The wise man built his house upon the sand

Last week my three year old son Ben brought home a model of a house built on a rock that he made in Sunday school. It was a nice idea, with two blocks of foam to make the house and roof stuck to a stone with some glue. Unfortunately, this house wasn’t quite as robust as the one in the story, as the glue hadn’t set yet so the house kept sliding off the rock. (we caught his younger sister Lily licking the glue off the rock later, but that’s another story).

Now I’m willing to overlook as artistic license the use of a pitched roof rather than a more historically correct flat roof. But there is another misunderstanding that seems to be more widespread. And that is to do with where exactly the wise man built his house. It’s time to set the record straight. The wise man built his house on the sand, right next door to the foolish man.

I can hear you quoting Mat 7:24 to me already – “a wise man who built his house on a rock”. But if you look in Luke 6:48 we see that what he actually did was “dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock”. It would be very unusual for someone to build their house directly upon a bare piece of rock (the floor would be rather cold for starters). Incidentally, here we see an example of two accounts of the same story in different words. We don’t generally have verbatim quotes from Jesus, but summaries of what he said. In fact, he probably told this story many times in different places, and quite likely he was speaking Aramaic rather than the Greek which the gospels were written in.

So my reconstruction of the story goes like this:

Two men were building houses, a wise man and a foolish man. They built next door to each other on the sand. The foolish man didn’t bother to dig foundations. He built his house directly on top of the sand and it didn’t take too long to build. He even had some spare cash left over at the end to get Sky Sports and broadband. The wise man kept digging till he hit rock and laid foundations on top of that. His house took longer to build and cost more. He would have to wait until next year before he could afford to decorate.

Then one day there was a storm. The rain fell and the wind blew, and a nearby river burst its banks. The water came into the foolish man’s house underneath the walls and it started to sink and then collapsed. The wise man just needed to put some sand bags in front of his door. His house easily withstood the storm. He sat watching out the window drinking a cup of tea, wondering whether he should go outside and offer some help to his next door neighbour.

Update: If you would like to hear a short sermon on this passage (Matt 7:24-27) I preached in August 2006, click here.


7 thoughts on “The wise man built his house upon the sand

  1. I posted a while ago about what I think is a misunderstanding of the parable of the wise and foolish builders. I think they both built their houses on the sand, but one dug down to rock first.

    Anyway, here’s another Sunday school favourite I think we’v

  2. I used this to great effect at Living Hope’s Metamorph Sunday School in Dudley today (using glue gun for instant stick instead). Mark, this was a great teaching aid; hugely enjoyable, which prompted great creativity – houses had flags, chimneys, washing lines, palm trees, and gardens decorated. It was like a kaleidoscope as the kids created from this firm foundation. I’m aiming to dip into this resource every time I have a class. Bless you for sharing your Heaven-inspired insights. (Suggestions for next?)

  3. Since you have been a Calvinist, how have you felt about the prospect that one or more of your children might not be among the elect? How have you felt about God in relation to this?

    Do you simply hope (in the subjective sense) that, as you and Steph are Christians, God will have elected all your children too? But perhaps that’s pressing for logic, something Calvinism – in her intellectual snobbery – doesn’t stoop to do (c.f. its response to the logic that God created sin, or its insistence that predestination and human will are paradoxes).

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