Several years ago in Southern California, a neighborhood of people faced a dire problem. Their homes, which were relatively new, we’re beginning to slide down a hill. Several were already beyond repair, while many others were gravely threatened. As local news reporters dug into the story, they discovered that the developer of this housing project hadnot adequately compacted the soil beneath the ruined homes. Thus, when the rains inundated the soil, the homes started to slip downhill.
If Jesus had been teaching in Orange County in the early 2000s, he might well have used this illustration to make the point we find in Luke 6:46-49. Instead, he drew upon the experience of people in his own day. Sometimes people would build homes along creeks that were dry most of the time. If they made sure to build on solid rock, then, in the rainy season, their homes would survive any temporary flooding. But if they built on sand, their homes would be washed away. Thus, the wise person always builds on rock, not sand.
Of course, Jesus was not offering a lesson in home construction. Rather, he was using this illustration to make a point about how we are to live as his followers. The person who hears Jesus’ teaching “and then follows it” (the Greek reads literally, “does it”) is like the wise builder (6:47). The one who hears Jesus’ teaching but fails to do it is like the foolish builder (6:49). Thus, if we want to be wise, if we want our lives to be worthwhile, we must hear and do the words of Jesus.
This teaching challenges those of us, and I include myself in this number, who are inclined to hear the words of Jesus and to understand them and believe them, yet neglecting the action step. I love to study Jesus’ teaching so that I might make sense of him and his ministry. I also believe in Jesus and seek to embrace his teaching as truth. But, I must confess, obedience is something I can overlook. Sometimes, in fact, doing what Jesus says seems far too difficult. How much easier just to study and believe!
Please don’t misunderstand me. I am committed to the careful study of God’s Word, including the words of Jesus. I have devoted years of my life to this discipline. Moreover, believing what Scripture teaches is crucial for our lives, for the church, and for the transformation of the world. But I must remember—and perhaps you need to remember also— that our lives will be solidly grounded when we hear, study, believe, and do what Scripture teaches.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Do you tend to hear, study, and believe the teachings of Jesus, but sometimes forget to do what he says? If so, why? If not, why not? What helps you to do what Jesus says, even if it makes you uncomfortable?
PRAYER: Dear Lord, I must confess, once again, my own tendency to hear your word without doing it. I can so easily replace obedience with study. Study is essential, to be sure. It is right for me to labor to understand your teaching. But if I study merely to understand and not to obey, then I am missing out on a full response to your words. Forgive me, Lord, for failing to do what you say. Forgive me for building the house of my life on the sand.
Help me, I pray, to do what you say. Help me to hear and do especially that which challenges me and stretches me. By your Spirit, guide me into a right understanding of your teaching and of the whole of Scripture. Yet may I always take the step of obedience, putting your truth into action in my life. Amen.