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.


miss_coz said...

yeah man.. this hit me straight in the face. I dont have what i would call a strong understanding of the bible.. not at all.. but i really enjoyed reading your thoughts and have been challenged massively by this. I really think u hit the nail on the head when u said "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"."

Good work.. i will read over it again and do some thinkin.. thanks Nick.

Scott said...

Nick- firstly- great idea mate.
With this particular scripture I think there are a few things to hold in balance whilst interpretting it. Firstly, as you pointed out-it is the summing up of a very practical sermon- a blueprint for the lives of disciples. This means it is vital that we hit the end and go- "Wait up- what was it he said about this or that?"
I think that judgement is never just an end of your life thing. It is always a reapin gof what we sow- and often only visible to God in the deep places of our heart- so a modern day 'Rich young ruler' may outwardly be gliding through this life- secure from the battering winds of life- but inwardly such a person - if they don't know God- would be wracked with a hopelessness and emptiness that is a precurser to an eternity of separation from God.
So to sum up point 1- Yes it is looking at the end judgement- but it is also at the same time a practical explanation of what our lives may be characterized by if we reject the 'way' of Jesus.
I guess this is a pretty long response- but I have to say another point which often gets overlooked in this type of discussion and it is the matter of dispensation.- now this is walking carefully along the edge of theology - so hold my hand...
Jesus was preaching to a bunch of Jews who were under the old covenant. He by His own admission came to fulfill the law not dispense with it. These words of the sermon need to be filtered through the as yet still future event of His own substitutionary death on the cross for our sins- all of them.
Therefore we need ot ask ourselves a deep theological question- "Are we any different to the disciples who heard this message preached?"
and the answer- drum roll please is- Yes we are- we are in fact sons and daughters of God - adopted into HIS family through the death of Jesus. Because our relationship to God is changed in this- our response to the teaching must also change.
God's law is written on the heart of believers.
This scripture heightens our passionate desire to live as responsive disciples. Hidden in it is the powerful throb of the grace of God on you and I.
Bless you

beka said...

God is the God of multiplcation. Whenever God says something it can usually mean more than one thing. I have never thought of this verse as a statement about judgement day but I can see where you are coming from. Obviously if we interpret storms as 'bad stuff' then it can be now and to come. If we just do as He told us to then we know we, according to what He said, will still be standing. So praise God!

Keshia Henderson said...

This truly blessed me thanks for sharing it gave me some clarity I was studying on it God bless you.

avid beliver said...

I have read the passage and at first took on face value. Then realised it may have maybe was referring to evolution and not to mess with it. I think it means survival of the fittest and those who are foolish will perish.
Maybe I ve thought too much about this but I look at the third world and middle east crisis. All built upon the sand.