“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.” – Luke 6:46-49
Those of us who have grown up in the church or been around the church for years know this story well and have heard it many times. While it is a blessing to have been exposed to scripture over and over so that we learn it well, sometimes we do not give our full attention to the stories we have heard often. When a speaker opens up to a well-known passage we often let our level of focus drop–whether we realize it or not–and are not as present as we could or should be. We must remind ourselves that the Word of God is “living and active” (Hebrews 4:12). The Bible is not just the words God spoke, it is the words God is speaking and will speak, Jesus is the living Word. As many times as we read a passage or hear a story from scripture, that many times we can learn from it and be changed by it.
A few truths to glean from this reading of this familiar passage:
Building without a foundation
In this telling of the parable the foolish builder constructs his house on the ground without a foundation, in others the ground is sand (Matthew 7:24-29).
Why would someone build without a foundation?
Foundation work is boring. It is digging deep and laying groundwork. When you see a building under construction while they are working on laying the foundation, putting steel in the ground, and pouring concrete, not a lot appears to be happening. It is work that seems to lack glory or pleasure from an outside perspective. If you skip the foundation you can get to the fun stuff first and spend more of your time and resources on things that will make you happy in the present.
Floods will come
Both the wise and foolish builders’ homes were struck by flood. Following the words of Jesus did not keep the wise man’s house from ever being hit. While it is clear from scripture that living in rebellion towards God and giving ourselves over to sin will lead to extra calamities (see Proverbs), following the Lord faithfully does not mean we will avoid all of the hardship in this life, in fact at times following the Lord will produce hardship through persecution that we would not have experienced otherwise.
This world is broken by sin and even in following Jesus faithfully we will feel those effects at times.
If an observer were to come along after the houses were complete–unless they made a closer inspection–they would not know the difference in foundations. Both houses might appear perfectly fine from the outside, perhaps the house that didn’t have a foundation would even look nicer after saving time and money during the construction.
However, when the storm blows through, the truth would be revealed. Without a strong foundation the house of the foolish builder would have nothing to rely on when its strength was tested and it would collapse.
On the other hand, the house whose foundation is strong and deep and built upon the rock would stand firm. It might get battered and bruised, losing some of its less essential elements, but it won’t collapse.
The grace of the storm
It’s easy to view the storms of life as purely negative aspects worth avoiding at all costs. But if we take this viewpoint we miss some of God’s grace in our lives. These storms that sweep away anything not built on the true foundation–which is Christ–accomplish the Lord’s work in our lives. God is gracious enough to use difficult situations to rid us of those things that we think we need or make us happy that are not of Him. It is often through trials that God shapes and molds our faith to become more like Him.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” – James 1:2-4
Sometimes it takes trials to knock down the parts of our lives that we have built without a foundation or on the wrong foundation. When we build our identity on our career and it gets derailed or put on hold, when we find our value in what others think of us and our reputation suffers and our social standing takes a hit, when we place our security in the amount of money we have and we lose it or can’t ever gain very much of it, all of these things can be used by God to knock down what we’ve built that was never going to last and start again by digging deep into Him and placing those parts of our lives on the rock that will never be moved.
“By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames. – 1 Corinthians 3:12-14
As believers we can build our lives with things of little value and neglect the words of the Lord. He is still faithful to save, but much is wasted and lost.
Christ is the rock and He will not be shaken or moved. The easiest way to realize if any parts of our lives are not found fully in Him and dependent on Him is how easily they are shaken. If we find ourselves without peace, we can know that we have built much of our peace on something other than Christ. If we find our value and identity lost or worthless, that is a sure sign that they are not depending on the foundation of Christ. If we are racked by worry, we are not trusting on Christ, but on our own ability or someone else’s.
Every time we feel part of our lives wobble or even crash to the ground, we should be reminded to take that area to Christ, to go to the Word in prayer and instead dig deep and build that part of our lives on Christ. We must also be wary, because buildings can shift off of their foundations. What was once standing firmly on the rock can slowly shift over to the sand and become unstable again. This is why it is so important to continually be in the Word and to remind ourselves of the truth over and over again.
Yes, there will be storms and floods, but Christ is firm. When we find ourselves shaken, let our prayer be the same as David’s.
“Hear my cry, O God;
listen to my prayer.
From the ends of the earth I call to you,
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” – Psalm 61:1-2
“On Christ the solid rock I stand,
all other ground is sinking sand.”