The foundation is a key part of any building. I’m no master builder, but I’ve done enough home projects to see the logic of the phrase, “measure twice, cut once.” It’s a phrase that reminds us that the most important part of the work is usually done before the actual execution of the work. The plans have to be laid out, the base steps have to be considered carefully; you have to have a good and sure beginning because if you don’t, the entire rest of the project, whether big or small, is going to be affected. Get the foundation wrong, and it doesn’t matter what paint color you slap on or what pictures you hang on the wall. Whatever you built will eventually crack and erode, falling to the ground.
This need for a sure foundation is what Jesus talked about in the parable of the wise and foolish builders:
“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on the rock. The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of Mine and doesn’t act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. And its collapse was great!” (Matthew 7:24-27).
Clearly, one builder was wise and one was foolish, and the way we see that wisdom and foolishness played out in this story is through the foundation they chose. The wise man built on the rock while the foolish man built on the sand. I read this parable, and I see that it’s not about building houses; it’s about a way of life. It’s about the choices we make and how often the little choices add up to something bigger than we can see in the moment. That dynamic is why this parable is about another characteristic that dominates the wise man, and that the fool simply looks beyond.
That characteristic is intentionality, and here’s why:
Nobody intends to build on sinking sand. Why would they? Nobody thinks to themselves, You know what would be a great place to build a home? On an area where it’s going to collapse. Yep! That’s a great idea!
It’s not stupidity that drives the fool in this story; it’s a lack of intentionality. Maybe he was motivated because of cost, seeing that an area of land could be more easily purchased. Perhaps it was speed in that he wanted to have a house and in that moment, he didn’t care where it was. Maybe it was simple carelessness that he didn’t bother to do the research into the right way to build. But regardless, each of these desires exposed the unintentional nature of his build. He wasn’t careful, and eventually his lack of intentionality in the beginning bore fruit.
This is something we should be aware of because we live in an execution driven culture. Do, do, do – make the choice; build the house; don’t worry about the consequences just get something down there so you can be going. But the wise man stops. He considers. He thinks and he plans. Then he does. But the foolish man? Well, he wanted to get onto the business of hanging the pictures.
Interestingly, this parable in the Book of Matthew comes right after one of the most frightening passages to me in the entire New Testament:
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father in heaven. On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?’ Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!’”
The people Jesus talked about wanted to hang the pictures, but in their rush to do so, they neglected the foundation. They paid no attention to what must come first.
I think the action point here for me today is to pause and ask about the foundation of my decisions. Why am I accepting this job? Why am I seeking this house? Why am I saying yes to this opportunity? Am I moving too quickly to hanging the pictures without considering the foundation? When you pause and ask the difficult question of “why” to yourself, that’s precisely what you’re doing. Sure, being intentional in the beginning isn’t nearly as glamorous as slapping on a coat of paint at the end, but it’s infinitely more valuable. After all, that paint’s not going to look very good on a house that’s crumbled to the ground.