As Jesus brings his message to an end (Matthew 7-24), he again brings the audience to a moment of decision. This one, like the one about the two paths, is about choosing whether or not to adopt what Jesus has taught. He proceeds this moment with images of false teachers who have the outward appearance of righteousness, but who are inwardly evil. He speaks of fruit that outwardly looks appealing, but is inwardly empty. There are those people who act like they are serving him, but are only serving themselves. So how do all these images fit together?
First, the emphasis is on doing something and being active. Two times he alludes to the people that hear the Father’s will and do it and those that have heard his teachings and do or act upon them. The similarities should not be missed. Secondly, the emphasis is not on the externals, but the internals. The external appearance, or even act, is not nearly as important as the internal motivation. Now at first it may appear that these two points contradict. It seems to be saying that the person needs to do something, but what they do is not important. This is because people like to have that list they can check off. If the rule says I need to “X,” then I can do “X” and feel good about myself. That is something I can objectively measure, not my progress, and adjust accordingly. This is what the pharisees had been doing. There would hundreds, if not thousands, of rules and they tried to follow all of them to show how pious and righteous they were. Remember, our righteousness must surpass theirs.
All throughout the sermon Jesus kept reminding the audience that the standard was not on externals, but internals. It’s not good enough to not kill; one must avoid anger or even holding a grudge. One must surrender their rights and think of the other person first. One must give over their entire being to God and care for their neighbor as they would themselves. They must do unto others, not just “not” do. All of this requires a sea change of the heart and mind. This is because people can fake the externals. They can give away money and help people but do it for the wrong reason. The fruit Jesus speaks of are things like love, joy, peace, patience, self-control, grace, and forgiveness. These come only from the spirit, and while one may play at them, they cannot have them without the Spirit. Remember if your motivation in following Jesus is to save your own neck, you are doing it wrong. One must be willing to lose their life if they would save it. It is at moments like these that all these seemingly contradictory sayings come colliding together.
Jesus gives us one last image of the wise and foolish builder. The wise who acts on Jesus words takes the long view. They know that just because it looks like a good site it may not be. They dig deeper and get to the foundation. Why? Because they know it does not matter what they do, if the storm comes and there is not a strong foundation all their effort will fall flat. It must be built on something permanent. In our world, there is no institution created by man which is perfect or permanent. Our current situation shows us this fact. There is no one or nothing of this world that I can put my full faith and trust in, not even myself. Myself least of all because as broken as I am, I know I cannot trust me. I also know I am in control of little. I cannot even completely control myself so how can I build anything permanent?
The fool only sees today. Sure, it looks fine now so that is good enough. Let us not consider what may happen when the storms come, just go with it as-is. Let me focus on what makes me feel good right now and what seems right, right now. The moving standards of the world along with the fallen and brokenness of society leave one nothing to build on there but the shifting sands. So, I urge you to take the long view. Build on something solid. Build on the rock. Build on Christ, and Christ alone.
This is not about adopting some of his sayings or adding him to your life like a mantra or talisman. No, this is about surrendering yourself to him fully and totally. You are not adding Jesus to your life, but you are giving your life to him. This is his call and the standard, and nothing less than total commitment will do. It is not easy. It was not meant to be. But it is the way of the wise. Are you ready for the next storm? What are you standing on? You own two feet? Society? Modern culture? Monuments of man which will be destroyed by time? Or have you dug down to the rock and stand firmly on Him?