Saturday, February 5, 2011

Matthew 7: Confusing Talking with Doing God's Word

Mt 7:24-25 “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. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock." (Ref: ODB, 5 Feb 2011)

Jesus told this parable about two builders at the end of his famous Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). The Sermon covers a host of instructions on Kingdom lifestyle and ethics: viz., beautiful attitudes (Beatitudes), about personal and social transformation (salt & light), about the law and righteousness, about keeping the spirit, not the letter, of the Ten Commandments, about anger, lust, integrity, about secret disciplines of giving, prayer, fasting, about right relationships by not judging others, and avoiding hypocrisy, about dealing with enemies by not resisting evil with evil but with good, and turning the other cheek etc. In fact, the Sermon on the Mount was the foundation upon which Mahatma Gandhi based his non-violence resistance movement against the British colonial masters that gained independence for India. He once said about the Sermon on the Mount, "All of India would be converted, if Christians lived what they profess to believe." And Jesus would have agreed with him.

In this parable, Jesus speaks about two builders or two kinds of Christians. What they had in common is this: they both had the opportunity to hear the greatest preacher ever lived, viz., Jesus Christ Himself who expounded the Sermon on the Mount. But their responses and life consequences were different. (Lesson: Listening to great preachers will not automatically translate into strong Christians.) One was strong and could resist the storms of life and the other was weak and collapsed in the face of troubles and trials. The only difference between the two Christians is in one word: PRACTICE. The one who builds his house on a rock is the one who not only HEARS Jesus' instructions, but he puts them into PRACTICE. The other one who builds his house on a sand is the one who also HEARS Jesus' instructions, but he fails to put them into PRACTICE. Probably his only "PRACTICE" is talking about Jesus' instructions, or preaching about them rather than living them out in his own life. He confuses talking about God's word with obeying God's Word. (All preachers suffer from this potential trap--we often preach MORE than we can practise. Perhaps, we should make it a rule never to preach anything we have not put into practise in our own lives. Usually our spouses are great help in this area because they are often the first persons to point out this inconsistency in us!)

Yet, Jesus says that it is not the HEARING of God's word that makes us strong but the PRACTISING of God's Word that makes the difference. How often have we use the Bible as a book to discuss and debate with one another instead of to OBEY and PRACTISE Jesus' instructions. If Gandhi, though not a Christian, could successfully wrest political power from the British by practising Jesus' teaching in Matthew 5-7 (especially on not resisting evil), what social transformation would Christians bring about if we likewise put Jesus' teaching into practice? We need to do more and talk less else we will become "NATO" Christians! (NB: "NATO" = "No Action, Talk Only").

Father, help us to move from hearing to living, from talking to doing, and from preaching to practising. May You grant us grace to be faithful disciples who obey everything You have commanded us in the Gospels. In Jesus' name, Amen.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this sharing and reminder to us!

    ReplyDelete

Feel free to leave your comments.