Foundations help protect our physical homes from disaster. What’s our life built on? We must build on the Rock to have protection from spiritual disaster.
Jesus Christ often illustrated His teachings with parables. Some of them seem easy to grasp, but others hide a deeper meaning.
The parable of two builders (Matthew 7:24-27 and Luke 6:47-49) is an easy-to-understand story that summarizes some of the lessons Jesus gave in the Sermon on the Mount. It has also been called the parable of the wise and foolish builders and the parable of the house on the rock.
Drawing on His experience in carpentry and His knowledge of sound construction, Jesus demonstrated the importance of a proper foundation.
Background to the parable of the two builders
To sum up His powerful Sermon on the Mount, Jesus used a parable to emphasize His call to action. He told a memorable story based on Scripture and His personal experience to help us remember to do what He had told us to do.
William Barclay described the background of the parable this way:
“Jesus was in a double sense an expert. He was an expert in scripture. The writer of Proverbs gave him the hint for his picture: ‘When the tempest passes, the wicked is no more, but the righteous is established for ever’ (Proverbs 10:25). Here is the germ of the picture which Jesus drew of the two houses and the two builders. But Jesus was also an expert in life. He was the craftsman who knew all about the building of houses, and when he spoke about the foundations of a house he knew what he was talking about. This is no illustration formed by a scholar in his study; this is the illustration of a practical man.
“Nor is this a far-fetched illustration; it is a story of the kind of thing which could well happen. In Palestine the builder must think ahead. There was many a gully which in summer was a pleasant sandy hollow, but was in winter a raging torrent of rushing water” (Barclay’s Daily Study Bible, comment on Matthew 7:24-27).
The parable of the two builders
Jesus described two men who each built a house. He didn’t mention any difference between their skills and resources. The only variable He identified was where each chose to build. Jesus noted that, based on their choices, one man was wise and the other was foolish.
The wise builder built on the rock
Jesus said, “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock” (Matthew 7:24-25).
The man who made the better decision about where to build was a wise builder because he chose the rock as his foundation. We might wonder, How did he come to that decision? What convinced him to build on the rock? Jesus doesn’t say.
It would have been hard to chip into the rock and level off a footing for the house. It could have taken a long time to work around rocky outcrops and to attach the structure to the bedrock. It would have been challenging to build on rocky terrain—it would have taken time, patience and hard work. But the wise man seems to have considered such factors and to have believed it would be worth the effort.
Built into the rock, his house could endure the inevitable storms that would come.
The foolish builder built on the sand
Then Jesus said, “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall” (verses 26-27).
The foolish builder was not necessarily a bad man, just apparently a shortsighted and foolish one. Was it because he had too much to do or was in a hurry to have a house and get on with other concerns? We don’t know. He knew about building, but seemingly didn’t consider the foundation to be important enough to invest more time in. His concern appeared to be on the present and on getting the house built quickly.
Building on the sandy soil would have been easier. Without taking as much time to prepare the foundation, the entire project was surely completed more swiftly. The foolish builder didn’t seem concerned about the inevitable storms.
Sometime after the men had built their houses, one of those severe storms battered both structures. Torrents of rain poured over the rocky hills. Creeks and rivers overflowed their banks. Floods of water washed across the sandy ground.
Jesus said if we follow Him, we will be like the wise builder. We will come through the inevitable storms of life—the trials and difficulties that are part of life—because His teachings are rock-solid principles about how to live successfully.The house built into the rock survived the downpour, but the house on the sand was demolished. Jesus stated, “And great was its fall”—in other words, it was beyond repair.
Lesson of the parable of the two builders
Jesus was illustrating that we can live wisely or foolishly. It depends on where we lay our foundation. He said that if we pay attention to what He said and follow Him, we will be like the wise builder. We will come through the inevitable storms of life—the trials and difficulties that are part of life—because His teachings are rock-solid principles about how to live successfully.
Yes, it does require hard work to do these things, but it will pay off in the long run. In other words, Jesus said that His sayings are the best place to build. They provide a solid foundation for our lives, our families, our friendships, our associations and our future.
Few people grasp the importance of the foundation Jesus described in the Sermon on the Mount. But some of Jesus’ listeners heard and thought about what He said, and they “were astonished at His teaching” (Matthew 7:28).
To the degree they were able, His disciples endeavored to follow how He lived. They tried to put His sayings into practice as a way of life. They did the hard work and passed on what they learned to others.
Jesus Christ is the Rock, our foundation
What they proved by practice is this: There’s only one sure foundation for living an abundant life and that is Jesus Christ. That foundation includes His life, death, resurrection and instructions for us. “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11).
The apostle Paul emphasized that Jesus Christ that Rock, the chief cornerstone of our foundation (1 Corinthians 10:4; Ephesians 2:20). When we do what He said, we build on that sure foundation.
Our starting place for building on the Rock
Where is our starting place? The Sermon on the Mount itself gives a foundation for what we should do. We should study what Jesus taught about life and apply His teachings to how we live our lives.
Reading the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John will give us an even stronger sense of how Jesus lived. He based His teachings on the laws and principles revealed in the Scriptures. Reading the entire Bible, including both the Old and New Testaments, will deepen our understanding of how God thinks and explain even more the message Jesus taught while He was on earth.
The apostle Paul said that the Bible is “given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16).
In other words, the Scriptures are a powerful foundation for living wisely and abundantly, weathering the inevitable storms of life and moving forward.
If you are not confident that your foundation is secure, it’s never too late to shore up the footings. Dig into the Sermon on the Mount and the whole Word of God to see what makes life work, and how to endure the storms of life.
You will find help in doing this in the other articles in this section on the Sermon on the Mount and in the article “How to Study the Bible.”