Summary: Simply hearing Jesus is not enough; we have to put into practice what we have heard.
MOST PEOPLE BUILD THEIR houses on the sand; I’m sure of it. Not their houses, of course. Not really. But their lives. By which I mean, most people don’t listen to Jesus when they think about what goes into living, or what ought to.
When I was a kid, my dad would tell me to do something. It could be just about anything: wait in a certain place, do my homework, get to my chores, clean my room, whatever. And I would hear him tell me, but that didn’t mean I always did it. And when he would come to check on me, to see whether I had completed the task he had laid out for me, only to find that I hadn’t even started, you know what he would say? In a rather frustrated tone, he would ask, “Didn’t you hear what I said?”
Now, he knew before he asked that, yes, I had heard every word. It wasn’t my hearing that was the problem. And he knew it. But when he asked, had I heard him, what he meant was that to hear is to obey.
Jesus makes this clear in his parable when he says, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man” (emphasis added). Simply hearing is not enough; we have to put what we have heard into practice. It is the path to wisdom. The person who doesn’t—that is, as Jesus says, “Everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them”—he or she is plunging into folly.
James addresses this same matter in his little book near the end of the New Testament. “Be doers of the word,” he says, “and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” I mean, who is a bigger fool that the person who lies to himself and believes the lie? James goes on: “If anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer that forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing” (Jas. 1:22ff.).
Blessed, you see. The Bible speaks with one voice on this issue. Hear what Jesus says and then do what you have heard—put it into practice—and you will be blessed.
But either people don’t believe that, or they don’t consider the blessing worth the effort—because most people are like me as a young kid. We hear what Jesus says, but we don’t do it. We’re like the proverbial “foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
Why would anyone do this? Why would anyone build a house on sand—which is to ask, Why would anyone build a life on an unstable foundation?
When you think about it, the answer’s not hard to come by. Constructing a life without much forethought is just easier. Isn’t it? You don’t have to think about what you’re doing; you just do what feels good at the time. The less thought given to it, the less hassle. The less planning, the less worry. The less energy, the less fatigue. “Eat, drink, be merry,” were the words of a foolish man in another of Jesus’ parables (Luke 12:19). Building your house on sand or your life on fantasy is easy, and it may in fact be fun—for the time being.
A house built on sand also looks just as good as a house built on rock. Or, it can. In fact, it can look better. And if appearance is all that matters, what’s the fuss? But if there’s something else to consider, then…. But, oh, we don’t consider anything else. Ease, pleasure, outward appearances. These are things you don’t even have to choose. They choose you.
And if life had no friction, if there were nothing to put what you’ve made of your life to the test, then, yeah, you’d be good. No worries at all. But there’s that pesky matter of the rainfall…and the rising floodwaters…and the winds that blow and beat against your house—I mean, your life.
What did Jesus say happened to the house built on the sand? When the storm came up, “it fell”—and not only that, but “great was the fall of it.” In other words, there wasn’t just a little structural damage; the house was washed away and reduced to rubble. You want that to be the outcome of your life?