Foundations, Fairness, and Fools

Tom Burke

March 2004
© 2004 Scriptural Study Groups.  All Rights Reserved.

In the early chapters of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus taught what is commonly referred to as the Sermon on the Mount. The conclusion of this teaching contains a brief but tremendously enlightening illustration regarding man’s response to the Word of God.

Matthew 7:24–27
“Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:

And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.

And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:

And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.”

This story, technically a parable, is first of all notable for what it does NOT say.

For example, it does not say that the wise man encountered no difficulties. In fact, it says just the opposite. The same rain, floods, and wind that were brought to bear on the house of the foolish man assailed the house of the wise man as well.

Today, we often encounter the notion that if one is truly spiritual, if one is a strong enough believer, he will no longer encounter difficulties in this life. Either he will ward them off by his ‘strong believing’ or God will keep them away as a reward for his purity. God’s Word declares just the opposite. It teaches that, due to the nature of this world, we will have tribulation while we’re in it. (John 16:33). Furthermore, it teaches that those who live a godly life can expect MORE trouble, not less! (II Timothy 3:12, I Thessalonians 3:4, etc.).

The wise man’s house did not escape the storm. But it did survive it. Likewise, when an individual believes on the Lord Jesus Christ, whatever satanic calamities and pressures he may have to experience, he will emerge victorious — righteous, whole, and unseparated from God.

A second point notably absent from the parable is a description of the relative quality of the houses built. In other words, we cannot assume that the wise man built a stone mansion and the foolish man built a straw shack. In fact, the opposite may have been true. Their differing outcomes were not due to their choice of materials, but to their choice of foundation.

The wise man is not deemed wise because of his hard work. He is not commended for the ‘Biblical principles’ he utilized in the building process. His wisdom lay in trusting the rock to uphold him.

On the other hand, the foolish man may have used meticulous care, quality materials, and skillful, detailed labor, but after the storm he had nothing to show for it.

Our victory has very little to do with our hard work or detailed planning. The world is full of hard-working, detail-minded fools. The wise, the victorious, are those who “hear these sayings of mine, and do them.” (Please note that hearing alone is not sufficient. Doing—obedience—is required).

Of course, the teaching in Matthew 7 is a parable, but had it been a true event, I would not be at all surprised if the foolish man, looking up at the unscathed house of the wise man, had uttered the words, “That’s not fair.” This is so often the cry of the man who has chosen his own way rather than God’s. Sitting amid the wreckage brought about by his own choices, viewing the evident blessing and abundant fruit in the life of the believing man, he grumbles, “That’s not fair.”

Not fair? On whose part? Is the wise man unfair because he built on the rock? You could have built right next door to him, but you chose not to. Is God unfair because your house fell down and that of another stood firm? To the contrary, had it not been for God, there would have been no rock available. Sand would have been our only choice.

God has offered such great salvation, such full redemption, through the Lord Jesus Christ. It is freely available to all. Any man who, having heard of the provision of God, chooses to rely on his own devices for salvation is rightly dubbed a fool.

Thank God you and I who have believed on Jesus Christ are firmly planted on the rock. Our future is guaranteed. We have already overcome the world.

Nevertheless, as Christians, our Father would have us continue to live our lives by believing. (Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:2, 3). That being the case, this parable still holds great application for our lives. In all of our decisions, in all aspects of life, we still are given the choice to obey God’s Word or to put our trust in something else.

As we keep God’s Word first, it continues to be a sure foundation for all of life. It continues to yield all of God’s protection, blessings, and benefits. We are not exempt from trouble, but even trouble results in more fruit abounding to us. Although we endeavor to be diligent, our skill and discipline may still fall short at times. Yet, because of whom we believe, we are not ashamed.

And no Christian, beholding the blessing of another, need ever say, “That’s not fair.” God has given all of His children all things richly to enjoy. But we must choose to build upon the rock. That’s where the riches are. Wouldn’t it be foolish to build anywhere else?