".
* According to the Strongs interpretation the word for "judge" means to to "...separate, put asunder, to pick out, select, choose..."
* Jesus explains what type of judging he is talking about through the parable "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?" He is talking about the hypocritical type of judging that points out wrong in others lives and ignores the wrongs in own life.
* The parable ends with the person who has removed the "plank" in their own eye able to help their "brother".

A lot of people use this passage of scripture to try and argue that it is wrong to make a moral judgement about the way that other people live. This is a wrong view of this parable. Other places in the Bible (and even a few verses later in Matthew 7:15-20) we are taught that we need to be able to evaluate and consider what God approves of. How can people recognise their sin in order to be saved from their sin, if they aren't told that what it is they do that is sinful. Critical and reflective thinking are important in order to help other people. Jesus is talking about a different type of judging in this parable.

This parable speaks against the type of judgemental attitudes that try to make others look like less than we are by pointing out their flaws without acknowledging our own. It tells us not to be hypocrites and to judge ourselves first, lest we deserve the same criticism we have for others. This is a section of God's church which ignores this commandment to not be hypocritical. When we judge ourselves, we recognise we are sinful and our approach to others sin is with love and humility because we identify with them. If we deal the "plank in our eye" (the sin in our lives), we are then able to help others with the "speck in their eyes" (their sin) by pointing them to the solution that is needed by both parties.

It is important to note the "then you will" in verse five. This shows that it is appropriate and permissable to judge with love, but only after we have acknowledged and fixed our own mess.


Basically the parable teaches us not to be a mean prick, or an arrogant bastard in the way we relate to other people about their sin! Lets acknowledge our own imperfections and sin and not be hypocrites. If we acknowledge these things then we will be humbling ourselves before God and able to recieve His love and grace. This will then give us authority to judge but we will do it with humility and love towards that person.


God help me to see myself and my condition as you see me. Don't let me take for granted that I have sinned, but help me to see my sin for what it is. It is only by your grace that I am able to stand, without You I am no different to anybody else in the sin department. I relate to sinners because I know what it is like to be one. Now help me to help other people remove the speck from their eye by showing them the way to Jesus with love, passion and humility.