Diotisalvi, an accomplished architect in the 12th century designed the plans for an exquisite white marble bell tower to complement the city of Pisa’s cathedral, however coming up with the finances for the project was a challenge. In looking to find ways of cutting construction costs he bought a cheap plot of land near the church. He was thrilled when he found the bargain and quickly signed the contract. His engineer was not so happy. The engineer warned him that the land was a dense mixture of clay, sand and shells, and totally unsuitable as foundation for an eight-story bell tower. Diotisalvi ignored the engineer’s words and began construction. As a result, after building just two stories, the structure began to tilt visibly toward the south. Diotisalvi tried to compensate for the lean by adding extra masonry to the short side, but the additional weight caused the structure to tilt even further. That is the reason why history eventually renamed the structure the “Leaning Tower of Pisa”, a building project doomed from the starting gate because of the choice of foundation. Despite some poetic license I took in retelling this event, we definitely do know that to this day the Tower leans dangerously and the chosen foundation was the cause of its perilous slant.
That brings us to Jesus’ parable in Luke 6:46-49. Jesus recounts the story of two similar houses being built. From the outside they probably looked equally lovely but the difference was in the innermost portion of each house. The builder of the one house dug deep and laid his foundation on the rock. The other builder cut corners and didn’t lay a foundation. When the flood waters rose and the rivers waters rushed by, the first house stood firm whereas the other immediately collapsed. “The ruin of that house was great.” House #2 was ill-fated from the beginning.
The story was Jesus’ response to those who were proud of their religious behavior and were embittered toward Jesus’ earlier teachings. Jesus noted, “Now why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”. The “religious” wanted an easier way to God; one that would not cost them to allow changes in their personal lives, one that was not built on a foundation of obedience to God. Hence, their spiritual lives were doomed.
Jesus had spoken regarding many impossible things expected by God such as expressing love to that person who has made your life so difficult. Praying for God’s best for that “friend” who used you so selfishly. Expressing kindness to that individual who has vilified your name. Being willing to bear the pain when others have hurt you to the core. These are all issues of obedience and none of these behaviors are natural to our fallen nature, especially when we are under pressure. None are possible to obey without totally bending the knee in submission to Jesus Christ.
A teacher noted, “It does not matter the cost and quality of the building materials used, for a house built on sand is only as strong as that sand. It will collapse when put to the test.” What is deep under all the layers of the “goodness” you are trying to project to those you interact with? What behavior bubbles up to the surface when you are in upset? When is the last time you changed something in your life or plans you had made, because of what you had read or heard from God’s Word? It all boils down to Jesus’ question, “Now why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”. Without obedience to Jesus, don’t expect your spiritual walk not to be nicknamed the “Leaning Tower of Foolishness” (or worse).