These are the last verses of the Sermon on the Mount, and they're a perfect ending to all he’s taught so far. He’s spoken about a lot of subjects: prayer, lust, hatred, worry, money, Hell, and a host of others. Now he caps it all off with a miniature story, and the main point is pretty easy to pick up.
He holds up for us two different people, and what separates them might not be obvious at first. Both of theses men are “hearers.” They’ve heard God’s word. They might be sitting together in church listening to the same sermon. They might attend prayer meetings together. They both might even be in leadership positions in the church. But there's all the difference in the world-maybe all of eternity-between these two. Those five little words “. . .and puts them into practice” is what's so important to our Lord, and it should be just as important to us.
James also warned us about this tendency: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” When we merely listen to the word and don’t put it into practice, we’re deceiving ourselves. We think a “little religion” will help us get by, but we’re seriously wrong. And the storm will expose this little game for what it is. Of course, what Jesus is talking about isn't gaining salvation by works, unless he's contradicting his own word later on. Putting his word into practice starts out by recognizing that you haven't been doing so up until now, and coming to him for salvation. And even after we're saved, not putting his word into practice will surely lead to disaster, just like it always does.
So what’s the final outcome for these two men? Notice that they both encountered storms in life (because everyone does), but the end result was as different as night and day. After the storm had passed through, only one man’s house was still standing. He'd invested in his personal relationship with Christ, and it paid off in the end. The other man watched as his house came down, and all of his time and effort had been utterly wasted. I love the image with which he ends the story: “It fell with a great crash.”
I really don’t have much else to say, except to ask you and me a few simple questions: “Which man am I? What am I investing my life in? What's my house built upon?” The answers to those questions will make all the difference in the world.
And now for one of my favorite songs of all time that brings this Scripture into practical focus, "Two Sets of Jones'" by Big Tent Revival.
Lord Jesus, I pray, I hope, I plead with you to make me into a wise man. Every moment of every day I’m making choices about my foundation. Please give me strength to make the right ones.
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