7630 - Wise and Foolish Builders

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Sometimes that which is familiar to us eludes our notice.

In our study of Luke we come to a passage today that is known by many boys and girls from Sunday school lessons. It is a passage that most Christians are familiar with, but one that deserves a bit more consideration. From Luke 6:46-49:

Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.

This is the same lesson that many of us have heard before, and is a nearly identical telling of the same illustration that Jesus gave in his Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:24-27. Many might be more familiar with the text of that passage, but in Luke we gain some additional insight.

In this illustration Jesus is talking about two types of people through the example of two builders. The two types of people are people who hear His words and put them into practice, and people who hear his words and ignore them.

Now, when I used to read this passage I thought of the little pictures I saw in Sunday school as a kid with two men who built houses. One had built his house on a sandy place next to a big rock, but the other one climbed on top of the big rock and built his house there. The rains come down and the floods came up, and the the foolish man's house went "splat”. Or at least that was how the song went.

The story and pictures were close enough for a child to understand, but it was not until I was much older that I saw more in this familiar passage.

Jesus was preaching in an area very near the Sea of Galilee. There the sand for most of the year is rock hard. It is dry compact, and very firm, almost like concrete. But when the rains come in the winter the sand gets saturated and is no longer firm.

So the foolish man is building on what has every appearance of being a solid and firm foundation. It appears that this concrete like sand is a hard enough foundation. But the wise builder knows that rains will come one day, maybe not today or tomorrow, but soon, and he knows what will happen to the sand.

But this is what I always missed. He does not climb up on a rock to build his house, he digs down to the bedrock underneath the sand to build his house. This bedrock can be as much as 10 feet below the surface of the sand, and would have required great and extended effort to reach.

The original Greek of this digging actually repeats two different Greek verbs for digging, essentially, the man “dug (ἔσκαψεν, eskayen) and dug deep (ἐβάθυνεν, ebaqunen).” This would be back breaking work digging through this very hard sand. And I am sure that if like in that Sunday school picture the two builders are near each other, then the one doing all of the digging is sweating and laboring in the hot summer sun, and he can look over and see his neighbor, the other builder, relaxing in the shade of his house sipping something cool to drink.

But the laboring wise builder knows that soon enough his hard work will result in a house that will stand against the trials and turmoil that is coming.

This whole illustration comes down to a reminder that hearing and obeying the Lord’s instructions is not easy or convenient. It is hard and repetitive labor, but it is necessary to invest the hard work in having a firm foundation in the Lord in order to stand against the trials that will one day come.