Homily: Hearers vs Practitioners

Colorado floods: A destroyed house lies on the banks of the James Creek in Jamestown, ColoradoMatthew 7:24-27 24 “Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them is like a wise man who built his house on rock. 25 The rain fell, the flood came, and the winds beat against that house, but it did not collapse because it had been founded on rock. 26 Everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain fell, the flood came, and the winds beat against that house, and it collapsed; it was utterly destroyed!”

Thoughts on Today’s Homily
In the wake of the floods in our city and state this week, this parable is particularly arresting. This passage is poignantly connected to the previous passage/teachings. Jesus had taught that those who enter the kingdom by the narrow gate will experience lives marked by calamity and difficulty (Matthew 7:13-14). These are ones who know Jesus relationally and DO the will of the Father (Matthew 7:21-23). Here Jesus teaches followers how to endure the trials to come, on what to build their lives as disciples. He also reveals the consequences of failing to heed his words.

Jesus notably uses at least two literary devices: repetition and compare/contrast. First, Jesus repeats the Greek verbs translated “hear(s)” and “does” (alt. “practices”). This sets up the contrast.

Case one “hears” AND “puts into practice” the object: Jesus words (teachings). In this parable, the foundation (rock) which enables ones to endure the storms of life is not Jesus himself, but rather, obedience to the teachings of Jesus (becoming a practitioner).

Case two “hears” BUT “does NOT put into practice” the object: Jesus words (teachings).  Those who are merely hearers, according to James 1:22, are self-deceived. When the torrential rains of persecution, pain, and difficulty pour down, utter destruction befalls them; they have built their lives on a shoddy foundation. They are fools, unprepared for the calamity ahead.

This parable illustrates the importance of obedience to the teachings of Christ which enables followers to weather the relentless storms of life. Those who do not obey the words of Jesus are fools that will experience the walls of life crashing in upon them: utter destruction and ruin.

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