Ancient Judaic thought identifies three “departments of knowledge.” First is the Law, which “presents the commandments and claims of Jehovah to man.” Next is the Prophets, which “passes judgment on conduct in the light of God’s revealed will.” Third is Wisdom, and this is where Jesus camps out in the parable that ends his Sermon on the Mount.
Wisdom, as a department of knowledge, is the aspect of a person’s intelligence that enables him or her to successfully understand and apply the Law and the Prophets and, by extension, live a satisfying, God-pleasing life. As 19th Century theologian John D. Davis explains it, wisdom is a human quality that “seeks by observation, experience, and reflection to know things in their essence as they stand related to man and God. The law and prophesy proceed directly from God…wisdom proceeds from man, and is the product of his own experience and observation.”
In that context, Jesus presented a final challenge in Matthew 7:24-27 for his hearers to “observe, experience, and reflect” on his teaching in the same way a home builder would choose and prepare a foundation for a house. The wise hearer, he suggests, will make Christ’s teaching the moral, spiritual, and intellectual foundation for guiding his or her priorities, relationships, thoughts, and actions. In doing this, that person will more successfully understand and apply the Law and the Prophets, will begin to “know things in their essence”—and he or she and will reap the reward of a stable, satisfying, God-pleasing life, even in the face of potential disaster.
The one who chooses anything other than Christ as a moral and spiritual foundation? Well, that person is destined for a foolishly spectacular collapse.
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