Could a familiar parable of Jesus actually be teaching the opposite of what most pastors teach us about our Good Works and Eternal Life?
Jesus taught his disciples, and all others who came to hear him, using simple stories – parables – that, despite being simple and relatable, also tended to shock those who heard them.
To read the parable of the house built on the rock with new eyes and fresh ears may be shocking to many Christians who are used to hearing a rather watered-down interpretation.
Viewing this parable in its clear form is uncomfortable to hear, and perhaps that’s why it and its messages is avoided or touched on so lightly by today’s pastors.
Jesus says: “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” (Matthew 7:24-27/ESV)
Faith on the Rock means that good works – DOING what Jesus tells us to do in his teachings – actually matters, and are required for entry into the Kingdom. This flies in the face of much teaching from today’s Pastors, but Jesus’ words are clear, and can mean nothing else.
The parable cannot simply mean “right belief” or the mere assent to man-made doctrines or creeds. Jesus elsewhere condemns "vain words/empty phrases" (Matt. 5:7) and in a verse just previous to this story, we are told by Jesus that not all those who simply shout, "Lord, Lord" but do not follow his commands, will enter into the Kingdom. But only “the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." (Matt. 7:21)
And just so that he was clear – and that by “the Kingdom” we would understand that he was referring also to Eternal Life – Jesus elsewhere answered the question, “what must I do to obtain eternal life,” with clarity: Obey God’s commandments. (Mark 10:17-19; Matt. 19:16-17; Luke 18:19-21)
Mere belief in a set of theological statements or accepting stories ABOUT Jesus is not all that God asks of us.
And in truth, Jesus taught that our Eternal Life begins HERE, with the earthly establishment of God’s Kingdom. (Matt. 6:10) Our final destination with God, however, is judged by God alone, and it is according to our Works alone, though we do not get to judge our own fitness for Heaven. (Psalm 62:12; James 4:12; Matt. 7:1; 16:27)
Jesus himself in this parable says we must “DO” the will of God, our Father, by obeying Jesus’ commands, or we will not be fit for God’s Kingdom. Jesus tells us he did ALL things our Father and his Father, God, told him to do; and he assures us that we, too, may do all that he did. Therefore, he is our perfect example and model in all things.
We, today, cannot avoid or explain away this or any other message our Master tells us, even if it makes us uncomfortable or challenges us to do Good Works and serve others, just as Jesus did.
If we claim we love Jesus, but choose NOT to hear AND DO what he says, we've built our lives on shifting sands, not the Rock of his words. (1 John 2:4) We don’t honor him at all if we don’t seek to do as he modeled for us with his life and teachings.