Theory of Foundation
By Anthony Casperson
There are many theories as to how a person/organization/company can increase their quality and output. Some use test markets, though the names may vary. Examples include beta testing for video games, test screenings for movies, and beta readers for novels. Other people use algorithms based off of the professional marketing data. Many who watch YouTube have probably heard about the mysterious YouTube algorithm. And some just bank on their brand. Millions of people know who they are and have a built-in trust.
An end goal is in sight, but how do they get to that point? What information will guide them to that place? What foundational principles will lead them into an improved future?
Those questions are important because if they follow the wrong theory, it could end up leading them in a direction of obsolescence or utter destruction. Many TV series and movies have ended us as virtual clones of a more popular story because the creators decided to rehash a trend more than make something else. The bandwagon jumping causing viewers to joke at the attempt rather than crave more of the same. It’s when story tropes become clichés.
It’s important to ask, “What is the foundation of our growth?” What will we be recognized for? The choice that we make for this one question will determine how well we achieve the goal we have in mind.
That question about the foundation of our growth is one that we can certainly ask of our spiritual lives. As Jesus concludes his Sermon on the Mount, he reminds us that this foundation for our spiritual lives is more important than a question of whether or not something is going to be a commercial flop. The consequences are a bit more long-lasting.
In his ending statements of this sermon, Jesus shows three theories people like to follow and then tells a story illustrating how a proper foundation stands the tests of time.
In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus shows the theory of following the crowd. He compares a wide gateway with a narrow one. The easy path, the one that many walk down, the one that we can flow into without thinking, will lead to utter destruction. I can’t help but quote Yoda here, “Quicker, easier, more seductive the Dark Side is.”
Many take this path because it asks very little from us. We just swim downstream with the rest of the crowd. Choices are made for us. We just do whatever the people around us are doing. Who cares as to why we’re doing whatever it is we’re doing? As long as we’re happy, it doesn’t matter.
But it does matter because any promise from the wide gate that doesn’t result in death is a lie. Life comes only by the narrow gate. The path that is hidden from obvious sight. The direction that takes real thought and time to discover.
And not only is it difficult to find, but it also promises difficulties. The way is hard. That word in verse 14 has the idea of “narrowing in such a way as to flatten” or “compressing down flat.” It’s like what the Death Star trash compactor was trying to do to our intrepid heroes before R2-D2 stopped it. (“Did he really just use two different Star Wars references in the first point?” Yep.)
The lure of the path that holds many is that it doesn’t require much from us, even though the end result will be destruction. But the narrow path of God calls us to crushing hardships. The difference is that in the end, life will be found.
Jesus continues on to the next theory in verses 15-20. There are many who claim to be experts of spiritual growth, but if you look closely enough, you’ll see that there are some among them that are rotten. At best, they won’t be very nutritious. At worst, they’ll ravenously eat up even the good around them.
The bulk of this point comes in the repeated phrase that we can come to recognize the rotten trees by their fruit. Given enough time, even the least critical eyed among us can see that nothing good will come from the advice and algorithmic data of this supposed expert.
Life-giving nutrition doesn’t come from thorns and thistles (the physical representation of the curse of sin upon the earth). It comes from good and healthy trees. Only those experts who follow the truth of God will lead us to grow in him.
The final theory, in verses 21-23, is that our reputation is a good foundation of our spiritual growth. “Just look at all of the great things I did in the name of Jesus.” But Jesus teaches that not everybody who calls him Lord will come to the eternal life of the Kingdom of God.
Speaking truth in his name, fighting against the evil in the world, and performing wondrous works don’t mean a thing when it comes to life. The great works of what they thought were for the goodness of God, in reality, are nothing but works of death.
What really counts are not the great and obvious deeds, but the simple obedience of one who seeks the life of God. We are to hear and do what he commands, not the things that get us the most attention and views. Jesus already had spoken, in Matthew 6, to the point of people already receiving their rewards in such a case.
And Jesus concludes by saying that the one who acts in this way is like a person who built their house upon a firm, stone foundation. When the difficulties of life come upon us, when the winds blow strong, when the rain beats down, when the floods rise, the foundation on which we built our spiritual growth will lead to life.
But those who just follow the crowd, or blindly follow “experts,” or just assume their own good because they’ve done great things everyone can see, these are like the person who built their house on a shifting foundation. Fads change, “experts” are found out, and our own power will falter.
Especially when the difficulties of life come. The roof leaks, the walls fall down, and the floors get flooded. Everything will come to ruin when we build on the wrong foundation. Utter destruction falls upon us when we don’t build upon the truth of God.
In this time when the world is falling apart for many of us, it might just be a good time to re-evaluate if our foundation is one that will end in life or destruction. Will we stand spiritually in life through the storm? Or has our spiritual destruction already revealed itself?
What theory of growth do we follow? Is it a good foundation, or a shifting one?