The pile driver with its steady thump, thump, thump sounded throughout the China Town neighborhood as it drove the huge steel beams deep into the earth. Building was happening on a steep hillside. Bedrock would need to be reached if the structure built above was going to stand on its precarious perch. Even though the beams would never be seen by the people who would live above them, they would provide strength and stability to those who inhabited the apartments. If the earth decided to shake as it quite often does in Southern California, the structure would stand firm thanks to its ‘roots’ beneath the surface.
This first stage of building is an important one. The builders would have to go down before they could be built up. It would make all the difference in the ability of the structure to stand. Without the bedrock supporting its feet, the homes above would find themselves on shaky ground.
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.
Jesus points out this wise building practice in Matthew 7, when He speaks of a house built on the rock that can stand up against the stormy winds and waves. Not so, for those who choose to just build on top of the sand He says. That would result in a disastrous outcome, to say the least. Even though Jesus is talking about our spiritual life in the passage, we get the picture. The sweet little Sunday school song about structural integrity sung by children and adults alike, reminds us that the foolish man’s house fell FLAT! Not how most want their lives to go.
And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
What’s the key to standing tall in the midst of the storms of life? Hearing the words of Jesus plays a large part in our foundation, but there is more to it than listening. In Matthew 7:24 and then again in verse 26, Jesus points out the fact that both the wise and the foolish have heard the same information. It is only when we put His words into practice that we are wise. Our trust in the words of Jesus is only evidenced in our actions. When we choose to operate according to His words, we secure a firm footing on the Rock. From there our lives can be built up into something that will endure.
So, what words are Jesus talking about? This passage comes at the tail end of what is known as The Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5-7, a doctrine of sorts for the Jesus follower. His teaching reveals not only things to believe, but more importantly, what to do. He gives guidance on conducting ourselves not just in our actions, but He also includes our minds and hearts, such as— “anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” [Matthew 5:28]—or don’t just love your neighbor but “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” [Matthew 5:44]
Jesus takes things to a new level that includes our whole selves—mind, body and spirit— because He is concerned with the source of our actions. He covers many topics such as anger, unfaithfulness, honesty, forgiveness, helping the needy, prayer and fasting, what to value in life, discontentment, and making comparisons. He gets right down to the core of things. He doesn’t want our conduct to be for show. He wants good character to be at the base of it all.
Why is it so important that we build on the values He speaks of in His sermon?
The obvious comes in the very beginning of His statements to His listeners. Jesus says in Matthew 5:14,
“You are the light of the world.
A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.”
I’m not certain that the hill He speaks of is a rock, but I think we can see the meaning. When we build our lives on Jesus and His standard of living, others can’t help but take notice. Our lives will be a shining example of God’s ways at work, but only if we build our foundation by His specifications. It will anchor us to something strong and unshakable.
It’s much like that apartment building clinging to the side of the hill in China Town. It sits with its feet on the bedrock, rising up to offer shelter for families who live within its walls. It matters what we build our lives on, too. We must firmly affix our feet—our lives—to the Rock, making His words our actions. It is the only thing that will prove our structural integrity as we stand tall with our lives supported by Him.