When we “mine under” something, we mine, drill or excavate, ultimately removing the material that supports the foundation something is built upon. As a result, the foundation itself loses the integrity it needs to support the structure on which it stands.
Typically, we don’t pay much attention to the foundation once it’s been laid. Since the foundation is typically immovable, we usually don’t expect it to shift or change over time.
Ironically, however, experience tells us that foundations do shift over time, because the earth beneath it is ever-changing. Since the planet we live upon was created from kinetic components (even the hardest rock is made up of moving particles), it’s silly to think it would never move.
In the same way, regardless of the material used to lay the foundation of our relationships, the ground on which it was laid continues to shift and settle. How much more, then, does that ground change when more dramatic forces are applied to it? How often do we see images of homes tumbling down the hillside after torrential rains? At these times, it’s not the foundation that fails, but the earth beneath it that can no longer bear the weight.
The foundation is undermined by other forces, in ways which we may or may not be aware. Perhaps we believe we’ve re-laid that foundation, using new materials or new technologies, when all we’ve really done is make repairs to the existing foundation, utilizing newly learned techniques for strengthening it. And all the while, the substance that underlies that foundation continues to erode due to negligence and ignorance. Or stated more plainly, we choose to ignore or neglect what’s happening.
Our pride convinces us that we are so skilled that what we’ve built could not have defects, and then become so wrapped up in building and decorating this structure that we never bother to perform any routine inspection. The damage is being done right under our feet, and we are oblivious.
What’s more, as the foundation shifts, the house built upon it bends and creaks. Doors don’t close properly, and cracks appear in the ceiling. But instead of investigating the cause of these symptoms, we foolishly convince ourselves that this is normal, and work to compensate for these changes by patching and painting the cracks, or re-hanging the doors. Meanwhile, the water leak beneath the foundation continues to flow, the foundation continues to grow deeper in jeopardy, and the symptoms grow in frequency and size.
Eventually, the symptoms become too great to bear, and the structure becomes unsuitable to live in. And unless the ground beneath the foundation is shored up, no amount of maintenance or repair to the foundation or the structure will make a lasting difference. It will eventually collapse, or be torn down.
In Jesus’ day, except in those palatial circumstances, most common dwellings were nothing more than permanent tents. While such structures were formed with walls and a roof, the floors remained bare earth. As a result, the true foundation was always visible, not hidden by wood, concrete, or marble. And any problems would be quickly identified and corrected.
The true foundation, indeed, is not the slab on which a structure (or relationship) rests, but the material on which the foundation is laid.
So when Jesus shared the following, even the most common individual understood the metaphor:
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
Matthew 7:24-27 NIV
But today, we don’t see what’s underneath. We are too consumed with dealing with the symptoms that we fail to investigate the cause. There’s a broken sewage pipe underneath our home, and every time we flush the toilet or brush our teeth, we are contributing to the erosion.
We rarely call a plumber until the damage reaches a catastrophic level. And only then, through the eyes of another, can we see the real problem—though, even in these cases, we may not acknowledge the true cause.
Indeed, we may only ask the plumber to correct the source of the erosion, however expensive it may be, because we know it has to be done. But then, that plumber advises you that the reason the pipe was damaged was as a direct result of someone pouring drain opener down the drain every day.
And all this time, it was you who was doing it. You, believing you were doing good chose to act in ways that were harmful to the foundation, which, over time, was bringing down the house.
As we can see, therefore, any efforts to repair the foundation or reinforce the structure itself, is undermined when we allow dangerous waste and unwanted sewage—or caustic substances—to pass beneath that foundation’s surface. While our attention is given to things that might build up our structure and strengthen the framework of the structure we’re building, if we lose sight of those things that are damaging the foundation from underneath, we run the dangerous risk of it all come tumbling down.
When Jesus speaks of building our house on the rock, the Rock of his Word and his salvation, he speaks actively of “putting his words into practice”, not just standing on them. We must live our lives in a way that demonstrate our attention to that foundation (living the truth), and not just by existing with the foundation beneath our feet (hearing the truth). We must not stand on that foundation without ever examining or inspecting beneath its surface, or we will find ourselves overcome by the dangers that lurk beneath. We must continually examine that foundation and ensure that no inconsistencies or threats exist, and most importantly, that we ourselves are not contributing to its decay.
So often, we make great efforts and take such pains to see that we are living a life of righteousness and bearing fruit in the lives of those around us, making vain attempts to heal our relationships and strengthening our ties to others. But in those attempts, we may find that we are ignoring the dangerous problems that are flowing beneath our foundation—as a direct result of our own sin— undermining its strength and fortitude.
“My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t prove I’m right. It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide.”
1 Corinthians 4:4
“But if we would examine ourselves, we would not be judged by God in this way.”
1 Corinthians 11:31
“Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith.”
2 Corinthians 13:5
If we never examine ourselves, searching for any sin or behavior that is undermining our efforts to build and strengthen our homes and our lives, we become dangerously unaware of the sewage that pours beneath our foundation and undermines our efforts. Instead, we must be ever vigilant in looking out for those dangers and those dangerous habits or characteristics that we exhibit that are counteracting our efforts to share the gospel and letting Christ be visible in our lives.
For when we claim to be followers of Jesus, and yet do so carelessly unaware of the damage we are inflicting on those around us, we are a danger to the gospel.
As the Apostle Paul sums up for us,
“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.”
1 Corinthians 13:1-3
So it’s time to dig out those flashlights, put in some fresh batteries, and begin taking a very close look at what lurks beneath. And if you’re not sure of what to make of what you find, maybe you should ask the Professional.