He Who Has Ears

Wise Man or Fool?

~ The sermon that began Blessed are the poor in spirit …” came to an end with the observation that the crowds were amazed at His teaching because He taught as one who had authority, not as their teachers of the law. The religious teachers of the day established authority by citing tradition and the teachings of others. The only references Jesus made to traditions were to correct them, “You have heard it said … but I tell you …” He taught directly from the scriptures and by his own authority. The people must have seen in Jesus consistency between word and deed; love and compassion that provided a platform for the admonitions he spoke.

On February 3rd, 1994, Mother Teresa spoke to those gathered for the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC. The petite little nun from Calcutta seized the opportunity to rebuke America over the roughly three thousand abortions performed here every day. It was a verbal spanking delivered by a woman barely visible for the podium she stood behind. She poignantly ended her remarks saying to anyone considering abortion, “Don’t kill the child. I want the child. Please, give the child to me.” What was so stirring about her words was that no one could doubt her. It wasn’t rhetoric. She meant it. Although she never made fanfare of it, she had, in fact, marched across mine fields and through firefights to rescue children. When she said ‘give the child to me’ she spoke from an unmistakable platform. She spoke with an authority other speakers couldn’t possess.

The Big But

From his developing platform, Jesus summed up his Sermon on the Mount:

“Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man … But, everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man.

Do you remember the story of the three little pigs? The first little pig built his house out of straw because it was the quickest and most convenient way to build. Enter the wolf, and in no time at all that pig was bacon. The second pig built with sticks—a little better than straw, but still he chose expedience over strength. Consequently, he became dessert. I’m guessing by the time the wolf got to the third pig’s house he wasn’t hungry anymore, but he went through the motions of huffing and puffing to blow the third pig’s house down. Of course he couldn’t, because the third pig had built with bricks. What was the moral of the story? Wisdom over expedience, and make the investment to build solidly—you never know when danger will assail you.

Jesus paints a graphic picture contrasting the security that awaits the wise man with the catastrophe that awaits the fool with regard to His teachings. It’s a house of stone versus a house of cards. These teachings of Jesus are to be applied, not simply heard and forgotten. They’re solid building materials for this new kingdom landscape. They’ll hold up here. But fools will forsake them, either short-cutting or even neglecting them altogether. This is a particularly poignant close to his message because throughout the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has been contrasting those who appear outwardly religious with those who are genuinely devout. Those playing religion should expect the ceiling to collapse on them. The other buts in the context of chapter seven serve to complete the picture.