Summary: Jesus, the teacher of wisdom, warns us to build our lives upon solid foundations. ...
Jesus concludes his Sermon on the Mount with a story of two builders - a good builder and a bad builder, a smart builder and a dumb one.
Some of you will be aware of the fact that I’m about to embark upon some building myself. Most of you know that Ange and I are in the process of buying a campsite out near Taralga. And when we complete the purchase of that campsite it is our intention to do some building there. We want to build a gym with its own boxing ring. I want to build a wrestling pit. And I want to build a chapel of some sort that can double as a meeting room and general get-together room.
I’ve given a lot of thought to this chapel/meeting room in particular, and I’ve just about picked out the colour of the curtains for it. Actually, I couldn’t really give a damn about the curtains, but I have got to the stage of thinking about where the audio-visual equipment is going to go. I am conscious though that before decisions about audio-visual equipment are made (or decisions about curtains for that matter) certain more fundamental decisions need to be made. We have to decide exactly WHAT we are going to build this chapel out of - out of wood, bricks, mud or asbestos perhaps (asbestos not being a very popular choice nowadays)? And before we do that we have to decide HOW MUCH we can afford to spend on it, as this will determine some of the other options (such as how much asbestos we can afford to buy). And perhaps even before that we need to make up our minds about WHERE we are going to build it.
This is the foundational issue upon which everything else depends. Do we build it in the centre of things or do we put it more towards the edges? Do we put it in a prominent position for the sake of its symbolic value or do we try to put it in a quiet place? Do we build it on the hard rock of the mountainside, or should we perhaps build it down by the river, on the beach perhaps?
Jesus had some very straightforward advice on this last point didn’t He? You build on the rock, Jesus says. Only a fool builds upon the sand. That’s not because you can’t build a very attractive house upon the sand. Indeed, you may be able to build a sand-castle that looks a lot more attractive than the place you currently live in, but when the tide comes in, and the rain comes down, and the floods come up, you’ll soon come to appreciate your little one-room flat in Dulwich Hill. Hey, it might not look like much, but it was built on a solid foundation. Even after the storm has done its worst it is still standing!
If only those guys who built the ’Leaning Tower of Pisa’ had read their Bibles. That was the problem there - soft, sandy soil at the basis of the tower. Apparently they’re still pouring concrete into ground around the tower’s base, trying to stop the thing from finally toppling over!
If only our friend Brian had read his Bible before buying that house in San Fransisco, right on top of the St Andreas fault line! In Brian’s defense, Jesus didn’t actually say anything about ’fault lines’, just about ’sand’. And thankfully Brian was many miles away when he felt the rumble that demolished his house. And great was the crash! Of course Jesus’ words aren’t aimed fundamentally at master builders or at new home buyers, helpful though they might be to all such persons. The story of the builders is fundamentally a parable about life, and about ways in which people respond to Jesus’ own words.
This story is, as I’ve said, the conclusion to the ’Sermon on the Mount’ and Jesus introduces it by saying that the two builders represent two different ways in which you can respond to the teaching He has given in the Sermon on the Mount. One way is to make his teachings foundational to everything you do in your life. Take those teachings in, reflect on them, apply them, and allow those teaching to shape and direct everything you do. That, Jesus says, is how you build your life on a solid foundation, like a builder who builds his house on solid rock.
And yet there is another way to respond to the words of Jesus. Indeed, there are a number of other ways to respond to the teachings of Jesus. You can disregard his words. You can admire His words for their poetry and beauty and then bind them up in a book that you keep on the shelf alongside your copies of the works of Shakespeare and Banjo Patterson. Or you can get very excited by the teachings of Jesus, turn up to church every week so that you can tell the world how much you love those teachings, and then go home and get on with your life as if you’d never heard a single word that Jesus said! To take any of these approaches, Jesus says, is to be like the foolish builder who builds his house on the sand, and when the storm comes ’great is the fall’.