Daily Office Readings – Gospel ( Luke 6:39-49 )

In the late 80’s, there was an anti-drug public service announcement that shows a father confronting his son about the son’s drug use. He asks his son where he learned this sort of behavior and the son responds angrily, “You, alright?! I learned it by watching you!” Then the narrator comes in and says, “Parents who use drugs have kids who use drugs,” and the screen fades to black. The irony is not lost on those who watched it. Here you had someone demanding that their son lives a life that they cannot, or will not, try to live themselves.

Today, in the Gospel reading, Jesus is teaching in parable form, though rather than a single narrative, it seems more like a collection of sayings pulled together to make a point. Jesus condemns those who would lead others, though they themselves can not see. Then he chastises others for calling out the faults and failures of others, while not seeing their own, even greater failures, and rounds out the saying by calling these people hypocrites.

And then, Jesus gets into the discussion of how various trees are known for the type of fruit they produce, and that one does not gather grapes from a bramble bush, or pick figs from thorns. Jesus tells us that, just like trees, we can only produce what our hearts hold dear – and what we hold dear is made evident by our actions.

Because we are human, every one of us is well versed in pointing out the failings of others, or reminding them when they are not living up to the ideals they hold. But we are always less adept at examining our own lives and determining if we are living up to the ideals that we hold ourselves. Again, just human nature.

Jesus’ parable extends a bit further than just examining our own lives for our own failings. When he progresses into the analogy of the two houses built on solid rock or on sand, he is making a statement about our witness to the world.

I know this parable of the two houses is often brought up as a lesson in being grounded in scripture so that the arguments of those that don’t believe in God will not shake our faith when they confront our beliefs. It is meant as an encouragement, to remind us to read the scripture and to study it so that those around us cannot deter us from our faith.

But I think that this parable is less about withstanding the attacks against our faith, and more about withstanding attacks against our character. Jesus compares the house built on rock to the one who “hears my words, and acts on them.” The house built on sand is like the “one who hears and does not act.” We are the house, and if we fail to act on what we claim to believe, then when the attacks of others rise against us like a flooding river, people will quickly make a judgment on whether all of our fine and fancy words were worth our effort.

We have seen it time and again, in the lives of politicians professing the faith, to televangelists, or even our own clergy. Their campaigns and ministries can be destroyed with a simple revelation that they have been living contrary to their professed beliefs. In a matter of moments, the house of perceptions that they have built is destroyed as the lies in their lives are laid bare.

We may not be politicians, televangelists, or even ordained clergy, but we interact with people every day, people with whom we hope to share our faith. Thankfully, for most people, a single misstep is not enough to destroy the relationship we may have built with them. But if they continue to see that our lives are lived contrary to our words, then there will be nothing to stop the flood of anger that will wash away the house we have tried to build.

“But the one who hears and does not act is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against it, immediately it fell, and great was the ruin of that house.”

Luke 6:49

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