A few years ago, almost to the day, Helen and I did something crazy. When we bought our house, we decided to do “a little remodeling.” Famous last words. Five months later, and after much more money than planned, we were able to move into our new home.
As we watched the tradespeople work through the project, one of the more notable elements of the work was around framing of walls, whether as a result of putting up new walls, fortifying old ones, changing plumbing, and so on. It was interesting to see the important aspects of framing, but no matter what planning they did, or how they pieced individual studs and components together, if they didn’t actually use nails, we would have been in big trouble. Bottom line, you can know how to frame, you can put the pieces together, but unless you actually use nails … nothing else matters. You have to use nails.
My reading this week through the New Testament brought me from Matthew 5 – 9, and one particular passage in chapter 7 was resounding to me as I contemplated God’s Word this week.
Matthew 7:24-27 talks about the same concept of framing a house, but applied in first century terms, but of the importance of using nails. Jesus, giving His amazing Sermon on the Mount to the multitudes, says …
“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”
While admittedly, Jesus isn’t talking about framing, per se, the concept remains imperative.
To start, it’s important to remember that every word in God’s Bible can matter greatly. In the passage above, there are a couple seemingly minor words that really help some key concepts hit home. For those of you old enough to remember Schoolhouse Rock, remember back to the episode called “Conjunction Junction” (those of you who are old enough are signing the song right about now … those of you not old enough, check it out on YouTube). The old lyric … “And, But and Or, they’ll get you very far” … applies here. (as a matter of fact, I think and, but, and or in the Bible can often be some of the most interesting words … don’t look past them in your reading, focus on them intently). Look at the first line of the passage where Jesus says “Anyone who listens to my teaching AND follows it is wise.” This is framing AND using nails.
It’s one thing to listen to Jesus … to read His Word … to know what it says … even to have Scripture memorized. It’s quite another to do what it says. To follow it. In fact, it’s so much a different thing that Jesus makes a very pointed analogic distinction by saying that those who follow His teaching is wise, and will be able to withstand the eventual storms that life subjects all of us to from time to time. He says that those who do not obey His words are foolish and will collapse greatly under the weight of life’s realities. Note that in both cases the common thread is both types of people listen to or hear His teaching. So the difference here is not whether someone listens to or hears His teaching, it’s whether they DO IT or not.
This is where the framing analogy arose for me. It’s like the difference between framing a house and using nails on the one hand, and not using nails on the other. A house whose frame is not nailed together is very unlikely to have structural integrity. Not only will significant events shake it to the ground, but even some of the smallest circumstances are likely to cause its demise. A house that is framed AND properly nailed is purposely constructed as such specifically in order to withstand the beatings that inevitably come upon it. It has structural integrity.
How about us? In our lives and our walks with God are we framed AND nailed? Are we structurally sound? Are we going to fall upon the smallest of storms or will we withstand “the big one” (in California earthquake nomenclature)? It depends …
Are we the type who listen to and hear Jesus teachings and set them aside unused and unapplied? Can we cite passages both chapter and verse, but neglect actually putting them into practice? Do we consider the words just trite principles, or the source of our behavior and actions? Do we follow His words and commands even when they don’t suit us, or when they require that we surrender our desires in order to be obedient?
At times we stop short of fully applying what Jesus says. It might be we don’t like the implications because they conflict with our flesh or require us to sacrifice. Or perhaps our pride intervenes and interferes. Or maybe in some ways we’re lazy or just don’t exert the proper effort to interfuse His words into our lives. For whatever reason, in our frailty as humans we listen or hear, but we don’t follow, obey or do. We frame, but we don’t nail.
God desires us to follow what He says, not because He’s narcissistic, but because He knows that when we do, we fortify our lives and inherit His strength, His ability to withstand life’s challenges … the rains, floods and winds. He always offers us the best in life, but it’s up to us to choose to receive it. He always offers us fullness … we have to choose to accept it.
This week, let’s prayerfully ask God to reveal to us any areas in our lives where we might be listening and / or hearing, but not following. Places where, spiritually-speaking, we’re framing but not using nails. Let’s ask Him to help us choose to use nails. And let’s thank Him that when He gave us His Son, He used nails.
Listening, hearing, following, obeying, and doing,