Acts of God and Other Liabilities, Part 1

Sunset @ Wailea

In a perfect world there would be no snakes or spiders. In a perfect world the home team would always win. In a perfect world people would just get along, treating others the way they would want to be treated and everything would be fair and just, well…perfect!

In a perfect world we wouldn’t need the Sermon on the Mount (Jesus’ own description of what he wanted his followers to be and do), the parables, or anything else Jesus talked about or did. In a perfect world there would be no sermons!

I’ve been thinking about the man who built his house on rock. Maybe it’s because we just had the humungous boulders that were excavated for our house site pad moved around. Little did we know when we selected our building site that the house would be right on a very solid rock plateau!

Anyway, the passage I’ve been thinking about is this:

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. 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. 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. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!” Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes. (Matthew 7:24-29)

If you’ve ever been to Vacation Bible School, you might recollect the song about the rains came down and the floods came up (repeated three times), and the house on the rock stood firm. Then there’s the other builder and the other house: the foolish man had his house built on sand. The rains came down and the flood came up (again, three times), and the house on the sand went smash! 

Sometimes I wonder about the effectiveness of these children’s songs. After all, with all of the vivid gestures, which part of the song do the children always remember and get excited about? It’s not the security of the wise man’s house upon the rock! Children are excited about the total and assured destruction of the house built on sand by the foolish man.

Now, we all know that the point of the story is the need to build soundly upon the principles of new life that Christ offers. And that these principles are the basis of a firm foundation against which the storms of life and the gates of hell cannot prevail. Under fair skies and beautiful weather the two builders appear to be equally skillful and successful in their efforts to build their houses. But when the time of testing comes, only the house that has a foundation will survive.

We know all of that. But neither the truth of the story, nor its familiarity throughout the ages is sufficient to relieve most of us from the anxiety, secret or otherwise, that, if we can get away with it, we would prefer to build our houses on the sand because it’s easier and less expensive! (Unless you’re my rocket scientist father who, when he built our house, built it so it would outlast any magnitude of earthquake!)

In that perversity that comes to all of us from time to time when reading the Bible, I wonder if you are with me in asking whatever happened to that poor foolish man who built his house on sand. (After all, this isn’t the story of The Three Little Pigs). Was he swept away in the flood? Did he have enough time before he perished, if he perished, to wonder at the foolishness of his enterprise? Did he envy his neighbor’s well-built house? Did he hate God and himself?

Who knows. In our understanding of God, the same God who preserved and spared the house of the wise man is the God who destroyed the house of the foolish man. And, if the foolish man lived in civilized North America and had neglected to take out a special form of hurricane or flood damage insurance, he would have lost everything. The action visited upon is described, not in theological but insurance language, as an Act of God.

However, this God who appears to act in a very curious way, if God acts at all. We would rather not have an act of God if it were a mere exercise of divine ego that results in the horrible deaths of victims of earthquake, tsunami, flood, and other natural disasters. We don’t need that kind of God nor that kind of action.

On the other hand, when we do want God to act, as in Somalia and Libya, or in the hearts of men and women, where is God?

I’m going to stop there and let us ponder that for the week. Besides, if I write too much, you might not finish reading! Most of us have some sort of notion how we think God should be, how God should act, how God intervenes or interferes with life. If you get bored pondering your notion of God, maybe consider pondering how your view of God impacts your view of you.

Happy pondering!

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