Sunday, February 16, 2014

A wise man once built…

Here’s a thought from a recent lesson I taught to the young men at church.

There’s a well-known parable the Savior taught about the wise man who built his house on a rock, and the foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain came and washed away the house on the sand. This emphasizes the importance of building your life on the gospel.

The commonly-used version of this is in Matthew 7. When I first heard this story (and the children’s song based on it), I pictured the foolish man building his house on the beach, and the wise man building his on a cliff overlooking the beach.


This works, I guess, but it kind of evokes the sentiment of “you guys down there are morons; I’m staying up here.” That, of course, may be taking the metaphor too far, but there’s an alternate telling of the parable in Luke 3, which has some interesting differences:

Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like:

He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock.

But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great.

The words “and digged deep” change the whole picture. In this version, I see the two houses as being right next to each other. The area has a layer of dirt over bedrock down below. The foolish man just builds the house, and the wise man takes the time to dig down to the bedrock, where he builds a foundation.


In this version, the two finished houses would look identical from the outside, with the only observable difference being that the wise man’s house would have taken much longer to build. It’s only when the flood comes that the structural difference becomes clear.

I like this interpretation for a couple of reasons. First, it emphasizes the importance of not only building your personal “foundation” on Christ, but also of doing the work that it takes to build that foundation. You can’t just decide to build on the rock; you have to “dig deep” and “lay a foundation” first. I think that refers to what are often called the “seminary answers” – daily prayer and scripture study, weekly church attendance, and consistently living the gospel. When trials come, if you’ve been doing those things, you will already be close enough to the Holy Spirit to receive the guidance and help you need. If not, it isn’t too late to start, but it’s never easy to build something in the rain.

The other thing I like is that it also emphasizes that you don’t necessarily get to pick the location of your metaphorical house. We all live in the same world, and that’s a good thing. There are people around us who need our help; running and hiding from the world isn’t the same as living the gospel. What’s important isn’t where you live; it’s how.

I guess this shows one other thing: no matter how much you’ve read the scriptures, there’s always something else in there to learn. Hence the importance of consistent study, I guess.