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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Jesus' Tips For Hurricane Preparedness

In this week's passage, Jesus warns his followers not to be "that guy"- who builds a house on an unstable foundation and the whole thing collapses in a storm. Read it here: Matthew 7:24-29.

And, we also have the passage told in the form of a rage comic! Read it here.

First of all, let's summarize the parable that Jesus tells.

There are 2 builders- a wise one and a foolish one. The wise one, who represents those who hear and obey Jesus, builds his house on a rock. The foolish one, who represents those who hear and ignore Jesus, builds his house on sand. A storm comes, and the house on the rock is able to survive the storm, while the house on sand collapses.

Pictured: Where not to build your house. Image source.

What does it mean to be like the "wise builder"?

In the past, I've interpreted this to mean, "Jesus must be the foundation of my life, the most important thing in my life. If I base my life on anything else, it will be eventually prove to be unreliable and disastrous. Jesus is the only thing I can never lose."

That's true, but there's more to it than "Jesus must be the foundation of my life." Look at what Jesus says here in verse 24: "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock."

Being the "wise man" doesn't exactly mean "Jesus is the most important thing in my life." No, he defines it as the one who hears and obeys his teaching. (Though, you know, those things should theoretically be the same. But I think one weakness of evangelical Christianity is too much emphasis on personal beliefs and attitudes, at the expense of actually DOING SOMETHING.)

Well what is this teaching that we're supposed to "put into practice"? Well, conveniently enough, Jesus has just spent 3 chapters giving a sermon. Here are the points he covered:

The Beatitudes: Blessed are those who seem to be in unfavorable circumstances. (Matthew 5:1-12)

Salt and High Standards: Jesus' followers should contribute something good to the world (salt and light). (Matthew 5:13-20)

Anger and lust are bad. Imagine that. (Matthew 5:21-30)

Turn the other cheek and love your enemies. (Matthew 5:31-48)

Don't do good deeds just to show off. Do it for God. (Matthew 6:1-18)

Pray. (Matthew 6:9-13)

Store treasures in heaven. Also, you cannot serve both God and money. (Matthew 6:19-24)

Do not worry. (Matthew 6:25-34)

Don't be a hypocrite. (Matthew 7:1-6)

Ask God for things! And do to others what you would have them do to you. (Matthew 7:7-14)

Watch out for false teachers. (Matthew 7:15-23)

... Wow, that's a lot of stuff. But not to worry- we can ask God to help us be the kind of people who live that way! (Remember that whole "ask and you will receive" bit?) So don't be overwhelmed by it- of course it's a very high standard, and no one's going to be doing everything right. But pray and do your best.

So here's the challenge posed by Jesus in this parable: If you're a Christian, and you read what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, are you going to take it seriously or ignore it? Are you going to be the wise builder, or the moron who decides to live in a tent on the beach during hurricane season?

Seriously. Christians, this is important. (And I'm writing this to myself too.)

Also, notice that both houses faced the storm.

This parable suggests that following Jesus does not get us out of bad situations, but gives us the strength to endure them.

I'm not entirely clear on what part of this analogy is what.

When I previously interpreted this passage as "Jesus must be the foundation of my life", the analogy made more sense- when bad things happen, I can lose everything else but I will never lose Jesus, so somehow there is always hope.

But now I see that's not exactly what he said. Being the wise builder is about DOING the things in the Sermon on the Mount, and I don't get how exactly that fits the foundation-of-a-house analogy.

Following the golden rule, praying and fasting, not treating people with hate, etc etc, how is that similar to laying a guaranteed secure foundation for a house? How are those things guaranteed to protect your house/life through "storms" (which I assume represent suffering)?

(Or maybe the guarantee, which I'm so fixated on, is not the point of this parable?)

If anyone else would like to speculate, that would be most helpful.

And last of all, this passage mentions that Jesus was special because he taught with authority.

The explanation I've heard for this bit is that rabbis back then used to always cite other teachers, rather than basing their teachings on their own personal credibility. Evidently, Jesus came across differently- he came across like he actually knew what he was talking about, and this surprised people.

Jesus was new and different and weird. Sometimes people were intrigued, sometimes people didn't like him. Sometimes I'm intrigued by what Jesus said and did, and sometimes I don't like it. 

Yep. But as far as I do understand Jesus' teaching, I'm called to put it into practice. To build my house on the rock. To not be "that guy."

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This post is part of a series on the gospel of Matthew.

Previous post: By Their Fruit (Matthew 7:15-23)

Next post: I Only Trust Jesus In Person (Matthew 8:1-17)

Click here to go to the beginning of the series.

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