Who’s Building Your House?
The Parable of The Two Builders: Luke 6:46-49
Adrian Lane serves as the Victorian Regional Officer for Bush Church Aid
Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord’, and do not do what I say?
Here we have two men, each building a house. Both are listening to Jesus’ words. Both hear exactly the same words. Furthermore, both houses look exactly the same. Ultimately both houses face the same flood. One man’s house isn’t even shaken, while the other man’s house is swept up in the torrent, collapses into wreckage and is carried off downstream, totally destroyed in one quick gulping swoop. Could this be us? I don’t know if you noticed or not, but both men call on Jesus as Lord. One isn’t some godless atheist or follower of another religion.
Why does one man’s house stand, while the other’s is smashed to smithereens? ‘The answer is obvious,’ you say. ‘One man built his house on a foundation, while the other didn’t.’ Of course, but why? Is he just cheap? Not wanting to pay the price for a solid house? Is he lazy, cocky or cavalier? ‘This’ll do. A flood? The last one was 70 years ago!’ Or perhaps that’s where most people are building their houses? ‘Everybody else is doing it this way’ No doubt the river flats look attractive and comfortable, with plenty of grass and trees.
‘Get real,’ you say. ‘You need a house with a proper foundation.’ Why would anybody build a house without a proper foundation? But we do! We’re doing it all the time. I’m reminded of those who want sermons to be short. I’m reminded of bishops who ordain clergy without proper training; of students who want to cut corners in their studies, to get through College in a few less years. I’m reminded of ministers who want to build churches on the back of a cool website, or new branding, without the challenge of sacrificial repentance as people turn from their old ways of living for their passions to living holy lives for the glory of God.
So let’s build with a foundation. What’s my builder going to say? ‘Good. But there’s a few issues we need to talk about.’ My heart sinks—I was all excited! All ready to go! ‘The first issue is cost. We’ll first have to dig down to the rock and anchor the structure. That means earthmovers and diamond drillers, and they don’t come cheap these days, what with all the health and safety. And even then there’s always the chance of an injury. And of course I can’t guarantee the cost—never know what we might find. May end up being a bit more expensive than you’d first imagined. Then there’s the time. It’ll take a while. Actually, you won’t see much for a while. Getting all those foundations in, all the pipes and lines. The wife and kids will probably get a bit stroppy waiting. “Do we need all this, Dad? Joey’s house didn’t take this long!”’
In the end, it’s going to look the same as if I’d built on the flats. And I’ve got a lot less dough and time left over. In fact, I haven’t got any dough or time left over—it’s taken all my dough and time. But this is the man who hears Jesus’ words and puts them into practice. He’s in it for the long haul. Like those stone homesteads out in Western Victoria built high above the river. They’ve lasted so long they’re now classified, listed, for good. The tall trees all around them all tell the same story: we’ve been here for generations, we’ve survived. No, more than that, we’ve prospered.
One thing worth noting here is the power of Jesus’ words. They will equip the listener to withstand a mighty flood. We’re not talking about military, political or economic power here. We’re talking about the power of words. This is an extraordinary claim by Jesus: that his words, when acted upon, will save from the coming flood.
So this parable is a great call to action—to put into practice Jesus’ words. But you can’t put into practice words you haven’t heard. So this parable is also a great call to listening: careful, eager, undistracted listening. Hungry listening. Is your listening hungry? Are you hungry for Jesus’ words? Or have you heard them all before? And you’re only thinking of the shopping list of things you need to do for the rest of the day. And of course you can’t have listening without someone speaking, teaching, declaring the words of Jesus. So obviously this parable is a great call to preaching. How much speaking, teaching, preaching goes on in your church, in your Bible Study, in your family or household, to help people hear the words of Jesus and put them into practice?
Just before we conclude, we should check what those words are. Perhaps you noticed that this parable comes at the climax of an amazing sermon. ‘Love your enemies…Do good to those who hate you…Bless those who curse you…Pray for those who mistreat you…Do not judge…Forgive…’ And there are plenty of words to come: ‘Hate your father and mother…Stay with the wife of your youth…Take up your cross…’. It’s impossible!
Indeed, we can’t hear the words of Jesus and put them into practice. On our own. When we do try, in our own strength, it only leads to a focus on ourselves. It only leads to pride and self-righteousness. Or despair. Cry unto God! Plead with him, that by his Spirit he may have mercy on you and transform you. Plead with him, that by his Spirit, he will enable you to listen and put his words into practice. And know this: If you have asked the Lord to build your house, it will stand. Do not fear. When the flood comes, as it surely will—there will be a judgement day—the house built by the Lord will stand. Indeed, only those houses built by the Lord will stand. So, who’s building your house?