Three Warnings for the Religious

In one of Jesus’ most well-known parables, two men build nearly identical houses, geographically close to each other but on different kinds of foundations. One man, whom Jesus calls foolish, builds his house right on the sandy shore. The other pulled back a few dozen yards so he could build his house on bedrock.

Through the story of the wise man and foolish man, Jesus is warning a bunch of religious people who thought they were right with God but were terribly wrong.

Jesus is not addressing those folks who were flagrantly hypocritical and living double lives, faking church on the weekend while sleeping around, doing drugs, and cheating on their taxes.

His main audience is Pharisees and religious Jews, which means Jesus is talking about sincere religious people who convinced themselves they were devoted to God but didn’t walk with him. Through this parable, Jesus gives three qualities of the self-deceived religious person.

1. The self-deceived religious person does not bear spiritual fruit.

“A good tree doesn’t produce bad fruit; on the other hand, a bad tree doesn’t produce good fruit. For each tree is known by its own fruit. Figs aren’t gathered from thornbushes, or grapes picked from a bramble bush. A good person produces good out of the good stored up in his heart. An evil person produces evil out of the evil stored up in his heart, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.”

– Luke 6:43–45 CSB

They say all the right things and they hang out in all the right places, but when you look closely at their lives, there is no evidence of an encounter with Jesus. There is no growing love for him and a desire to be with him, no love for his people, no growing dislike of sin and an attraction to Christlikeness.

These things don’t appear in you all at once, of course, but someone who is really right with God will display evidences of their growth, even if it is gradual. Just like you check someone’s pulse and breath to see if they are physically alive, these things show whether or not someone is spiritually alive.

2. The self-deceived religious person does not do what Jesus says.

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and don’t do the things I say?” (Luke 6:46).

These religious people have turned to Jesus as a fire escape, or a helper, or a religious model, but they are not fully surrendered to obedience. But why would you call him “Lord” and not do what he says?

I see this happen most often in the church in people’s failure to surrender their finances, their career, their dreams, and their relationships. They will worship all day long but hold back when it comes to their tithe. They want to be a good, moral person, but they still want to choose the trajectory of their life. They want Jesus, but they don’t want to give up a relationship. They don’t want to be obedient in offering forgiveness or owning up to the truth.

In any area where you’ve said “no” to Jesus, he is not your Lord. He is either Lord of all or not Lord at all.

3. The self-deceived religious person’s faith falls apart in the storm.

“I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. When the flood came, the river crashed against that house and couldn’t shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears and does not act is like a man who built a house on the sand without a foundation. The river crashed against it, and immediately it collapsed. And the destruction of that house was great.”

– Luke 6:47–49

From a distance, you would assume these two houses are exactly the same. But it’s what is below the surface that is different. The storm revealed that one was built on the rock and the other on the sand.

There are people whose lives look alike—they go to the same church, believe the same things, live by the same general morals—but when a storm comes along, it exposes which one’s faith is not real.

We love to talk about coming to Jesus as fulfillment and peace and healing and salvation, and it is all those things. But at some point, obedience to Jesus is going to take you 180 degrees from the direction you think you want to go. In that moment, it is revealed whether or not you’ve ever left all to follow Jesus.

Many people fall away from God in a storm because their hope was never in him but rather in believing that living a religious life would keep them in sunny weather all the time.

Your house may look the same, but when the storms rage, it will be laid bare what you placed your trust in. Surrender to Jesus so you can be the house with the solid foundation, who hears God’s words and acts on them.