Makestraightpaths.com examines the teachings of the religious
group variously known as “the Family,” “The Family International,” the “Children
of God,” or the “Family of Love,” and evaluates these teachings from a Christian
This page analyses the
familiar parable of the two builders with special reference to Family
The Wise and
This familiar story is presented to
children in pictures, songs, flannelgraphs, devotions, and Sunday school
story times week after week after week. In fact, this story is so
well-known, that it hardly seems possible to misinterpret it. Family
children know the story well, and anyone who has spent any time teaching
children in the Family probably has the catchy jingle permanently stuck
in their head: “The wise man built his house upon the rock… but the
house on the sand went splat!”
However, a close examination of this
parable reveals some rather startling applications, and highlights an
important principle of Bible study: Always examine the context of a
passage before jumping to conclusions about what it means.
The parable of the two
24 Therefore everyone who hears these
words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built
his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and
the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall,
for it had been founded on the rock. 26 Everyone who hears these words
of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built
his house on the sand. 27 The rain fell, and the floods came, and the
winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell — and great was
The usual lesson drawn from this
story (both in and out of the Family) is that of obedience. We must be
sure to obey Jesus, and then everything will go well. If we are
disobedient, we have only ourselves to blame should catastrophe come.
Or, the parable is applied to life in general: we must build our lives
on Jesus, who is the rock, and then things will go well for us. Or, when
things do go wrong, the Lord will be sure to rescue us. So,
unfortunately, the story is sometimes used for a kind of Christian
marketing: If you are a Christian, your life will be strong and stable.
If you are not a Christian, you will be beset with problems with which
you will be unable to cope.
Often, the parable is taken as an
allegory, in which each element represents something. Perhaps we try to
find things that the “house” symbolises: the Christian life, our actions
and projects, or our decisions. The “rain” and “floods” must represent
problems, troubles or sorrows and so on. In the parable, the storm
slammed against both houses, not just that of the foolish man.
Therefore, we say that while both Christians and non-Christians
encounter severe problems, only Christians will be able to cope. Perhaps
we allow ourselves some smug self-approval: I’m smart because I’m a
Christian; it’s a bit dumb to reject Christianity. Or, we focus on the
fact that the wise man’s house did not fall and use the story to support
the so-called ‘prosperity Gospel,’ which teaches that if Christians are
obedient, faithful and believing, they will not lack in finances, or in
health, and they will not be afflicted with troubles and problems.
The Family has its own twist on the
application of the parable, claiming, as it does, that the writings of
its leaders are the inspired word of God for today. Family members are
told therefore to take special heed to these writings, obeying them
willingly. If they do so, they will be blessed; if they do not, trouble
is likely to befall them. In fact, the founder of the Family warned that
those who were disobedient to him may encounter problems of various
kinds. God’s protection may be withheld, resulting in accidents, there
may be sickness, financial trouble, or even death. For example, in one
infamous letter he explained that the murder of a Family member (who was
attacked by an intruder in her flat) was directly attributable to the
fact that this person was not following Family teachings close enough.
She was disobedient, and God’s protection had been withdrawn.
The intended result of such teaching
is that Family members become afraid to disobey the teachings of their
leaders, whether or not those teachings actually conform to the Bible.
These kinds of lessons are neither
honest nor scriptural.
It is very common to allegorise
biblical parables, treating each one as though it was intended to be a
mini “Pilgrim’s Progress” in which every detail represents something.
Indeed, some parables have symbolic elements: in the parable of the
sower, Jesus said that the seed was the word of God (Luke 8:11).
However, and this is very important, it is wrong to allegorise every
element of the parables, as doing so forces unintended meaning into the
story. We must understand that in general, each parable teaches one
important point. The details of the story provide the setting, but it is
the overall message that we must understand and apply, long before we
insert fanciful allegories into the story elements.
Many Christians treat the parables
as though they were free allegories, available for any interpretation,
as long as a suitable representation can be found. Now, of course, when
we apply the parable, it is convenient to look for aspects of our own
lives that relate to the story, but this is easily distorted. The
principle is this: Do not treat the parables as allegories. The purpose
of each parable is to bring out a particular point, and it is that point
that we must apply.
For example, the point of the
parable of the servants waiting for their Lord (Luke 12:35-40) is to
always be ready, always prepared for the return of the Lord, as it will
be unexpected. It is not right to attempt to allegorise the servants,
the lamps, the tasks, the thief, and so on, even if the lesson we draw
out is generally scriptural.
The parable of the wise and foolish
builders has an obvious point: obedience to Christ’s words will result
in security, disobedience in catastrophe. However, before we decide that
the “security” we obtain will be financial or in the realm of physical
protection, or that the “catastrophe” is sickness, poverty or death, we
should look closer at the passage to determine exactly what Jesus was
saying, and this brings us to the single most important rule of Bible
study: Look at the context.
