Open Matthew 7:24-27.
A friend has some health challenges. “Got me thinking,” he told me over the weekend. “If I only had 5 years left, would I be satisfied with how I’ve spent my life?” He’s a clever bloke who has lots of things on the go. He’s decided to simplify, to get rid of most of his activities and concentrate on what matters.
Jesus concluded his sermon with a story about two people. One found an easy place to build — the sandy floor of a wadi (dry stream). He didn’t realize he would lose everything he had worked for when winter rains fell and a flash flood swept through the wadi. The other made the more difficult decision to hew rock to set the foundation where it would last. His labours were not wasted: it survived when the testing times came.
Jesus’ story works for people of any faith or none. Ask about people’s regrets at the end of their lives. They’re unlikely to say, “I wish I made more money.” Rather, “I wish I’d spent more time with the people that mattered.” That’s valuable, but it isn’t the point Jesus is making.
Jesus was talking about how we respond to his kingdom message. People put huge effort into building kingdoms. Think of Israel’s history. The northern tribes built on the wrong foundation (not YHWH), so Assyria came in like a flood and swept them away. Assyria was a legendary empire, until Babylon swept them away. Despite Babylon’s power, Persia overpowered them and swept them away. Then Greece swept Persia away in a sudden flood. Then Rome gradually swallowed up the Greek Empire. Season after season, these imperial floods rose against Israel and swept them away because her foundations were wrong.
Jesus called Israel to become the kingdom built on God — the Rock who endures forever, not the shifting sands of human kingdoms that last only for a season. How foolish to spend our lives promoting human powers when all our efforts will be swept away. Instead, spend your life for God’s reign through Messiah Jesus: the only thing that endures.
Evangelicalism really needs to hear this message. Spend your life and resources promoting Donald Trump, you will see all your efforts swept away in a flood. Theresa May looked like a sure bet, but even her colleagues are now calling her a “dead woman walking.” The Australian Christian Lobby wastes its energy reshaping the shifting sands of human politics that will soon be swept away when the flood of public opinion turns.
Don’t waste your life building on the foundations of human powers that cannot save society. The whole Bible warns not to trust in human powers but to rely on the one who truly reigns, e.g.:
Psalm 146:3, 10 (ESV)
3 Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. …
10 The Lord will reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations.
What’s new in Jesus is that he is the focus of God’s eternal plan to re-establish his reign over the earth. Our hope is in Jesus, so quit playing politics with earthly powers that will fall. Build all your efforts on the only rock that will last: the ruler God has appointed, the only one who can save human society.
All the other political games Christians play are a waste of your life, fooling with powers that will be swept away. Jesus’ kingship is the only enduring rock, the only foundation worth pouring your life into. Do you need to reframe you efforts?
What others are saying
Tom Wright, Matthew for Everyone, Part 1: Chapters 1-15 (London: SPCK, 2004), 81:
We often miss what his first hearers would probably have heard behind the dramatic picture-language. Not far away from where he sat on that hillside, just a hundred miles or so away in Jerusalem, Herod’s men were continuing to rebuild the Temple. They spoke of it as God’s House, and declared that it was built upon the rock, proof against wind and weather. In the last great sermon in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus warns that the Temple itself will come crashing down, because Israel as a whole had failed to respond to his message. Halfway through the gospel, in another dramatic moment, he promises that Peter’s confession of faith will form the rock on which something very different will be built—the community that believes in him, Jesus, as Messiah.
[previous: Acknowledging Jesus as Lord]
[next: Hearing the king]
4 thoughts on “A rock worth building on (Matthew 7:24-27)”
Another powerful post, Allen. If you haven’t already, I’d love to see a post on what Christian engagement in current affairs (working for justice, shaping good policy etc) might look like in light of the Kingdom framework you’ve built for us over these posts. We don’t build on earthly kingdoms, yet somehow we have a responsibility to shape and steward them too. Would love your thoughts on the limits (and opportunities) of engagement.
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That’s a valuable suggestion, to talk about how we engage justice issues. I hope to do that at some point in the future.
In short, Jesus calls us to actively care for people who experience injustice. But he doesn’t call us to fix things through human government.
To express it bluntly, Paul didn’t go to Rome to help Caesar make a better government; he went to Rome to announce an alternative government. That’s what it was so surprising that no one stopped him (Acts 28:31).