Wise And Foolish Builders
Scripture: Matthew 7:24-27
"That is such a foolish decision," most of us have thought at one time or another. "So-and-so should do such-and-such differently, or try a different approach altogether." Usually, the person that we are criticizing is not us ourselves. Rather, we tend to look down on people when we make judgments like this. However, it does not have to be this way, and it wasn't this way for Jesus. This is also not the attitude that I want to take in this post. What I am writing in this post is meant to warn you, not to look down on you. This is an important distinction, and I hope that you will keep this in mind as we examine this section of the Sermon on the Mount today.
The opening word in this section of the Sermon on the Mount is usually translated along the lines of "Everyone then who hears" (ESV) or "Therefore whoever hears" (NKJV). This indicates that it is closely connected to the previous section. It does not stand alone, but is informed by the message of the previous few verses. Looking back on verses 21-23, we can clearly see that there are some who call Jesus their Lord, but do have an intimate, close relationship with him, nor do they obey him by doing the will of the Father. These Jesus will cast out and speak the most terrifying words that any person could ever hear: "I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness" (v. 23 ESV). That is, despite their own best efforts, they will be rejected. They are false teachers, as we have pointed out in the last post. However, they are also those who try to build their own kingdom in their own way by their own power. This cannot lead to anything lasting. Finite kingdoms will always go under at some point. The only Kingdom that will ever last is God's Kingdom.
This passage adds more detail to the previous passage. Now, we can identify those who will be told to depart from Christ. Who are they? They are people who have built on a foundation other than Christ. Their hopes are built on something else. They have chosen a different place to build. The identification of these individuals with those told to depart from Christ in the last passage enables us to understand the sand on which they are building their houses amounts to their own works or the works of someone other than God. This is consistent with the message that we see in Psalm 1 and elsewhere, where a relationship with God provides an internal fortitude to the believer that will enable him or her to endure trials and difficulties that come their way.
This entire passage boils down to a contrast. First, there are those that build their houses on the rock, Jesus Christ Himself. These individuals are told that they will endure the trials, temptations, and difficulties that come their way. The second group are those who build their houses upon sand--any foundation other than Christ. These are guaranteed that their houses will be destroyed by the wind, rain, and floods. Because these individuals are those who built upon their own works, we can see that there is a clear contrast being made here. We can build on Christ--starting with the foundation that he has laid in his work on earth dying for our sins and rising from the dead--and let our works flow from there. The other option is to build upon our own work--which always ends in destruction--and wait for destruction to come. Our foundation will out us as either a wise man or a fool. God, in his grace, enables us to make a choice.
This passage also dispels a myth about the Christian life. The myth is that the Christian life is always, or almost always, easy. It is not. Notice here that both the person who built on the sand and the person who built on the rock experienced rain, wind, and flood. The difference was the foundation and which one stayed standing at the end of it all. The message here is short and simple: Make Jesus the foundation and build on his finished work for us. By build, I do not mean that there is something that needs to be added to the work of Christ. Rather, I am saying that Christ's work is the starting point for all of the good that we could do. Apart from Christ there is no good, no love, no justice. With Christ, there is perfect goodness, perfect love, perfect justice. It is only the Holy Spirit who dwells in those who sincerely confess Christ who enables us to build upon this solid foundation. Our works must start with his work. So the question that we all have to ask ourselves today is simple: What foundation am I building on? Am I building on sand? Or am I building on the Rock? What is your foundation?