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.
The house that is built on the sand is interesting. You would think that the life built on the sand is the one that has not heard the words of Jesus and therefore does not obey them. But that is not the case. The two houses have the same opportunity to have a great foundation. There is no disadvantage between the two lives—the one on the rock and the other on sand. The only difference is obedience. Both heard the same Sermon on the Mount. Both heard the words of Jesus, the Creator of all things. The difference was not hearing; the difference was doing what they heard.
Why would we not build our houses on the rock? The listeners would have resonated with this parable and understood that it is very possible for people to build their houses on the sand. The Sermon on the Mount was on a hill right next to the sea of Galilee where the sand in the dry season became rock-like. Out of haste, cutting corners, saving money or from a lack of local knowledge, people would make the mistake of building a house on the sand. This is an important point because we might think the point Jesus is making is an obvious one, but the hearers would’ve begun realized that the distinction He was making was a subtle one with huge ramifications.
So it's not obvious, sand or rock. These listeners understood this. It's not always obvious if what you are building your life on is the rock-solid foundation words of Jesus. Just because we have heard the word of God doesn't mean we are building a solid foundation. It's a great start, but no guarantee. That's why Jesus is giving us this parable. He is revealing that we might be the house that is on the sand because we are hearing His words but not living His words out.
This is a mistake we all make. Out of haste, laziness, apathy, discouragement and selfishness, we hear, but we don't do—because doing usually requires surrender, submission, sacrifice, commitment and other words that are unpopular in today's western world. We might sacrifice, but the benefits must be immediate and rewarding for us to justify the sacrifice. Jesus words in this famous and powerful sermon tell us to love our enemies, fast, pray, give generously, not take revenge, turn the other cheek, give to the needy, let your word be your word, don't lust, be salt and light—and it goes on and on. These are very challenging things to do, but He says that those who not only hear these words but also do them have the life that will truly be built on a rock-solid foundation.
Are we hearing but not doing? We might be building on sand that seems rock like. These houses around the Sea of Galilee would not usually fall after one storm; the sand would erode over time, after multiple storms. The builder would have a false sense of security because the house withstood a few storms. This our danger because we have heard the words of Jesus but haven't been living and obeying them. We probably have made it through a few storms, but underneath the sands of pride are eroding.
Diving into this parable is humbling because it confronts our obedience. It confronts our assumptions. But praise God we are being encouraged and warned. James, the brother of Jesus, later writes in his New Testament letter to not just be hearers of the word but doers of the word. In an age of cheap grace which says our actions don't matter, Jesus counters this sentiment and encourages us to not be fooled by the sand that seems like rock. Hearing is necessary, but if we’ve truly heard, it will be seen in our actions. We are saved only by the finished word of Jesus, saved by His wondrous grace, but this grace empowers us to not just hear how we are called to live. Thank God that His grace, His Holy Spirit, empowers us to not just be hearers but now doers of His word.
Let's be humans that are fully assured, fully alive and built on a rock solid foundation.
// Pastor Josh Kelsey