I must have learned the little song about “The wise man built his house upon the rock…” (complete with hand motions) way back in my Sunday school days. It’s so familiar that we can (at least I can) miss some very important details. It comes at the end of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Let me repeat the text here for reference:
“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”
The first thing to notice is that Jesus is using this metaphor of the two houses to describe two kinds of people: those who hear Him and do what He says, and those who hear Him and and do not do what He says. Our first question ought to be, “Hear Him say what?” Since this passage comes at the end of His Sermon on the Mount, it is safe to say it applies to the whole thing. If we hear the words of His sermon and do them, we are building a rock-solid house. If we hear the words and brush them off, we are putting ourselves in a mighty dangerous position.
What kinds of things do we hear from Jesus in this sermon? Here are the headings taken from my Geneva Study Bible: The Beatitudes; Believers are Salt and Light; Christ Fulfills the Law; Murder Begins in the Heart; Adultery in the Heart; Marriage is Sacred and Binding; Jesus Forbids Oaths; Go the Second Mile; Do Good to Please God; The Model Prayer; Fasting to Be Seen Only by God; Lay Up Treasures in Heaven; The Lamp of the Body; You Cannot Serve God and Riches; Do Not Worry; Do Not Judge; Keep Asking, Seeking, Knocking; The Narrow Way; You Will Know Them by Their Fruits; I Never Knew You; (and then last) Build on the Rock.
If we are seriously taking these basic Christian principles to heart and applying them to our lives, we are building a house (our life) on a very sure foundation. If we are picking and choosing between the ones we like and the ones we don’t like and obeying God in an anemic, half-hearted way (if at all), then we are making a wager that either the winds won’t come at all or they will be mild winds, not at all the kind that will blow things over.
Now notice that both houses get blasted with storms of rain, floods, and winds. Note to all: the Christian life is not a storm-free, cloud-free, or flood-free life. But neither is the non-Christian life. Trials of all kinds will come to all, guaranteed. But if we are hearing Jesus’ words and doing them, our houses will not fall even though they get pounded. We might have thought the part about the storms in this parable was just figurative and not really meaning that houses built on rocks would have to endure wild and crazy storms. But they do. The storms, in fact, test the strength of the house, revealing the wisdom of the builders.
The other kind of houses, the ones built by those who have taken Jesus’ words lightly, are blown to smithereens in a spectacular way. Either way, the storms are a given.
So this should be a strong encouragement to us all to hear and do Jesus’ words. His words are our protection and life and comfort and peace. When the storms come, we know the house will hold. When the floods rise up, we know we have a sure footing. When life gets dark and thunderous, we have a strong Savior, and He has guaranteed the foundation. The wise man’s house will get very wet, but only on the outside! The inside stays dry. And that is a very important distinction!