By Amber Noel
A Reading from the Gospel of Matthew 7:22-29
22 “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ 23Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’
24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. 25 The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell — and great was its fall!”
28 Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, 29 for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.
Perhaps one of the biggest differences between the narrow way and the broad is that the broad way tends to get its power or justification from being an iceberg in reverse: what’s above the surface is far more than what’s below it. It’s top-heavy, built for show.
Take the house on sand. Why would anybody build a house on sand? Jesus doesn’t tend to chastise us when we’re being merely stupid. But he does when we neglect truth, or play stupid in order to deceive. A house on sand is built, not really to last — the builder knows that — but only for show. Like a gorgeous, quick-built home made with cheap materials — flimsy doors, floors, fixtures, fragile drywall — over time, the fake will out. And (as any of us who have owned such a house knows) the repair needs feel maddeningly absurd exactly because everything looks so new and expensive.
“On that day,” the Lord will care far less (if at all) how impressive to others our faith, religious life, or ministries were. He wants to inspect the foundation. He wants to know if it has good bones.
It’s a little alarming to think that things that may not ultimately please the Lord — may even repulse him — not only look excellent but may be used by God to do some good along the way. Powerful words, deeds, and programs: these are things that God may yet accomplish through people who still have not really let themselves be known by the Lord — and, we can dare to gather, who still don’t yet know him.
“Lord, Lord, do you know me?” We all build lives; many of us have charge of ministries; all are called to let God use us. Yet if we have to make certain good impressions in this life, let’s never, ever put up a front with God. He’s no fool. Treating him like one only makes us foolish.
Amber Noel, M.Div., is Associate Editor at the Living Church and Associate Director of The Living Church Institute. Off the clock, she is the author of short fiction, book and culture reviews, and work for the stage.
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