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The thatch houses were great homes indeed
The thatch houses were great homes indeed

How to build your house

The wise man built his house on a rock.”  That sounds nice, doesn’t it?  Who doesn’t want a house that is firmly grounded on solid rock?  But check who built the house.  “The wise man,” said the Lord.  Wise people are smart!

Another man, however, built his house on sand.  That doesn’t sound so smart, does it?  But check who built that house. The Lord said a foolish man. No wonder!

Living parables

Living parables like this, which Jesus told, were two-edged swords that cut both sides.  On one hand, he told them for real-life application, and, on the other hand, he told them for a higher purpose, namely, for his kingdom-life application.

Therefore, let’s not shy away from taking the Lord’s statement on its face value and apply it to our Ghanaian context.  In Ghana, wise people build their houses on dry and upper grounds.  

Some other people, who will never admit that foolishness is associated with their construction behaviour, build their houses on wetlands.  

It is just a matter of time before destruction pays them an unpleasant visit, or when the authorities in charge of town and country planning pull down their structures, with or without the so-called human face.

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 ‘Langbongs’

At our traditional communities where I hail from in northern Ghana, there are many “langbongs” dotted about at the villages.  A “langbong” is the remains of what used to be a house.

All “langbongs” were built with mud and straw, and no foundation.  After many years when the house owner dies and his children disperse, the house becomes a “langbong.”  And as the scripture says about grass that withers, “its place knows it no more.”  That is to say, the house breaks down, the mud melts under persistent rainfall, and the wind scatters the straw away like chaff. 

Definitely, we cannot say our poor grandparents whose “langbongs” are the remains of what used to be our homes were unwise.  The mud and thatch and sticks were all they had to build houses for the family, and those mud houses were great homes indeed.

When the Lord Jesus, in his enduring love for parables and the use of figurative speech, said, “The wise man built his house on a rock,” was he just referring to mud houses that would become “langbongs” after many years? Was he referring to block buildings on concrete foundations?  Even concrete buildings do fall apart sometimes.

Life, not buildings

No, he was not referring to buildings.  Get the context of what he said: “Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matthew 7:24).

Earlier in the preceding chapters, Jesus taught a variety of lessons about life.  He taught about being salt and light, about anger, lust, divorce, vows, revenge and about loving our enemies.

He also taught about giving to the needy, about prayer and fasting, our attitude towards money, about worry, about judging others, the way to heaven, and bearing fruit in our life.

He taught all this before saying in addition, “Everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.”  

So the two kinds of houses—the one on the rock and the one on sand—together with those who built them, represent two kinds of people: the wise and the foolish.

Thus, “house” in the Lord’s parable is “life”, not just a building. Just as a house has many parts—roof, windows, doors, bedrooms, bathrooms, a living hall, a porch, corridor, pillars, and a floor—so a life has many components—behaviour, attitude, actions, lifestyle, thoughts, what we watch, how we use our time, how we talk, where we go to, what we read, our entertainment, friends and associations, faith and belief, family life, occupation and many more.

Why they are wise

Those who build their life on the teachings of Christ are wise. They are wise because the teachings of Christ promote peace, unity, social cohesion, personal integrity, moral resilience and love for one another.  

Such a life is bound to be strong and can withstand life’s many troubles—the storm, the rain that comes down, the streams that rise, and the winds that blow against it. That house will not fall because it has its foundation on the rock (Matthew 7:25).

That rock, of course, is the Lord Jesus Christ—the foundation of our salvation.

In this column, I once told the story of a university lecturer who, despite sustaining paralysis during an accident, stood firm in the Lord, got married, and had a beautiful family with her husband and children. 

Still lecturing at the university from a wheelchair, her life and faith are strongly bound together, because her “house” is built on the solid rock of Christ and his teaching. That is a wise person who has built her house on a rock.

The writer is a publisher, author, writer-trainer and CEO of Step Publishers.

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