I am a Christian pastor who wishes to bring glory to God in all that I do, and to help people through my writing to know Him better.
Introduction: Two Buildings with Two Foundations
The tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, rises more than 2,700 feet—over half a mile tall. It has 160 floors and is twice as tall as the Empire State Building in New York City. It is home to the world’s fastest elevator that travels at 40 miles per hour. The Burj Khalifa also hosts the world’s highest outdoor observation deck (on the 124th floor) and the world’s highest swimming pool (on the 76th floor).
But the secret to the stability of this massive building is found underground. Before construction began to rise up, workers spent a year digging and pouring the massive foundation that supports the building. The foundation contains some 58,900 cubic yards of concrete weighing more than 110,000 tons. The building is safe because the foundation is solid.
On the other hand, there is the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Pisa, Italy.
Pisa‘s famous Leaning Tower is simply the bell tower for the adjacent cathedral – cathedrals all over Italy have bell towers, and many of them are also leaning for one reason or another.
Construction on the Tower of Pisa, called “La Torre di Pisa” in Italian, began in 1173 and went on more or less for about two hundred years. The ground beneath the tower was soft, and so even before the building was near completion it had already started to tilt. It was noticeable enough that the builders even tried to compensate for it by angling the new construction differently than the old construction – if you look at the tower from the appropriate direction you’ll see it’s not perfectly straight on one angle. The Leaning Tower has been closed to visitors at various times as engineers worked to shore up the base, fearful it would eventually topple completely. And many who know architecture believe it is inevitable that it will one day fall.
These two buildings illustrate perfectly the importance of a good foundation. And what is true in the building world is just as true in building a life. There are so many people in our society that try to build their lives on foundations that are incapable of holding them up during the heavy winds and the storms of this life. And they certainly won't be strong enough for eternity.
Men and women build empires upon riches, fame and power. Or they make sexual conquest the foundation and center of their lives. They buy land, build businesses, create empires or see family as an idol rather than the gift of God that it truly is. However, all that seek to place their lives on any of these foundations will, sooner or later, realize that their house is built on a something that will give way and cause all that they have built to be destroyed.
In Matthew 7:24-28 our Lord Jesus Christ ends his famous Sermon on the Mount with a parable of two buildings with two radically different foundations. Here is the passage which ends this powerful sermon:
"Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell- and great was its fall.' When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes."
Today, more than 2000 years after these words were uttered, they still ring true. And all of us need to take heed to what our Lord is telling us if we want a solid life and an eternity that is sure. Let us look more deeply into Christ's parable and see how it apply to us today.
I. Purpose and Meaning of the Parable
We begin by looking at the purpose and meaning of this illustration which has become known as 'The Parable of the Two Builders.' Throughout Jesus' Sermon on the Mount He has been calling His hearers to move beyond being mere listeners to what He has to say to becoming true disciples or followers and actually doing what He has been telling them to do. To make the point quite clear, our Lord tells the people a parable contrasting the actions of two men who build two houses. This comparison will highlight the sensibleness of doing what Jesus says and the foolishness of not doing what he commands us to do.
The houses represent the spiritual or religious life. And the rains and floods are divine judgment. Only the house which is built upon the foundation of obeying God's Word will stand. This is a life of repentance of sin, rejection of seeking salvation by works and trusting in God's grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.
The one who does this and builds his life upon a solid foundation is labeled 'wise.' While the other is called 'foolish.' We must not get from this that one is intelligent and the other is stupid. This has nothing to do with mental capacity but is revealing the character of each man.
A fool in Scripture is one who disregards God's Word in his life. And the ultimate of fools is one who actually says that God doesn't exist and lives like he wants to live instead of the way God would have him to do. Proverbs 14:1 tells us:
"The fool has said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that does good."
In contrast, the Scripture says this:
"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." (Proverbs 9:10).
A similar verse can be found in Proverbs 1:7 which actually contrasts the wise person with the fool. It states:
"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction."
Sadly, by this biblical definition, there are many fools out there who, by the world's standards, are considered brilliant and knowledgeable. And it is also the case with these two builders. They both appear to be bright and talented. They're both able to build structures that appear to be wonderful. But one structure has a flaw. Or, to bring it into reality, their life has a flaw. One that will lead to complete destruction in the end. That is a bad foundation.
The Apostle Paul takes this analogy farther in talking with the Corinthians when he says:
"According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." (I Corinthians 3:10,11).
So Jesus and obedience to His commands are the difference between what will last for eternity and what will be totally destroyed and lost in the end. In order to understand this better it might be good to point out the obvious here.