No Bible passage exists as in
individual entity, as a separate verse or paragraph sliced out of the
Bible and kept in a “promise box.” Every Bible verse or passage relates
to its contexts, and the more we understand those contexts, the more
accurate our understanding will be. This is a skill completely neglected
in the Family, which is one reason why Family members readily accept
false teaching: they do not know that they are to look at the context of
Scriptures in order to interpret them correctly.
There are actually many ‘contexts’
that should be examined: the historical context, the geographical
context, the linguistic context, the grammatical context, the
synthetical context (how the entire Bible fits together), the cultural
context and so on. The context that concerns us when understanding the
parable of the two builders, is that of the chapter in which it is
located. How does it relate to the verses around it?
For more on the principles of Bible
First, we will look at a point of
The first word in the parable is
“therefore” (vs.24). The importance of this word cannot be
overemphasised. It shows that this parable is vitally linked to the
previous passage, that it cannot be understood without
considering what has gone before. It means that Jesus intended that this
parable form the conclusion or the consequence from what He said
A conjunction indicating that something
follows from another necessarily; hence, it is used in drawing a
conclusion and in connecting sentences together logically,
then, therefore, accordingly,
consequently, these things being so
As respects details, notice that it
stands in exhortations (to show what ought now to be done by reason of
what has been said); it serves to gather up summarily what has already
(Thayer’s Greek Lexicon)
This parable forms the conclusion of
the Sermon on the Mount, both in the book of Matthew, chapters five to
seven, and in Luke, chapter six. Therefore the parable may form the
conclusion to the entire Sermon on the Mount. Alternatively, it may
refer to the previous ‘thought’ in Matthew chapter seven. If we are to
understand it, it is imperative that we study it as it relates to the
First, we may take the parable to
refer to the entire Sermon on the Mount. It then becomes a fearful
warning to obey Jesus’ words. Our lives will become dangerously unstable
if we do not build them solidly on obedience to the principles in the
Sermon on the Mount. To give some examples that are particularly
relevant to the Family, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned against
teaching that the Law was inapplicable (Matt 5:17-19), although the
Family has specifically rejected the commandments against adultery.
Jesus also explained that all sexual lust was included in the sin of
adultery (Matt 5:27-28), although the Family’s sexual teachings
explicitly contravene this teaching. Jesus said divorce for most reasons
constituted adultery (Matt 5:31-32), although the Family treats marriage
lightly and thinks little of divorce. Jesus told His disciples to pray
to God the Father (Matt 6:9), although the Family refuses to do so,
claiming that God is “too big for them.”
If this is the case, then the Family
is on extremely shaky ground. It does not matter how much individual
members are obedient to what their leaders tell them, as due to their
disobedience to these explicit commands, they are firmly in the position
of the foolish man building on sand. They do not obey the commands of
Christ throughout the Sermon on the Mount and they will suffer the
On the other hand, it is more likely
that the word “therefore” refers to the immediately preceding thought.
Matthew chapter seven begins with an exhortation not to judge (vs. 1-5),
talks about prayer (7-11), and institutes the Golden Rule (vs.12). The
remainder of the chapter contains four warnings that in all likelihood
should be grouped together: they may be referred to as the warnings of
the Narrow Gate, the False Prophets, the Deceived Believers, and the Two
Builders. It is highly probable, then, that the parable of the wise and
foolish builders comes as the conclusion to this ‘warning’ section. The
word “therefore” at the beginning of verse 24 indicates that the message
of the parable should come as the consequence of what has come before.
Examining those passages together brings far greater depth to our Bible
study than when we consider them separately.
13 Enter through the narrow gate; for
the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and
there are many who enter through it. 14 For the gate is small and the
way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
15 Beware of the false prophets, who
come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16
You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn
bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 So every good tree bears
good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot
produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree
that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20
So then, you will know them by their fruits.
21 Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord,
Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My
Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day,
‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out
demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will
declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice
There is here first, a general
warning about salvation (the Narrow Gate); second, a warning about those
who would prevent people from getting saved (the False Prophets); and
third, a warning about personal attitudes that prevent salvation (the
The Narrow Gate
In verses 13-14, Jesus warns of the
difficulty of “finding” the gate that leads to life, and of the
relatively “few” people who would actually locate it. This is talking
about eternal life, and eventual salvation in the kingdom of heaven, as
the alternatives presented here are either “life” or “destruction.” Here
is also a general warning that the path to heaven is not easy; it
involves personal difficulty. Further, we may note that there is no
corporate path to heaven. In other words, as ‘many’ enter the broad gate
and ‘few’ the narrow gate, we may conclude that nobody should presume
that if they imitate other believers in their church or group that they
are on the road to heaven. To draw a specific application, no Family
member is saved through his or her conformity to the Family. There is no
“Family” corner in heaven. Salvation is an individual experience.
