‘Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 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. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.’Matthew 7:24-27
Some friends of mine recently built a new chalet on the beach close to where I go on holiday. The building replaced an old chalet that sadly burnt down. The construction caused a few headaches, not least because the building was to be constructed literally on the beach, raised up on stilts to prevent the tide flooding it twice a day. They had hoped to use the tried and tested construction method of sinking a few feet of concrete into the beach and then bolting wooden piles onto these strong foundations, before building a base on the top of the stilts. The council, however, had other ideas. They required my friends to sink piles thirty feet into the sand before starting work on the chalet. This clearly had cost implications on the build as well as extending the time taken quite considerably. Still, at least they can sleep confidently in their smart new chalet, firm in the knowledge that nothing short of a cataclysmic event will bring their holiday home down!
Jesus points out several times in the gospel that true faith needs to be firmly rooted in the word of God. A faith that is not built on firm foundations will soon come crashing down as soon as trouble or hardship is encountered. A faith that is rooted in scripture will endure through life’s difficulties and disasters. When a person bases their faith on the teaching in the Bible they will understand that being a Christian does not mean that we won’t face difficulties, that God will not test someone beyond their capabilities, that problems are the means by which faith gets deeper and we become more like Christ, that God never abandons his children but sends his Holy Spirit to protect and guide believers, and that ultimately, if we share in Christ’s sacrifice we will be rewarded with a place in God’s heavenly kingdom. And that’s just the start of it!
In today’s passage, Jesus states that it is not enough even to hear and believe the word of God. He tells his listeners that it is those who hear his words AND put them into practice who will find their faith able to endure the hardships of this life without falling with a great crash. Coming at the end of an extended section of teaching, known as the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is evidently imploring all those who have listened to him to pay careful attention to all that he has said and to apply it to their own lives. For us today, who read this teaching, perhaps this is an opportune moment to flick back through the preceding two chapters of Matthew’s Gospel, and to pray that we will strive to apply all that we learn from this important text in our own lives.
Has your life been transformed by the Sermon on the Mount? Do you strive not just to read and understand Jesus’ teaching but to build your life upon it? It is a wise person who puts Jesus’ teaching into practice, but a foolish person who reads it, yet fails to act on it. Are you wise or foolish?