Wednesday, September 17, 2008

the construction business

"Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.” – Matt 7:24

Each one of us is in the construction business, whether we like it or not. We’re all building something. Our lives revolve around something, or someone, for good or for ill. Jesus wants his students, his apprentices, to build wisely and on a solid foundation. Jesus doesn’t want us stacking cards next to a 5-speed fan.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Ps 111:10). Well, Jesus shows his fellow mountain-climbers what wisdom, what the fear of the Lord, actually entails. It means hearing. It means acting. It means building.

First, we hear Jesus’ words – not read them, not listen to them, not memorize them – but we hear what Jesus has to say to us. Hearing is an advanced form of listening. Hearing entails perceiving, i.e., listening attentively with favor, assent, compliance, and humility. Jesus laments that most people “will indeed listen, but never understand, will indeed look, but never perceive” (Matt 13:14). And hearing Jesus is hard. It’s hard to hear “lose your life” in a world that reinforces selfishness. It’s hard to hear “love your enemies” in a world that reinforces hate.

Second, we act on Jesus’ words. Sure, there will come times when we’re too afraid, and too faithless, to act. If Jesus’ first disciples betrayed him, my guess is that all of us will too. And that’s why Jesus is our Savior before He is anything else. That being said, Jesus’ question is fair: “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and do not do what I tell you” (Lk 6:46)? I’ll be bold and take a crack at this one. I think we fail to act because we fail to hear. Jesus offers us rest and refreshment. “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt 11:30). I think the moment we hear these words, acting becomes a whole lot easier.

Finally, we build. Building for God’s kingdom is the natural outgrowth of hearing and acting on Jesus’ words. We don’t build God’s kingdom. Only God builds God’s kingdom. We build for God’s kingdom. Think of building a house. One person blows glass, another makes bricks, still another manages the glass-blowers and the brick makers. But none of these people build the house. They build for the house. Behind each worker is an Architect and a master plan. In the same way, God wants to use our small acts of love and discipleship as the building blocks of His kingdom. This is what Jesus calls storing “up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Matt 6:20). And no act is too small or too insignificant in God’s building process. “Whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones” will by no means “lose their reward” (Matt 10:42). But the key is that we build on rock. “And the rock was Christ” (1 Cor 10:4).

FOR TODAY: Intentionally build for God’s kingdom. Hear Jesus. And act on what you hear. To hear Jesus’ words and to act on them is what wisdom, what building on rock, is all about. No act done in Jesus’ name will ever be lost. And so speak a kind word to someone who doesn’t deserve it. Give a candy bar and a coke to the homeless man outside of the gas station. Do something to bless the lives of others. For “the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it” (1 Cor 3:13). Like I said, we’re all in the construction business. Hear. Act. Build wisely.

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