Photo by rykooda on Morgue File.
We will pick up where we left off in our last post. First, we will read the pericope of the parable of the two builders.
Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. (Mt. 7.24-27)
When we look at this parable, we first want to give place to the imagery Jesus used to convey the message. First, let us consider a few comparisons made in this parable of the two builders. Second, we will consider the contrast given. And then, we will think concerning the meaning of the parable.
One comparison is that both men are builders. It would seem from the language of the parable, both men undertake to build their own houses; that is, they did not hire others to do it, rather, they did it themselves. As such, they both would have had certain abilities and talents to undertake such a project. They both would have had acumen to carry it out. Each would have had a certain skill set, as craftsmen, to build a house. More than likely, the skill they would have possessed was masonry. They would have constructed their houses out of stones and mortar, rather than wood and nails. While the latter is not impossible, it is more probable that stonework would have been employed rather than woodwork.
In fact, some have argued this would have been Jesus’ trade. That is, rather than the more traditional view of Jesus as a carpenter, or one who was proficient in working with wood, he rather (along with Joseph) would have been an expert, or craftsman, in the skill of working with stone: a mason, that is, by trade.
Either way, both men in the parable build a house.
Another comparison, though admittedly an obvious one, is that both chose a foundation. Of course, this is where the primary contrast will come into play, but we will consider that more in a bit.
Another comparison between the two builders is that each had their structures tested by a storm and deluge. Neither house was exempt from this testing. Each house had to stand (or fall) on its own merits and stability.
It would seem, based on the details of the parable, that the structures were fairly similar to one another; that is to say, the wise man is not considered such because he was a better craftsman or builder than his counterpart. Both men were able craftsmen and possessed the skill set to accomplish the task: in fact, each man did finish the task (unlike the tower builder in another of Jesus’ parables).
If one merely looked at the structure itself, it is very likely, no real difference would be detected. Structurally speaking, each house was built of the same material, probably of a similar proportion and each seemed sturdy enough as far as the stones and mortar were concerned.
But, the difference was at the bottom.
I must admit, I am no builder. My carpentry skills are lacking . . . well, to even refer to them as skills is to exaggerate the truth by leaps and bounds! Furthermore, I am certainly no mason. I have watched in amazement as people trained and practiced in the art of laying bricks go about their task. They make it look so easy and effortless. It takes great skill and precision to make it look so easy. If you have ever tried for yourself, you soon discover it is anything but.
So, perhaps I have something of an untrained eye when it comes to this sort of thing. I suspect many are similar to me. All this to say, when I look at a house, I am far more likely to notice everything but the foundation! I would notice the siding, the material of which the house was built. If it were built of bricks, how do they look? What color of bricks were used? If it were built of vinyl, what condition is it in? Is it dirty and in need of a good cleaning? If it were built of wood, is it in good condition? Is it rotting in places? Does it need painting? (This is beginning to sound a lot like the three little pigs!)
I would take a look at the doors and windows. I would notice the roof: its slope, angles and material (shingles or metal). I would want to count the rooms and have a look at the kitchen and the space of the living room. I would want to know about the bathrooms and garage. Does it have a basement? Attic?
On and on I could go and never come around to the foundation!
Yet, the foundation, as any builder will tell you, is the most important detail of them all!
Recently, someone I know sold a house. The house was a few years old and, when inspected, it was discovered the foundation was in need of repair. It had shifted (or settled) over time and had cracked. Foundation repair is possible, but it is not a cheap endeavor. Because of the state of the foundation, the house took a hit in regards to its market value. If the roof had needed repairing, there would have been a deduction, but not near as much as for the foundation.
If the siding had need of being painted or the vinyl cleaned, again the cost would have lowered, but not as much as it did because of the state of the foundation.
Again, the foundation is crucial. If the foundation is insecure and unstable, the entire structure built upon it is as well. A savvy buyer then would inquire, rather early on in the process, as to the state and condition of the foundation. For the foundation will make all the difference.
And herein lies the key contrast between these two men: the contrast that will lead to a second in the parable and that will lead to the contrast of the character of the two men−the first being wise and the second foolish. Thus, we could say (a bit tongue-in-cheek) the foundation choice is the key contrast, which serves as the foundation for the other two contrasts!
The first man, wisely, built his house upon the rock. Probably, in the geological setting, a foundation of limestone bedrock. The second builder, fashioned his house on a foundation of sand, which was a foolish decision.
Now, who exactly builds a house on a foundation of sand?! This would indeed be the epitome of foolishness. And, this is just the point Jesus is making. Even the dullest of dullards would know not to build a house on a foundation of sand. Sand is a poor choice as a foundation because it is shifty and inconstant. Thus, it is unreliable and insecure.
No one in his/her right mind would ever even fathom, even for a second, building something (especially a house) on such a poor foundation as sand. It would be ridiculous, absurd! And again, this is precisely the point Jesus is driving home to his listeners.
In our next post, we will continue looking at this foundational parable of Jesus. We will say a bit more about these two builders and their different choices in foundations. And, we will think about the parable’s meaning.
Interesting Interrogatives and Livable Life Lessons:
- Why, do you think, Jesus presented the parable in terms of building a house?
- Why did he choose to have one man do the reasonable (logical) thing, while the second did the most absurd thing that could have been done: choosing to build his house on sand?
- Why did Jesus accentuate this absurd choice?
- What do you think the first hearers thought as they heard Jesus tell this parable?
- What is the significance of the first builder being called wise and the second foolish?