The Wise and Foolish Builders

Matthew 7:24-27 and Luke 6:46-49

DIG: How do the similarities and differences between the two house builders reflect the people who heard Jesus? What kind of commitment is Yeshua calling for here? What does the storm represent? What kind of righteousness is necessary to enter the kingdom of Heaven? What is the alternative? What is it based on? Where does it lead?

REFLECT: If we confess Christ as our Savior, do we make Him Lord? Why or why not? During the last storm that hit your life, what did you learn about your life’s foundation? What would you have to tear down in order to shore up that foundation? How do you need others to help you in the process? At this point in your life, is your pressing need to learn more or to practice what you have already learned?

In His sixteenth and last example of true righteousness, the Nazarene gave His listeners a choice. If they continued building on the Pharisaic interpretation of the righteousness, it would be on a foundation of sand and would collapse. Or they could build on His interpretation of the righteousness of the Torah and build upon the solid rock of the Messiah and survive.

What seems at first glance to be a very simple story is in fact a powerful commentary on people who have heads full of knowledge, but hearts devoid of faith. It makes a distinction between those who obey and those who don’t. There are those who hear the Deliverer and respond to His message, while others hear the same exact message and ignore it. Our Lord’s obvious lesson is that the difference between the two has eternal consequences.

To begin with, we need to understand the importance of the lordship of Messiah. The Bible demands that we acknowledge that He is Lord, and bow to His lordship. He is ever and always Lord, whether or not anyone acknowledges His lordship or surrenders to His authority. We don’t make Him LordHe already is Lord! He is called Lord (Greek: kurios) no less than 474 times in the New Covenant. The book of Acts alone refers to Him 92 times as Lord, while calling Him Savior only twice. Unmistakably, then, in the early messianic community, the lordship of Messiah was the heart of its message. It is indisputable that His lordship is part of the Good News to be believed for salvation. To be clear, the decision to trust Messiah as your Savior and to make Him your Lord are NOT two separate decisions, but one and the same.604

Again Jesus picks up the theme of the righteousness of pharisaic Judaism, a righteousness that is totally unacceptable to ADONAI and that will in no way qualify a person for His Kingdom. Earlier in His Sermon on the Mount, He had said: For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the Torah-teacher, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 5:20). In the Lord’s first illustration of this (see Dx – Watch Out for False Prophets), we saw a contrast of true and false professions of faith. Here, in His second illustration, we see a contrast between obedient and disobedient hearers of the Word.

Those who reject His lordship or give mere lip service to His sovereignty are not saved. This does not mean that it is impossible for an unbeliever to say the words, “Jesus is Lord,” for obviously they can. But Yeshua Himself pointed out the paradox of those who called Him Lord but did not really believe it. Why do you call Me, “Lord, Lord,” and do not do what I say (Luke 6:46)? Even the demons know and admit who He is (Mark 1:24, 3:11, 5:7; James 2:19). Words are not nearly so important as obedience. As for everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like (Matthew 7:24a; Luke 6:47). A disciple not only hears the words of Jesus, but also is the one who acts on them and puts them into practice.

Yeshua had just told the listening crowd to turn the other cheek, to go the extra mile, to forgive enemies, and to sell their possessions to give to the poor (Matthew 5:39-44). But just getting the instructions wasn’t enough. The key is act on them. Jesus said that those who hear His words and act on them are like a wise man who built his house on the rock (Mattityahu 7:24b; Luke 6:48a). Building on the rock is equivalent to building ones life on the foundation of Christ (see Fx – On This Rock I Will Build My Church).

The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house. These do not represent specific types of physical judgments but simply sum up the final judgment of Ha’Shem. The storm pictured here is the ultimate test that the house of every human life will face. Just as when ADONAI went through the land to strike down the Egyptians, He saw the blood on the top and sides of the doorframes and passed over that doorway, and would not permit the destroyer to touch the firstborn of Isra'el (Hebrews 11:28); so the same judgment that harmlessly passed over them will also pass over the house that has its foundation on the rock of Christ and His Word (Matthew 7:25; Luke 6:48). Those whose foundation is Messiah will be saved, but those who base their lives on anything less will be like building a house on sand and will be lost.

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 (Matthew 7:26; Luke 6:49a). The sand is composed of human opinions, attitudes, and wills, which are always shifting and always unstable. To build on sand is to build on self-will, self-satisfaction, and self-righteousness. To build on sand is to be unteachable, to be always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth (Second Timothy 3:7).605

The moment the rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete (Matthew 7:27; Luke 6:49b). The judgment that came upon the firstborn of Egypt will come upon those who build their house on the sand. Their house will be utterly demolished, leaving its builder absolutely nothing. That is the destiny of those who build their lives on human ideas, human philosophies, and human religion. It is not that they have little left – they have nothing left. Their way is not inferior to God, but no way to God at all. It always leads to hell. Both of these builders had similarities:

       First, they both heard the Gospel.

Second, they both proceeded to build a house that represents their lives. Both builders had confidence that their houses would stand, but one’s confidence is in the Lord while the other man’s confidence is in himself.

Third, both builders built their homes in the same general location, evidenced by their apparently being hit by the same storm. In other words, the outward circumstances of their lives were essentially the same. One had no advantage over the other. They lived in the same town, heard the same message, went to the same Bible study, worshiped and fellowshipped together with the same friends.

Fourth, the implication is that they built the same kind of house. Outwardly their houses looked alike. From all appearances the foolish man lived in much the same way as the wise man. We might say they were both religious, moral, served in their place of worship, supported it financially, and were responsible citizens. They seemed to believe in the same things and live in the same way.

But their one difference is profound. The man who built his house on the rock of Messiah was obedient, and the one who built his house on the sand of self-reliance was disobedient. One built his house on divine specifications, and the other built on his own works. The Pharisees and the Torah-teachers had a complex and involved set of religious standards that they believed had great value before ADONAI. But they were shifting sand, composed entirely of opinions and speculations (see Ei – The Oral Law). Those who followed the traditions of men, valued them over and above God’s Word.606

The shifting morals of our present world can be confusing. We may be tempted to let culture or the opinions of society be the foundation for the decisions we make. If so, our moral compass will become broken. But obeying the unwavering truth of God’s Word brings stability unavailable anywhere else. Therefore, the Lord said: Everyone who hears these words of Mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock (Matthew 7:24).


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