Years ago the extended Walker family went on a beach vacation. We had taken shovels on the trip for the intended purpose of creating some sizable sand sculptures (as the males in the Walker family are fairly adept in the arts) and what’s not to enjoy about shoveling thousands of pounds of sand while on vacation? So we created a massive heap of sand and spent hours during the heat of the day carving out an enormous dragon. We gained considerable joy watching people throughout the day walk up and admire the work and take pictures of it. But at some point in the evening some art critics (probably a gaggle of kids) decided that it would be fun to stomp our dragon into oblivion… and that’s what they did. The work of 4 people over the course of a day was wrecked in moments. But we bore them no ill will. If they hadn’t done it the tide, wind, or rain would have accomplished as much. Buddhist monks do much the same thing as a religious practice. They make elaborate sand drawings by pouring colored sand in delicate and carefully manicured patterns and they do this knowing (and often experiencing) the immanent destruction of their project as soon as a slight breeze shows up. Indeed, that’s the whole point of their art and their religious view of all of life’s projects: it’s all being destroyed, corrupted, and ruined… all things are impermanent. This central tenant of Buddhist teaching is considered one of the greatest life tragedies in Christian teaching. To build something that doesn’t last? That’s what the fool does (Matt 7:24-27).
Card houses and sandcastles are typically not built with permanency in mind, but most people would not be pleased to have their life efforts compared to a card house. There’s nothing so discouraging and disheartening as knowing that the best efforts you make in this life are fragile and destined for destruction. If you want to see a human being broken… you need only convince them that their life makes no lasting difference and that their efforts will be lost and forgotten. This week we will consider Jesus’ words to us about the construction project that is our life. What are you building?