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SoM 4 On What Will You Build?


Issue 204

Building is hard work; it requires detailed preparation, well-designed plans, scoping the quantities of materials, and putting out to tender, then employing the builder or construction company. Even in the age of machinery it still requires the sweat of people-power to turn the plans into realities. A large and elaborate building can take a long time to build.

Some houses are simple and small, while others are palaces, mansions or complexes. If you are capable of building a house and are going to live in it, you will want to take all the care in the world over the planning, right through to completion – this is your home.

Jesus uses the building metaphor right at the end of his sermon. He finishes with a direct reference to hard work. Two builders are described; almost everything is the same about them. They both build houses, and both homes face pressure from above, below and around. Both houses are homes so we can assume they have been built with decent methods. What builder will sell himself short or defraud his own family? The only difference is in the foundation.

The metaphor is deliberately subtle. The lesson it communicates is that there is one difference which makes all the difference. It is not hearing the Sermon on the Mount which separates wisdom and folly; the only difference is in the practice. Jesus is not talking about hearing, but best practice. It is the fourth choice at the end of the sermon. On what will you build – on my words or other words – wisdom or folly – rock or sand?

Why does Jesus conclude with four pairs of choices – entering, travelling, dining, building? I would suggest that the answer is that Jesus wants people to make a clear, deliberate, informed, mature and serious choice. He has spent the best part of the sermon spelling out two alternatives. At the end he calls for a choice.

So the question arises, when you chose to become a Christian did you know what you were letting yourself in for? I suggest we persist in the view that in each situation there is a third option: a choice to be a Christian but not a workplace specialist;. a choice to be a Christian but not a witness; a choice to be a Christian and remain slightly unethical; a choice to be converted but not radical. So we have fallen into the trap of believing it’s ok to put radical commitments or a range of Christian issues into the pending tray while we get on with ‘business’, which then looks  just like everyone else’s business. However, this is the narrow gate, the narrow road, the true and the good and the way of wise builders. The third choice does not exist. Jesus is setting before us life and death – let’s choose life and make it work.


Matthew 7:24-27

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

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Series: Sermon On The Mount
Module: 7
Season: -
Daily Guide: Yes

Tags: beginning, bulding, choice, decision, foundation, planning, wisdom

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Geoff Shattock

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