The Wise Man… What?

Most reading this are probably familiar with Jesus’ analogy about “the two builders.”  In Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus creates a word picture for the people.  He describes a wise man who “built his house on the rock.”  The rain fell, the floods came, the winds were fierce and threatened to blow it over, but the house stood firm because it had been “founded on the rock.”  He describes a foolish man who “built his house on the sand,” and the great fall that occurred when that house was similarly subjected to the wind and the rains.

This was a reality check for me as a Sunday school teacher: the children’s Sunday school song about the “wise man” conveys this word picture – but not the point of the story!  What was Jesus actually talking about?  Building houses?  Hardly!  I want us to look closer at this “principle” we are teaching toddlers that will most certainly carry into their adult years…

We know that in verse 24, Jesus begins by saying, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man…”   Wait a minute – what application do we give in our song?  These kids aren’t actually learning the principle that Jesus taught us.  Instead they get to pretend they are building a house (which, granted, is fun) but they are also learning to make a vague statement about “building your life on the Lord Jesus Christ,” saying that when prayers go up, blessings come down.  What part of Christ’s lesson included that?  I’m afraid we have allowed a fallacious hermeneutical principle to reflect in some of our Bible class material – give them the idea, but leave room for interpretation when examined more closely.

For anyone who teaches a children’s Bible class, here is my charge: be sure to ALWAYS include the proper application for these songs and Biblical accounts.  Jesus intended to convey with His word picture that a person who hears and acts on His words will be saved.  For a deeper understanding of the application, go back and read what comes before this section of text.  Remember, whenever you read a “therefore,” go back to see what it is “there for.”  Right before this architectural analogy is made, Jesus warns that not everyone who says to Him, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but “he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter” (Matthew 7:21).  By teaching children the analogy but forgetting to include that which is being compared, here is the result:

  1. We teach children to take things out of context before they are even able to read. 
  2. They will think that wise people “build their life on the Lord Jesus Christ,” unaware of what that actually means.
  3. They will associate prayers and blessings with “building your life on Jesus,” and not the process of hearing His words and obeying them.

So here is my recommendation:  we change the song to match the Bible lesson.

The wise man built his house upon the rock (3x)
And the rains came tumb-a-ling down… Ohhh…
The rains came down as the floods came up (3x)
And the wise man’s house stood firm.

The foolish man built his house upon the sand (3x)
And the rains came tumb-a-ling down… Ohhh…
The rains came down as the floods came up (3x)
And the foolish man’s house went SMASH!  So….

The one who is wise will hear and obey (3x)
So listen and obey the words of Christ.

Wow – does that change the whole message of the song, or what?  What if we asked the children to explain what Jesus said about the “two builders” every time we sang that song with them?  For older kids, what if we had them memorize the three verses from which it is taken?  We would suddenly have a generation of more Bible-literate children, who – whenever they heard the more common version at VBS – would be able to say, “What? That’s not what Jesus said.  He said we need to listen and do what He says…”  Hopefully, we can teach them to carry this attentiveness to God’s word well into their adult years, making them wise men and women who actually know how to “build their house on the rock.”

By Keeley Rollert
Keeley and her husband David are current students at the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver. They are planning to graduate next year. Find other great posts on her blog at http://wifeofapreacher.wordpress.com.

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6 Comments

Filed under Christian living, Encouragement

6 responses to “The Wise Man… What?

  1. Wendi Camacho

    I had never looked at it that way but I completely agree. I have thought the same thing with many children’s versions of bible stories. I buy the books for reading & teaching but quickly learn its not teaching correctly. I find myself in scripture to make sure I know the correct story then share it with my kids the proper way. I believe if we plant even the smallest seed of incorrect information that’s just what it is a seed & I don’t want false information growing in my children. I will never be perfect but strive everyday to do what is right. Thank you for the article & a new song! God bless you & your work for the kingdom.

  2. I certainly agree that it is important to examine the words to songs, including those we teach to our children. However, I disagree that singing this song (in it’s original form) would be wrong. This song is definitely a simplification of what Jesus was teaching, but aren’t most children’s songs? If I’m using this song as the only way of teaching about this passage of Scripture I would be failing as a parent and teacher of God’s Word; however, I think this song can be a good way to help children remember the passage of Scripture.

  3. Carley Robertson

    This right here is why you will be an excellent momma Keeley! Its a great thought for all of us who have kids, or for those with grand kids. I think its important even for us adults to stop and think about what we are singing! :) Great job!

  4. Cindy

    Good thoughts, we must be very careful what we teach our children. I just spent Sunday morning teaching 4s and 5s that “This little Christian Light of Mine” is not about lighting up a dark room but about showing we love God to those around us by doing right and being obedient. Children like adults often sing without thinking about the words.

  5. Excellent thoughts, Keeley. You are so wise in saying it is possible for us to teach incorrectly if we are not careful. It is so wonderful to see a young woman with such a good understanding of taking care to keep scripture with the context, and realizing songs often teach more or less than the scriptures really teach. May God receive the glory. Many children’s songs, as well as songs in our songbooks are unscriptural, and we must pay close attention!

  6. Susan Follis

    I like your recommendations. That is so true that the little ones may not catch the meaningful intent for a song or story. Thank you for your thoughts!!

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