And every one that hears these sayings of mine, and does them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand:
All Commentaries on Matthew 7:26 Go To Matthew 7
Wherefore also He made His argument more expressive, by trying its force in a parable; for it was not the same thing to say, The virtuous man shall be impregnable, but the wicked easily subdued, as to suppose a rock, and a house, and rivers, and rain, and wind, and the like.
And well did He call this man foolish: for what can be more senseless than one building a house on the sand, and while he submits to the labor, depriving himself of the fruit and refreshment, and instead thereof undergoing punishment? For that they too, who follow after wickedness, do labor, is surely manifest to every one: since both the extortioner, and the adulterer, and the false accuser, toil and weary themselves much to bring their wickedness to effect; but so far from reaping any profit from these their labors, they rather undergo great loss. For Paul too intimated this when he said, He that sows to his flesh, shall of his flesh reap corruption. Galatians 6:8 To this man are they like also, who build on the sand; as those that are given up to fornication, to wantonness, to drunkenness, to anger, to all the other things.
Such an one was Ahab, but not such Elijah (since when we have put virtue and vice along side of one another, we shall know more accurately the difference): for the one had built upon the rock, the other on the sand; wherefore though he were a king, he feared and trembled at the prophet, at him that had only his sheepskin. Such were the Jews but not the apostles; and so though they were few and in bonds, they exhibited the steadfastness of the rock; but those, many as they were, and in armor, the weakness of the sand. For so they said, What shall we do to these men? Acts 4:16 Do you see those in perplexity, not who are in the hands of others, and bound, but who are active in holding down and binding? And what can be more strange than this? Have you hold of the other, and art yet in utter perplexity? Yes, and very naturally. For inasmuch as they had built all on the sand, therefore also were they weaker than all. For this cause also they said again, What do ye, seeking to bring this man's blood upon us? Acts 5:28 What says he? Do you scourge, and are you in fear? Do you entreat despitefully, and art in dismay? Do you judge, and yet tremble? So feeble is wickedness.
But the Apostles not so, but how? We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. Acts 4:20 Do you see a noble spirit? Do you see a rock laughing waves to scorn? Do you see a house unshaken? And what is yet more marvellous; so far from turning cowards themselves at the plots formed against them, they even took more courage, and cast the others into greater anxiety. For so he that smites adamant, is himself the one smitten; and he that kicks against the pricks, is himself the one pricked, the one on whom the severe wounds fall: and he who is forming plots against the virtuous, is himself the one in jeopardy. For wickedness becomes so much the weaker, the more it sets itself in array against virtue. And as he who wraps up fire in a garment, extinguishes not the flame, but consumes the garment; so he that is doing despite to virtuous men, and oppressing them, and binding them, makes them more glorious, but destroys himself. For the more ills you suffer, living righteously, the stronger are you become; since the more we honor self-restraint, the less we need anything; and the less we need anything, the stronger we grow, and the more above all. Such a one was John; wherefore him no man pained, but he caused pain to Herod; so he that had nothing prevailed against him that ruled; and he that wore a diadem, and purple, and endless pomp, trembles, and is in fear of him that is stripped of all, and not even when beheaded could he without fear see his head. For that even after his death he had the terror of him in full strength, hear what He says, This is John, whom I slew. Now the expression, I slew, is that of one not exulting, but soothing his own terror, and persuading his troubled soul to call to mind, that he himself slew him. So great is the force of virtue, that even after death it is more powerful than the living. For this same cause again, when he was living, they that possessed much wealth came unto him, and said, What shall we do? Is so much yours, and are you minded to learn the way of your prosperity from him that has nothing? The rich from the poor? The soldiers from him that has not even a house?
Such an one was Elias too: wherefore also with the same freedom did he discourse to the people. For as the former said, You generation of vipers; Matthew 3:7 so this latter, How long will you halt upon both your hips? And the one said, Have you killed, and inherited? the other, It is not lawful for you to have your brother Philip's wife. Mark 6:18
Do you see the rock? Do you see the sand; how easily it sinks down, how it yields to calamities? How it is overthrown, though it have the support of royalty, of number, of nobility? For them that pursue it, it makes more senseless than all.
And it does not merely fall, but with great calamity: for great indeed, He says, was the fall of it. The risk not being of trifles, but of the soul, of the loss of Heaven, and those immortal blessings. Or rather even before that loss, no life so wretched as he must live that follows after this; dwelling with continual despondencies, alarms, cares, anxieties; which a certain wise man also was intimating when he said, The wicked flees, when no man is pursuing. Proverbs 28:1 For such men tremble at their shadows, suspect their friends, their enemies, their servants, such as know them, such as know them not; and before their punishment, suffer extreme punishment here. And to declare all this, Christ said, And great was the fall of it; shutting up these good commandments with that suitable ending, and persuading even by the things present the most unbelieving to flee from vice.
For although the argument from what is to come be vaster, yet is this of more power to restrain the grosser sort, and to withdraw them from wickedness. Wherefore also he ended with it, that the profit thereof might make its abode in them.
Conscious therefore of all these things, both the present, and the future, let us flee from vice, let us emulate virtue, that we may not labor fruitlessly and at random, but may both enjoy the security here, and partake of the glory there: unto which God grant we may all attain, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory and the might forever and ever. Amen.