The False Prophets
Jesus continues warning His audience
in verses 15-20, this time of a specific group of people who would try
to entice them to the broad gate that leads to destruction. These “false
prophets” are those whose personal lives do not testify to godliness,
regardless of the words they say. The “fruits” of the prophets are not,
as thought in the Family, the number of conversions effected by the
followers of the prophets. Nowhere does the Bible teach that the number
of converts is the measure of the truth of the message. In fact, a
moment previously, Jesus had explicitly warned that ‘many’ would go to
destruction. Therefore, He cannot have been saying that a true prophet
would be known by many converts. “Fruit” does not represent converts.
Rather, “fruit” represents the results of one’s life as demonstrated in
one’s own personal behaviour. In Galatians, Paul said that the “fruit”
of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, and so on. The “fruit”
of false prophets is their sinful lives.
This passage is a warning that each
person should realise that his or her own salvation is a personal issue
between him or herself and God. It is extremely dangerous to accept the
teachings of a “prophet” whose personal life negates the words he or she
The Deceived Believers
Next, Jesus warns that the
acknowledgement of Himself as Lord in itself is not sufficient for
salvation (vs. 21-23). From this section, we can also conclude that
prophecies given in Jesus’ name are not necessarily true prophecies.
Neither are miracles or supernatural events proof of truth. In other
words, even if it seems as though someone is getting answers to his or
her prayers, this is no indication that this person is a godly man or
woman. Here, Jesus describes people who believed in Him (they called
Jesus ‘Lord’), they prophesied in His name, and they even cast out
demons and performed miracles, all in the name of Jesus. Yet Jesus said
He would tell them to leave; that He did not know them.
What was wrong with these people?
There is no mystery about it, Jesus said that they did not do the will
of the “Father who is in heaven” (vs. 21). They were practisers of
“lawlessness”; they were “evildoers” (NIV vs.23). Here we can draw a
general principle: disobedience to God is lawlessness. Those who live
lawless lives disobey God, and they will not enter the kingdom of
heaven. This passage does not say that people who do good works will get
into heaven. Rather, it says that true believers obey God: if they do
not, it means that their faith was not genuine. “Doing God’s will” is
the opposite of “lawlessness.”
Again, Jesus did not say that
only those who are righteous all the time could enter heaven. He did,
however, say that those who “practised lawlessness” would be excluded.
The Two Builders
The parable of the two Builders
contrasts two people, one wise and the other foolish. The primary
indication of their wisdom or foolishness was in their choice of
building sites. However, Jesus was obviously referring to more than
architectural or geological know-how. Upon hearing the parable, Jesus’
audience would immediately berate the foolish builder, not so much
because he was a poor builder, but because he had not taken the time and
effort to research the situation. He hadn’t asked experienced builders.
He hadn’t made enquiries to determine the best site. Or, if he had, for
some reason, he had refused to listen to good advice. The wise man was
wise because he acted upon the correct information. The foolish man was
foolish because he had neglected vital information during the planning
phase of his building project.
Jesus directed his story at two
groups of people, who He said were similar to the builders in the
parable. These people had heard Jesus’ words and either put them into
action or did not do so. They either acted on Jesus’ words or they did
not. To underscore the link between the parable and the immediately
preceding passage, Jesus said, “every one who hears these words
of mine” (vs. 24, 26). In other words, Jesus said that the words He had
just said, which His audience had just heard, were now to be put into
action. To extend the application a little further, modern Christians
who ‘hear’ the words He said (by reading them in the Bible) are under
obligation to obey them.
The consequences of obedience or
disobedience are severe. The wise builder’s house “did not fall” but the
foolish builder’s house was completely destroyed − “great was its fall”
(vs.27). In making this comparison, Jesus is not referring to minor
blessings or problems. When the foolish builder’s house fell, he lost
everything he had; all his efforts were in vain. It did not matter how
beautiful the house had been or how much work he had put into it. It was
gone. By contrast, the wise builder’s house remained standing. Again, it
did not matter whether the house was beautiful: it stood against the
The application of this comparison
is clear. If we do not obey Christ’s words, utter destruction is
certain. However, it is important here to determine exactly what would
be destroyed, what the consequences of disobedience or obedience are.
Jesus said, “Therefore,
everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them…” (vs.
24). This parable is a dire warning to obey the words He had just said.
Therefore, the parable acts as a conclusion to the three previous
warnings discussed above. In other words, Jesus said that it would be
dangerous to disobey the message He had just given. In fact, our
obedience makes the difference between survival or utter destruction,
between salvation or damnation.
