Kevin Reilly – Gdańsk, Poland
The story of two men building their houses, one on rock and one on sand, is famous in Sunday schools and kids clubs all over the world. But the message of the parable has never been more urgent for us all. Modern, western Christianity is often fixated with the idea of being. Our ancient faith, however, is very much drawn to the idea of being and doing.
“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.” (Lk 6: 46-49)
Mathew places the’ parable at the end of Jesus’ teaching from a hill, on the shore of Lake Galilee (Mt 5-7). Similarly, Luke places his account of the story at the end of another body of Jesus’ teaching (Lk 6); and in both accounts, Jesus tells the story because people are gathering to listen to his teaching but then doing nothing with it- Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? (Lk 6: 46)
For sure, coming to Jesus and listening to Him are vital. The Pharisees were big doers, but their activity was self-serving and crowd-pleasing. Very few were willing to approach Jesus with humility, take his teaching upon themselves and learn from Him. Our faith does require that we come to Jesus and listen to him. But our words and songs, declaring Jesus as Lord, are authenticated only in our doing of his teaching. This is the’ rather blunt point that Jesus makes at the beginning of this parable. He is truly Lord in our lives, at the point when we head off to the rock-places of life and begin the slow, steady work of digging deeply and making his ways, ours ways.
Digging is hard work – ask any gardener, builder or soldier. It’s not glamorous. We rarely look our best covered in mud and sweat. But to dig into the foundational truths of Jesus’ teaching is to lay a foundation upon which a life, a marriage, a family and a ministry can be built and sustained. Foundational work is hidden work – by definition. But its the most vital work and within Jesus’ story it is the determiner for what is to come: a deep and secure foundation leads to an unshakeable life (v48) a poor, quick-fix foundation leads to a ruined life (v49).
It is worth noting that both guys do actually build something! It’s just that the second guy does not build, Jesus’ way. There is activity on the ground – a few bits of timber thrown together, here and there. That’s cool! Who doesn’t like a nice beach-shack vibe? But it will not stand the onslaught of a defeated yet still very present enemy. Both builders do something, but only the first is willing to give himself to the slow steady work of making Jesus’ words and teaching his foundation. Elsewhere, Jesus calls this process, discipleship.
To dig down deep is to become a student of Jesus, a disciple – we learn His ways, and we walk in them.
We become students of His word. We read it. We listen to it. We wrestle with it and we learn from it. We allow these God-breathed scriptures to shape our minds and our thinking. Our ideas about how we are to live, to work, to love our spouse, to raise our children and to walk in our calling are being transformed as we dig deeply into God’s word. Bible reading / listening is foundational work. I embrace the authority of these scriptures and learn how to live them and apply them, and I do this regularly.
We become students of His Spirit. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. (Jn 14:26) We learn to receive the Spirit regularly: to listen to Him, to learn from Him and to keep in step with Him. When Jesus says the man dug down deep, what does this mean for you and I? The scriptures become living and active to me, as the same Holy Spirit who authored these words is active and present in my meditation upon them. I make time to listen and to pray and I learn how to do this, and I do this regularly.
We become students of one-another. It is the pattern of scripture. When Jesus walked the earth He gathered disciples directly to Himself. He is stilly gathering disciples to himself through through the distribution of us gifts to his church (Eph 4). I participate in community life and in doing so I learn from my brothers and sisters. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Phil 4:9).
My friend Pawel in our community loves to read theological books. He suggests books for us to read and I learn about subjects I would never think to read about. My friend Grażyna shares a prophetic picture with me and as I learn to live in the good of what she has shared, I learn a better way. I choose community over independence. I learn what it is to live a life devoted to Christ and to my brothers and sisters and I gather regularly for fellowship, to praise Jesus and to learn together. I do this in many different settings, and I do this regularly.
The need for thorough discipleship has never been greater and learning to dig down deep and to pass on to others the steady, rhythms of learning and receiving and gathering and growing is the vital work required to build unshakeable people and unshakeable communities.
And in a world where wars, famines, climate crises and economic melt-downs and more, are fast becoming the new norm – nothing less than unshakeable Christianity is going to cut it.