Two Builders, Two Sons
—Parables about obedience
The parables of Two Builders and the Two Sons bring us to the third theme of the parables, namely obedience.
We have seen how a number of parables show the kindness, mercy, goodness, and grace of God (Theme 1). We have also seen that some of those parables also show the severity and wrath of God (Theme 2). Now we start looking at parables that show how God requires obedience, fruitfulness, and stewardship in his kingdom (Theme 3).
The parables of the two builders and the two sons illustrate that God requires people to give heed to his word and to obey it (Matthew 7:21-27).
These parables highlight two aspects of that obedience:
- You can do nothing wiser than to obey the Lord.
- Lipservice is no substitute.
Note —LIPSERVICE: Lipservice means saying “YES” with your mouth but saying “NO” in your heart and by your actions. It is honouring God with your lips when your heart is far from him.
1 Two Builders
¶“21Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven. The one who would enter must do the will of my Father who is in heaven.
22On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons? Did we not do many mighty works in your name?' 23Then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'
24So then, everyone who hears these words of mine, and does them, will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25When the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house, it did not fall —because it had been founded on the rock.
26And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27When the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat against that house, it fell; and great was its fall."” (Matthew 7:21-27).
¶“46Jesus said, "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' yet fail to do what I tell you? 47Everyone who comes to me; and hears my words; and does them —let me show you what he is like.
48He is like a man who built a house. He dug deep, and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the torrent broke against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well built.
49On the other hand, the one who hears my words, and does not do them, is like a man who built a house on the ground without foundation. When the torrent broke against it, the house fell down at once, and great was its ruin."” (Luke 6:46-49).
The Meaning of the Two Builders
Matthew 7, verses 21 to 23 are the preface to the parable. On another occasion when Jesus told this parable, he boiled the preface down to this one rhetorical question, "Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and do not do what I say?" (Luke 6:46).
It is very foolish to pay lipservice to Jesus,to call him, "Lord, Lord," yet follow our own teachings, not his, and do what we like, not what he says. Jesus says there are "many" who are like that. To help us realise these things, Jesus now tells the parable of the two builders, one wise and one foolish.
The Work of the Two Builders
Matthew 7, verses 24 and 26 describe the work of these two builders. Notice that both men in the parable were builders; both were workers. The parable is not about one man who diligently built a house and another man who slept all day and built nothing, so that when the storm came the last man had no house in which to take shelter. No, he had also built a house, and no doubt he took it for granted that his house would withstand the storm.
Those who pay lipservice to Jesus and call him "Lord, Lord," no doubt believe that their house will stand when the day of judgment comes and each person’s work is tested. But their work will be destroyed and their foolishness will become evident, for they neglected to dig down to the rock of Christ’s word and build upon that. They called him their Lord, but they did not listen to his word and act upon it.
The Test of the Two Houses
Matthew 7, verses 25 and 27 describe the testing of the two houses. The test was extremely severe. There was a deluge, a raging flood, a hurricane. This represents the wrath of God on judgment day, although of course it can also represent the "storms of life" —any severe test of our faith that may confront us.
The faith, work, and religion of the wise builder will weather the storm. The foolish builder, who has built upon nothing but the sand of lipservice, and whose faith, work, and religion has no real foundation, will be ruined by the storm.
2 Two Sons
¶“28Jesus said [to the chief priests and elders], "What do you think about this? A man had two sons. He went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work today in the vineyard.' 29The son answered, 'I will not,' but later he changed his mind and went. 30The father went to the other son and said the same. This son answered, 'I go, sir,' but he did not go.
31Which of the two sons did the will of his father?" They replied, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. 32For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even after you saw that happen, you did not change your minds and believe him."” (Matthew 21:28-32).
Matthew 21:28-29 describes a simple interaction between a man and the first of his two sons. He told this first son, "I want you to go and work in the vineyard today." The lad said, "I won't go", but he changed his mind and did go.
The first son in the parable of the two sons, is like the wise builder in the parable of the two builders. These men represent those who hear and obey the word of the Lord, even though at first they may have defied him.
Matthew 21:30 describes the man’s interaction with his second son on the same terms, "I want you to go and work in the vineyard today." This son’s response is the opposite of the first son’s. This second son said, "I will go," but he didn't go.
The second son in the parable of the two sons, is like the foolish man in the parable of the two builders. These men represent those who may say, "Yes Lord" when they hear Jesus’s words, but they in fact do not obey.
Matthew 21:31 makes the application of the parable. The kingdom of God does not consist of people who pay lipservice to God and then disobey him. Rather it consists of people who may have defied and disobeyed him, but who then have genuinely repented and truly obeyed. These, and these alone, will be saved from the wrath of God and belong to the kingdom of God.