These particular statements are far
more than good advice. They must be taken as instructions upon which our
eternal destiny rests. On the one hand, there is “life” (Matt 7:14),
“good fruit” (vs. 17), “entering the kingdom of heaven” (vs. 21) and
“not falling” (vs. 25). On the other hand, there is “destruction” (vs.
13), “being thrown into the fire” (vs. 19), “not entering the kingdom of
heaven” (vs. 21), “departing from Christ” (vs. 23), and “falling with a
great fall” (vs. 27).
There are many perils that may
befall those who wish to gain entrance into the kingdom of heaven: It is
far easier to find the way of destruction (vs. 13), as the way of life
is narrow and the gate is small (vs.14). There are those who would
deceive people, who appear as God’s leaders (vs.15), yet whose
motivation is to destroy. They may use miracles and prophecy to deceive
(vs. 22), yet they themselves will be shut out of heaven (vs. 23). Some
people will be deceived by false prophets, and some will be
Jesus told His hearers to enter the
narrow gate. Despite the difficulty, it is certainly possible. On
another occasion, Jesus explained to his disciples that salvation was
impossible with men, but with God, “all things are possible” (Matt
19:26). He warned His disciples to “beware,” indicating the means by
which they would be able to identify false prophets (Matt 7:15,16).
Those who do the will of God the Father “will enter” (vs. 21). And,
those who put these words into practice will not fall (vs.25).
Jesus used the parable of the two
builders to warn His audience, as well as those who would read His words
in the Bible, that neglect of His teachings would have disastrous
consequences. In particular, if we do not pay heed to His warning about
the broad way that leads to destruction, or to the warning about the
false prophets, or the warning about self-deception, we are liable to
lose not only our lives but our eternal soul.
A warning for the Family
Most Family members are undoubtedly
sincere. They are utterly convinced of the veracity of their faith. In
fact, they are so convinced that they never truly examine the Bible to
determine whether their faith actually conforms to biblical doctrine.
Here is the first application: a personal relationship with Jesus is
insufficient in itself to guarantee eternal life. Jesus warned of those
who called Him ‘Lord’, yet were excluded. The Family prides itself on
its perceived position as Jesus’ lover, yet Jesus Himself called for His
followers to do the will of His Father in heaven.
Second, the Family relies heavily on
‘prophecy’ to substantiate its teaching, and miracles to provide for its
members. Yet Jesus warned explicitly that neither prophecy nor miracles
could be taken as proof of salvation or truth. “Many” people, He said,
would be excluded from heaven even though they had prophesied and
performed miracles. Answers to prayer are no proof of salvation.
Third, the proof of a true prophet,
is not his followers or converts. Rather, it is his personal holiness,
his obedience to biblical commands. In the Family, there are various
widespread sins, acts which are specifically forbidden by both the Old
and New Testaments, yet which are condoned and promoted by Family
leadership. This indictment must specifically include the founder of the
Family, whose well-publicised personal life included persistent sexual
Family members, please consider your souls, submit to the truth of God in
the Bible alone, and repent of the sin that has been taught you.
Nothing could be more important.
The parable of the two builders is
no mere exhortation to general obedience, nor does it contain a promise
of prosperity to those who obey Christ. Rather, it is a dramatic warning
not to neglect salvation, for indeed, “How will we escape if we neglect
so great a salvation?” (Heb 2:3 NASU). It warns us not to allow
ourselves to be deceived by false prophets or to fall into the easy way
that ultimately leads to destruction, or to cling to a false hope
bolstered by prophecies or miracles.
The horror of the fate of those who
neglect the truth of this parable can hardly be exaggerated. Jesus did
not tell this story to children, nor does it contain advice for young
people to ‘be good.’ It is not an exhortation for Christians to become
disciples, nor is it a promise of prosperity or stability in this life.
Rather, it concerns our eternal salvation, and the ultimate fate of
those who reject Christ. It warns that if we do not listen to Christ, we
run the very real risk of being shut out from the kingdom of heaven
24 Therefore everyone who hears these
words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built
his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came,
and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not
fall, for it had been founded on the rock. 26 Everyone who hears
these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man
who built his house on the sand. 27 The rain fell, and the floods
came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell —
and great was its fall.
The Fatal Failures of Religion: #6 Mistaken Identity
by Bob Deffinbaugh
Empty Words and Empty Hearts by
Built on the Rock by Steve
The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV)
1984, International Bible Society, Colorado Springs, CO.
Bible: The New American Standard Bible Update (NASU) 1995, The
Lockman Foundation, La Habra, CA.
Greek Lexicon. This valuable resource is
© 2008 Make