In 1174 the Italian architect Bonnano began work on what would become his most famous project: A bell tower for the local Cathedral. The tower was to be eight-stories and 185 feet high. There was just one “little” problem: builders quickly discovered that the soil was much softer than they had anticipated, and the foundation was too shallow to hold the structure. And sure enough, before long the bell tower began to tilt… and it continued to tilt… until finally the architect and the builders realized that nothing could be done to make what became known as the Leaning Tower of Pisa straight again.
It took 176 years to complete and many attempts were made to compensate for the “tilt.” The foundation was shored up; the upper levels were even built at an angle to try to make the top of the tower look straight. Nothing worked. The tower has stood for over 800 years, but leans about 17 feet away from where it should be and was closed in 1990 for fear that it would fall and cause loss of life and injury. The Leaning Tower of Pisa is a vivid reminder that foundations may well be hidden but they are essential. As we come to the end of this series of studies in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus brings us to his application, our take away and he challenges us to check our foundations before it is too late.
“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. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.” (Matthew 7:24-29)
The opening word ‘therefore’ draws the sermon to a close and links all that has gone before to this concluding illustration.
Notice what Jesus does not say… “everyone who hears these words of mine is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” Hearing sermons is not enough. You may have been a member of Christ Church for one year or twenty years. If you have been a member as long as me – 12 years, and if you too have attended at least two services every Sunday, you will have heard more than 1200 sermons, allowing a few weeks a year for holidays. But if you have not put them into practice you are, says Jesus, you are “like a foolish man who built his house on sand.” Hearing sermons is not enough. But nor did Jesus say, “everyone who hears these words of mine and believes everything I say… is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” Hearing is not enough. Believing is not enough either.
Jesus does not say “everyone who hears these words of mine and studies them carefully in a home group… is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” Studying Jesus words is not enough. Jesus doesn’t even say, “everyone who hears these words of mine and teaches others to put them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” No. The people Jesus says are wise are those who “hear(s) these words of mine and puts them into practice.”