Wise or Foolish?

The ‘Sermon on the Mount’ is not a program for reforming civil society or implementing economic justice. Instead, it provides instructions for how the disciples of Jesus must live in the present age as faithful citizens and envoys of his Kingdom. His teachings are not optional, and to stress the point, he concluded his discourse with a stern warning. Disobeying or ignoring his words will result in everlasting catastrophe for the would-be disciple.

On the day when it truly matters, many individuals who ministered in his name will be driven from his presence. “Not every man who calls me ‘Lord’ will enter the Kingdom of the Heavens, but only he who does the will of my Father… Many will say, ‘Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name did many works of power?’ Then will I confess to them, I never knew you! Depart from me, you workers of lawlessness!” - (Matthew 7:21-23).

Rock Column on Beach - Photo by Alejandro Piñero Amerio on Unsplash
[Photo by Alejandro Piñero Amerio on Unsplash]

Jesus did not classify those he rejected as pagans or purveyors of immorality. They even called him “
Lord,” and they prophesied, exorcised demons, and did many other mighty deeds in his name.

The emphasis is on the term “many” - the “many” things they did in his name. The warning is not just applicable to a tiny minority of disobedient believers, and he did not call their impressive miracles counterfeits.

Not only did he not acknowledge them as belonging to him, but he also called them “workers of lawlessness.” On the day when he judges his own people, he will command these men and women to “depart” from his presence. Fortunately, Jesus provided us with an explanation of how someone becomes a “Worker of Lawlessness” rather than a disciple:

  • Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them will be likened to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock; and the rain descended, and the streams came, and the winds blew, and rushed against that house, and it fell not; for it had been founded upon the rock. And everyone who hears these my words and does them not will be likened to a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand; and the rain descended, and the streams came, and the winds blew and lashed against that house, and it fell, and its fall was great” - (Matthew 7:24-27).

The Greek word translated as “wise” or “prudent” (phronimos) indicates someone thoughtful, intelligent, and astute. In contrast, the man who fails to heed his words is compared to a foolish man. The Greek term for “foolish” is môros, denoting one who is dull, witless, and heedless.

What determines if a man enters the Kingdom is whether he heeds and does the words of Jesus. Both hearing AND obeying are mandatory. The man who acts correctly on his words is “wise” and therefore received by Jesus into his Kingdom.


But which “words” did Jesus mean? In his concluding remarks, the “words” that matter are the ones declared by him in the ‘Sermon on the Mount’; ALL of them, without exception.

Thus, his followers must live a life characterized by humility, hunger for righteousness, mercy, a pure heart, the avoidance of retaliation, peacemaking, honest communications, and a willingness to endure unjust suffering - (Matthew 5:3-12).

He must be a light shining in a dark world. Not only is he forbidden to kill, but he must not harbor any anger towards another man. Instead, reconciliation is his top priority - (Matthew 5:13-26).

The disciple must not lust after someone who is not his spouse and keep a lifelong commitment to his wife. Rather than swear oaths, he should speak plainly with true words - Let your “yea be yea, and nay, nay” - (Matthew 5:27-37).

To inherit the Kingdom, it is necessary to eschew retaliation and violence. The disciple is summoned to love and do good to his “enemy.” By showing mercy to his foes, he will become “complete” just as the “Father in Heaven” - (Matthew 5:44-48).

The man who seeks loopholes in his words does not have the mind of a disciple and risks rejection by Jesus as a “worker of lawlessness.” The true disciple will not do works of righteousness for the adulation of others. Hypocrisy is incompatible with discipleship.

The disciple must center his life on the “Kingdom of God” and “lay up treasures in heaven” rather than in this world. His allegiance to Jesus must be absolute, and he needs to stay on the narrow path and avoid the “broad” avenues of this age. Veering off course could prove everlastingly fatal - (Matthew 6:1-24, 7:1-6, 7:7-20).

Mountain path - Photo by Brian Erickson on Unsplash
[Photo by Brian Erickson on Unsplash]

Much is at stake in how we respond to his words. Men who do not heed and do them will be rejected. It is unwise to ignore his words, and utterly foolish to choose which ones we will obey, and which ones we will ignore or twist.

His ‘Sermon on the Mount’ provides the instructions and patterns for how his disciple is required to live regardless of the values, demands, and expectations of the surrounding culture. Following them is not easy, and many theologians, pastors, and Bible students have worked diligently to domesticate his more challenging sayings, often by cleverly parsing them.

By claiming that “only he who hears these words of mine and DOES them will enter the Kingdom,” Jesus placed absolute authority in his teachings, an authority that exceeded even that of the “Law” and the “Prophets.” We put ourselves in great jeopardy if we ignore, modify, or refuse to obey them.




Language of the New Testament

The Word Made Flesh