II. On the Surface the Buildings or Lives Seem to be Alike
As we've said, it is glaringly obvious that the men have similar skills and one appears to be just as bright as the other. The other obvious point is that, on the outside their buildings appear to be exactly alike, or at least similarly well-constructed. They had access to the same materials and apparently used them all to make solid structures.
Further, they are both building homes to shelter them from the storms. Here is what the Forerunner Commentary has to say:
"Palestine is naturally a land of hills and mountains, and as a result, it is subject to violent rains and sudden floods. The Jordan River annually swells to dangerous levels and becomes rapid and furious. The streams that run through the hills can suddenly swell with rain and spill tremendous amounts of water onto the plains below, sweeping everything before them. Houses erected within reach of these sudden deluges - especially those founded on sand or other unreliable foundations - cannot stand before them. The rising stream shakes a house to its foundation and erodes away its base until it falls. Rocks are common there, however, so it is not hard to find a solid foundation."
So Jesus uses an understanding of these facts to demonstrate a life that is built to withstand anything that comes at a person, including the judgment by God at the end of the world.
Let's look a little more closely for a moment at the different foundations of the wise and foolish men.
III. The Differences in Foundations
The wise man dug deep into the surface of the earth to build a foundation that was solid and would withstand the elements. He knew that the dry season wouldn't last forever. Sooner or later the rainy season would come and there would be torrential downpours and gale-force winds to deal with.
The second, more foolish man builds his house as if summer will always be around. He refuses to think about the storms to come and erects his beautiful building, not on a solid foundation, but directly upon the sand.
In speaking of this, Martin Collins, in the Forerunner Bible tells us:
"Seemingly good people who are uncalled seem to build their lives well and wisely in terms of money, material possessions, and friends. All these things seem good to the human mind, but their end can be disastrous without a Rock foundation."
It is the book of Proverbs which tells us:
“There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” ( Proverbs 14:12 NASB).
The spiritually-wise man knows that this life isn't all that there is. There is coming a day of judgment where every person must give an account of himself to the God of the universe.
And that applies to the believer as well as the non-believer. The Bible tells us:
"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad."
Thankfully, for the believer, this judgment isn't one that causes us to lose our salvation or our eternal relationship with God which was purchased with the blood of Christ and is received totally by grace, through faith (Ephesians 2:8,9; Titus 3:5). However, it is one in which we must face God to answer for what we have done for Christ, or haven't done. And Paul tells us that it is a judgement in which we will suffer loss in some way for those things not done for Christ as well as receive a reward for those things which are done for Him. Presumably the loss is a loss of rewards which would have been given for faithful service (I Corinthians 3:12-15).
However, the total destruction comes to the one who is seeking to win in this life and the next by trusting in any other foundation than the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus talked about these people earlier in the Sermon on the Mount. They are those who place their trust in works to find favor with God. Jesus said of them:
"Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles? And then I will declare to them: 'I never knew you; Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness."
And unfortunately the end of these foolish men and women is eternal separation from God and all that is good in the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:1-15). Then we can sadly say of the spiritual house that they once had built:
"...and it fell- and great was its fall."
Is it any wonder that after hearing what the Lord had to say here, that chapter 7 verse 28 ends with a positive evaluation from the people who heard all that Jesus had said in the Sermon on the Mount.
For it was a radical wake-up call for Christians to live wholeheartedly for God through faith, not simply through the external actions of keeping the law like the rest of the rabbis were telling them to do.
It was a call to build one's foundation, ones whole life, on your faith in Christ who spoke with authority about the subject of the Kingdom of God. For He, unlike the other rabbis, was God in the flesh (7:28).
From the March 1989 edition of the magazine 'Today in the Word' we get this illustration that may help us wrap up our study. It tells us:
"The great architect Frank Lloyd Wright was given the challenge of building the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, one of the most earthquake-prone cities in the world. Wright's investigation showed that a solid foundation could be "floated" on a sixty-foot layer of soft mud underlying the hotel, which would provide a shock-absorbing but solid support for the immense building. Shortly after the hotel was completed it withstood the worst earthquake in fifty-two years, while lesser buildings fell in ruins around it."
The story of that building could be the story of each of our lives if we are placing them upon the solid foundation of Jesus Christ. As the old hymn of the faith tells us:
"On Christ the solid rock I stand; All other ground is sinking sand!"
We all need to be asking ourselves:
"What, or who am I building my life upon?"
If it is Christ, then we have the most solid foundation in this universe, or any other for that matter.
If we are building our house on anything else, we must take heed. For one day it will fall and leave us to pick up the ruins.
Jesus' invitation to follow Him as Savior and Lord is open to all who will call upon His name. May we never act like that foolish builder but be like the wise man who built his house on the rock! For it is not a matter of if the rains and floods come. It is a matter of when. And when they come, we must be prepared.
© 2021 Jeff Shirley