Wise and Foolish Builders
- Understand that true listening means hearing and doing.
- Explain how we can do what Jesus wants us to do.
- Realize that Jesus praises those who hear and do what he says.
In the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, which we looked at a few weeks ago, the main thrust was that we are saved by grace alone, not by our good works. This short parable seems to say the opposite---that it's our good works that count.
It comes at the end of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, his practical, down-to-earth teaching on what it means to be his disciple. In one way, the whole Sermon on the Mount seems to be an ethical teaching on how to be better and wiser people. But it's much more than that. In it, Jesus describes a new way of life, the way of the kingdom, that involves our thinking, doing, feeling, and believing.
From the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus makes clear that he is not rejecting the way of the old covenant. He did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. He calls for an obedience that comes from the heart, the way of willing service to God and our neighbor. This new law was already present in the old law; it is the law of love.
The disciples (and other followers) had been listening to Jesus' words---just as you and your children have been listening to them during this unit. Perhaps, like you, they nodded their heads from time to time in agreement with what Jesus was teaching. Now Jesus brings his talk to a close by saying, "It's fine that you agree, but that's not enough! Now go out and do what I said."
The sermon ends with four warnings. Each of them contrasts two things: two gates (Matt. 7:13-14), two trees (verses 15-20), two doers (verses 21-23), and two houses (verses 24-27). The contrast between the two houses is the most pointed warning, a summation of all that Jesus has said. Every part of who we are and what we do must be built on Jesus' Word, just as every part of a house is built on its foundations.
Notice that the wisdom or foolishness of people's lives is revealed when the storms come. Storms might refer to the troubles of life, but more likely they refer to the coming judgment. That's when the foundations will be exposed and the truth about our lives revealed.
The contrast in this little story is between believers who are wise and believers who are foolish. Both kinds of people have heard Jesus' words and said, "I believe." But only one kind of people both believe and do. This does not mean that there are two steps of faith---first the necessary step of hearing and then the practical step of doing. The wise ones in this parable don't add doing to hearing. Rather, they merge the two together: true hearing involves doing.
If faith is not lived out, it is not true faith. As James says, "faith without deeds is dead" (James 2:26). Trusting in God's grace through Jesus Christ, we live out that faith in the deeds of everyday life. The deeds display what the faith is about, a life dedicated to the way of love in Jesus Christ.
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