A Parable for our Time

farm house

Do the parables of the Saviour's day still apply to us today? To answer this question, I examined the parable of the wise and foolish men who built their homes on rock and sand from the lens of a modern perspective. Building codes have come a long way in the last few years, and all kinds of houses are built on a variety of surfaces these days.

Jesus Christ Teaches the Nephites a Parable about Building

The Saviour prefaces this parable by saying, 'Many will say to me in that day: Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name have cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them: I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity' (3 Nephi 14:22-23).

Jesus teaching

The Lord goes on to say 'Therefore, whoso heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, who built his house upon a rock—And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not, for it was founded upon a rock' (3 Nephi 14:24-25).

The foolish man also heard the teachings of Jesus but “doeth them not shall be likened unto a foolish man who built his house upon the sand … and it fell, and great was the fall of it” (3 Nephi 14:26-27). The foolish man had been given the same chance as the wise man, but he did not do what Christ taught.

Sand Is Easy to Build On

The foolish man, let's call him Sandy, might have settled on the fastest way to build. He would only have to drive pilings deep into the ground and compact the surface of the sand with heavy machinery.

Using this method, the compacted sand can become as strong as cement, and the building on the surface has a stable foundation. He uses bamboo instead of regular wood or even metal pilings, because it's resistant to rot, flexible in the wind, and strong enough to support a lot of weight. This method has often been used in places where most of the country is desert. As long as the ground is relatively flat, building this way can be quick and cheap.

Rock, on the other hand, is difficult to build on. The wise man, we'll call him Peter, couldn't just build on the rock; a strong gust of wind could pick up the whole house and throw it off. Peter would have to build into the rock. Either by digging it out and building in the excavated pit, or, a little simpler, drilling and driving the pilings deep into the stone itself. Also, rock doesn't drain, so adequate drainage must be included in the foundation plan and dug into the rock itself.

construction worker

That's not all. Peter wouldn't be able to use simple wood or bamboo, like Sandy. Peter would want the house itself to be as strong as the rock it's built on. Peter would have to use cement and iron pilings. But cement doesn't bond to rock automatically; the rock has to be scored and prepared to ensure a seamless bond. And all materials must be waterproofed to prevent seepage and corrosion when the storm hits. All of this takes time and money.

Sandy looked at the beach and thought, 'I will put the living room window facing the amazing view of the ocean!'

Peter looked for the sturdiest rock he could find. Then, like Nephi who was commanded to “construct a ship, after the manner which I shall show thee” (1 Nephi 17:8), we likewise need to “pray oft unto the Lord” for further direction (1 Nephi 18:3).

Led by Distractions or Led by the Lord?

At first Sandy’s house on the beach was going to be small. After all, it was only meant to be a storm shelter. As he listens to worldly voices, he decides there's no harm in making it a little bigger, more comfortable, and adding a few more windows. Instead of spending his money on food storage and safety preparations, he installs a fancy outdoor shower, a big screen TV for entertainment during those long stormy nights, and a pool table. Now he can tell people he's not building a storm shelter, but a vacation home. When he looks out at the cloudy horizon, he is grateful that his house is finished, and he thinks that he will be safe during the storm.

poster on faith

Meanwhile, Peter is having the foundation tested again. He has researched the best roof pitch and materials for storm resistant roofing and is having it installed. He's found and installed the strongest storm door possible. There are no windows because windows are a structural weakness. When the house is done, Peter looks out at the stormy horizon and sees that there is still time. He double-checks his food storage. Then he builds a wall to act as a break between the wind and waves.

mortar on bricks

Next, Peter takes his axe and walks around his property cutting weak branches off the trees. He clears the property of anything that could become a dangerous projectile in high winds. He gathers the wood and takes it inside. After one last check, Peter goes inside and secures the sturdy storm door. He lights a fire, prepares a meal from his food storage supplies, and humbly waits for God to lead him “by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers” (Doctrine and Covenants 112:10).

When the wind is blowing in earnest and the waves are beating against the beach, the mocking tourists—like the sun—have all vanished. At this point, Sandy looks up from his TV at the stormy ocean view and gets up with a sigh to close the storm shutters. Sandy laughs at the television sitcom, unconcerned by the waves that are eroding the slope of the beach right up to the foundations of his lovely home. The bamboo piles are flexible and sturdy; they don't break. But even though Sandy's compressed foundation is strong, the sand on every side and underneath is loose, and it begins to wash away. He, along with everything in the house, is destroyed.

Build Gospel-Centered Homes.

As we ponder the meanings of this parable, we need to ask ourselves what kinds of homes we are building. Are we distracted by the mocking voices of the world? Or are we building “with an eye single to the glory of God” (Doctrine and Covenants 4:5)?

Jesus Christ

We don’t know what storms are coming or when they will come. We can, however, heed the warnings of modern day prophets in “Creating a Gospel-Centered Home.” We need to build with the best materials by studying the scriptures and the new Church Come, Follow Me resources, serving others on both sides of the veil, and continually strengthening our personal relationships with our Heavenly Father. I pray we will build our foundations into the very bedrock of the gospel—even Jesus Christ.