Gospel: Matthew 7:21-27
The Wise Christian
Whom do you consider wise in your life? What makes that person wise?
Is Jesus your personal Lord and Savior?
How many times have your heard that question?
In the history of Christian theology, there has always been a tension within the view of salvation. Is the person alone saved? Or, did Christ come to save the community? For today, let’s set that tension aside. Instead, let’s consider the psychological import of the phrase “my personal Lord and Savior.” Pushed to it’s logical conclusion, the phrase is narcissistic; it treats a relationship with Jesus somehow as a personal possession. He is MY personal Lord and Savior. He died to save ME.
It’s tempting to reduce spirituality merely to a personal level. It is even more tempting to place a relationship with Christ at the service my well being. Of course, we should have a personal relationship with the Lord, but should we be in charge of the relationship? More to the point, shouldn’t we be striving to do God’s will, and make God the servant of our glory?
Jesus told his followers:
21 Not everyone who shouts “Lord, Lord!” will enter the Kingdom of heaven. The only people who will enter are those who do the will of my Father, the One who lives in heaven. 22 On the day of judgment, many people will tell me, “Lord, Lord! Didn’t we say things in your name? Didn’t we throw devils out of people using the power of your name? Didn’t we do miracles using the power of your name?” 23 I will tell them “No, I don’t recognize you. Get away from me, you evil people!”
24 Everyone who listens to my teachings and does something about them is like a wise person who built his house on rock. 25 The rain fell and the rivers flooded. The winds blew and shook the house. But the house didn’t move, because it was built on rock. 26 Everyone who listens to my teachings and ignores them is like the fool who built his house on the sand of a dried river bed. 27 The rain fell and the rivers flooded. The wind blew and slammed against the house. The house collapsed with a great “swoosh!”
These verses in Matthew’s gospel combine two unconnected teachings on faithfulness and wisdom.
Jesus said to his disciples:
21 Not everyone saying to ME “LORD, LORD!” will go into the kingdom of heaven, but the (one) doing the will of MY Father, the (One) in heaven. 22 Many will say to ME on that day, “LORD, LORD, (did we) not in your name speak, and (did we not) in your name expel demons, and (did we not) in your name do many powerful (things)?” 23 Then I will confess to them, “I never knew you; depart from ME, (you) doing lawlessness.”
7:21, 22 “LORD, LORD” This doublet was an unusual construction; someone usually employed such a construction to demand attention. In Matthew, the petitioner seemed to cry out the title, so to imply faith. Taken with the condemnation in 7:23, “I never knew you,” the doublet emphasized a gulf between the false Christian and the Lord “on that day” (the day of YHWH, the final judgment).
7:22 The rhetorical question the condemned used was highly stylized. The question began with the doublet “LORD, LORD,” followed by the negative (“not”) which applied to the three clauses. Notice the repetition of “in your name;” its position in the beginning of each clause heightened its importance. This phrase can be interpreted three ways: 1) appealing to the person in authority (i.e., the Christ), 2) acting with the authority of the person (i.e., using the power of the Christ), 3) mentioning a relationship with the person (i.e., a personal relationship with Christ). The three clauses focused upon preaching (speak in your name), exorcism (expel demons), and miracles (do many powerful things). Taken together, simply acting like a Christian was not sufficient, for such activities could be for self-aggrandizement and not to do the will of God.
How do we remain faithful to Christ? Do we show others through our actions? Or do we focus on our intent? Obviously, intent and action weave together in our Christian walk. But can we get into such a rut that our spiritual life is one of rote? Is that a life worth living? By painting in extremes, Jesus spoke of the tension between act and will, but he placed his focus on the day of judgment.
A Christian can claim a personal relationship with Jesus; he or she can do mighty things. But should that person expect a reward? Of course not, Jesus stated. Yet, we all implicitly assume that, if we just live as “good” people, we will get to heaven. If we are lost, our failure is our own, simply for presuming we have the power to get into heaven by ourselves. And, that’s the problem. We presume. We presume our actions are enough. And, when we presume, we’re really saying “Hey God, look what I did for you!”
Jesus placed the focus from the person presuming upon God to God. It’s not what we does in the name of the Lord, it’s what the Lord does in our lives. When God acts, we should respond by doing his will. The purpose of the spiritual life is not to live as a good person, it is to do the will of God. That’s why Jesus was so insistent in his teaching. The saved experience God in their lives and seek to do his will. That focus and content are far different than simply being a good person, then expecting heaven as a reward.
What is the quality of your relationship with Christ?
24 So, everyone hearing these words of MINE and acting on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. 25 The rain came down and the rivers (rose), the winds blew and fell upon that house, and it did not fall, it was built upon rock. 26 Everyone hearing these words of MINE and not acting on them is like a foolish man, who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down and the rivers (rose), the winds blew and struck against that house, and it fell and its fall was great.
7:24, 25 “who built his house on rock...it was built on rock.” A house built on rock can refer to a house with a strong (laid stone) foundation or a house built on a rocky height, above the flood plain. The house of the fool was built on sand, a reference to a house with a weak foundation or built in a desert flood plain (which is sandy).
7:25, 26 “(wind) fell upon...struck against” The effects of the wind were expressed in two different verbs. The force of the verbs or their equivalence have been debated by scholars with out a consensus.
Matthew 7:24-27 concluded the teaching Jesus began with the Beatitudes (5:1). Chapters 5-7 in Matthew covered the various topics of prayer, moral living, and interpretation of Jewish Law. Jesus ended the discourse with a parable that challenged his listeners to be wise.
The parable of the wise and foolish builder would have been familiar to the contemporaries of Jesus. If his listeners had not built or repaired their homes on a regular basis, they certainly knew the challenges of seasonal home repair. A well-built house had a solid foundation on rock. Only a fool would build a house on the sand of a desert river plain; that would be a clear invitation to disaster.
The interesting part of the parable was the reference to the “rock.” Those who acted upon the words of Jesus built their lives and their values on the “rock,” a reference to YHWH. As Psalm 95:1 states: “Oh come, let’s sing to Yahweh. Let’s shout aloud to the rock of our salvation!” (World English Bible) In other words, living the Christian life, a life that puts the words of Jesus into action, was based upon the power and presence of God. Here, Jesus made an implicit, but nonetheless clear reference to himself as the Messiah. His words would lead the follower to a life with the Father.
How have you put the words of Christ into action?
Matthew’s gospel presents us with an overview to the wise Christian. What makes a follower of Jesus wise? Do God’s will and act upon the words of the Messiah. Any other meaning is self-serving or wrong headed.
Those who declare their faith for self serving reasons do so at their own risk.
Reflect you’re your relationship with Christ. How are you his servant? How have you put his words into action?