Luke 6:46-49 The Two Foundations
“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you? I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them. That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when a flood arose, the river burst against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well built.[a] But the one who hears and does not act is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against it, immediately it fell, and great was the ruin of that house.”
Jesus and the Three Little Pigs
I want to reflect on a particular story today – a story that is so universal that it causes it to keep popping up in various forms. A humble version of it is one of the best know stories in North American literature. It has inspired movies and songs and countless books. Here are the basic elements of the story.&nbsp;
1. In this story the primary characters are builders - they each construct a house.
2. Not all the houses are created equal; there is a contrast between wise building and foolish building.
3. Each house faces a test. If the house was built wisely, it stands; if it was built foolishly, it falls.
Cast your mind back to your childhood. Does the story sound familiar? Can you guess what it is? It’s the story of the three little pigs. Each little pig built a house. One built with straw, one with sticks and the third with bricks, but they all built. Each faced the big bad wolf. Each one heard the same polite plea for entrance, made the same defiant response (“not by the hair of my chinny chin chin”) and faced the same threat from their pneumatically-enhanced enemy.
Two of the pigs built their house of junk. They never stopped to ask the questions “Will it stand up to the wolf?” Only the house that was built with wisdom endures.
Each person in this world builds a house. This detail does not vary: this one is not optional; we are all house-builders. To understand this, we could replace the word “house” with “character” or “soul”. We are all of us constructing a life. We do this primarily by the choices we make.
Every commitment I make, every friendship I enter into, every skill I cultivate or neglect, every promise I honour or break, become a part of my house. You are constructing your life. The quality of the choices you make will determine the quality of your character, your soul.
There are various kinds of materials that can be used to build on that foundation. Some use gold and silver and jewels; and some build with sticks and straw.&nbsp;
We are each responsible for our own house. No one else’s. But some have a hard time with this. We try to find someone else to make responsible for it. The news carried a story a few years ago of a man in Italy who was arrested for bigamy. In fact, he had 105 wives. When the authorities asked him how this had happened, his response was that he had received bad legal advice. (It’s hard to imagine what his lawyers might have said: “Try to keep a reasonable number of wives - a hundred or so. Just don’t overdo it.”)
Another common feature of both Jesus’ story and the story of the Three Little Pigs is that each person faces a storm. The wolf comes to the door of every little piggie. In fact, Jesus is quite explicit about this part of the story. His description of the storms that came to the two men is identical, word for word: The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against the house.” Jesus wants to make it clear: this is not a story about storm-avoidance. You cannot build a house where there will be no storms.
When I grew up I had the general idea that anything wrong that might happen to me would be fixable. If I lost something it could be found or replaced. If I failed at something my parents could set things right. But I have been in a few storms since then. I have learned that I was badly mistaken about this illusion of getting through life untouched. I look at my husband, myself and our children and wonder what will happen in the lives of our houses before they’re through. And I’m glad I don’t know. It’s enough to know that there will be storms.
Jesus put it this way: “Don’t worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has troubles enough of its own.” Trouble today, trouble tomorrow. That’s the forecast.
But it is in the storm that the soundness of the house is revealed. A foundation is not a glamorous thing. No one visits a friend’s house and says, “What a great foundation you have here.” No one even knows. Until the storm. When I served at Bethany United Church, each year on this particular Sunday we held the worship service in the local cemetery. Yes, it was to remember and honour those we had loved and lost. But more importantly, it was so that we understood and appreciated that since we still had life on this earth, we were still obligated, as God’s children, to continue building the foundation that the people before us set us upon. One day, our lives will be scrutinized by God. Every beam and timber, every word and deed will face scrupulous examination. One day the truth of our houses will be revealed.
To every student comes examination day. A good teacher doesn’t try to spare the student from this, but rather prepares the student for it. Examination day simply makes apparent what is already reality.&nbsp;
This brings us to the variable in Jesus’ story. Everybody builds a house - both the wise man and the fool, each little piggy. And everybody faces a storm; the wolf knocks at every door. The question is, what are you going to build your life on? Rock or sand? With what materials - sturdy brick or disintegrating straw? What’s the foundation? In what are you placing your ultimate trust?
Jesus said the foolish choice is to build a house on the sand. It is placing your ultimate trust in that which cannot sustain you through the storms of life, gambling that you will get ultimate fulfillment from anything other than life guided by the wisdom and power and care of God.
The man who built on the sand assured his own destruction. The obvious question is , how’d he get into this mess? According to Jesus, the man did not deliberately set out to do something wrong. Jesus doesn’t call him wicked. The adjective Jesus chooses, with surgical precision, is “foolish”. No one sets out to build on sand. No architect says, “Here’s a sandy spot. A good storm would wash a house completely away on this spot. Let’s build here.”
Life is this way. No one sits down and plans on having a mediocre existence. No couple makes their wedding vows aiming at getting a divorce someday. Nobody nurses a grudge in hopes of becoming a bitter, resentful person. People don’t give birth to children intending to be so busy that their kids won’t know them. No one sits down and plans on his or her life going down the tubes. It just happens.
Because Jesus loves us, He came to offer foolish builders a sure foundation, and careless little piggies a safe place to dwell. He came to teach us how to live. And he says the greatest opportunity we will ever have is to base our life on what he shows us of God in the world.&nbsp;
I believe Jesus came to die for our sins, to restore us to a relationship with God, and that He was resurrected to give us the promise of eternal life. And I believe Jesus is alive today and is vitally involved in human affairs. I believe his word as revealed in the bible is as valid today as it was when first put to paper. I believe the stories and parables Jesus shared are available to us because they are timeless. The early Christians discovered they could trust Jesus as their teacher. And it was largely because they could trust him as their teacher that after his death and resurrection they were in a position to trust him as their Saviour.&nbsp;
Jesus, the Christ, shared himself with us at a cost of pain we can’t even imagine. No one who built a house on a true understanding of Jesus’ words and life has ever been disappointed. Don’t forget the day is coming when your house, your life, will be tested by God.