Matthew 7: 24-27 (NRSVA)
24 ‘Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. 25 The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!’
Iron pyrite is a shiny mineral composed of iron disulfide. It’s more commonly known as ‘fool’s gold’ because at a casual glance it looks like gold. A closer look reveals crystals and sharp edges, while real gold is a metal with a smoother texture and round edges.
Confusingly, both gold and pyrite form under similar conditions and can be found together in the same rocks. However, fool’s gold isn’t worth much, because it is very common and because it lacks the useful qualities of real gold.
Writers like Shakespeare, whose Merchant of Venice contains the line ‘all that glisters is not gold’, have long noted the ease with which humankind can be fooled.
Humans aren’t always brilliant at recognising ‘the real thing’ whether it is a mineral, a good life partner, or the kind of foundations that will stop your house keeling over as in today’s passage. Sometimes this is because we don’t know what to look for, other times it is because we don’t take the time to look closely enough.
‘It’s shiny enough’ we say. Or ‘he’ll do’. Or ‘we don’t get many storms in this part of the world anyway’.
But Jesus warns us away from sharp, shiny surfaces and soft, sucking sands. The parable makes fun of the fool, but its goal is not mockery but compassion and warning against quick shallow judgements and decisions. Don’t be fooled by what something or someone looks like, or how convenient it is. Look at what they are really made of, what they do. Hold out for the real thing, the precious thing, the solid thing, Jesus says.
Your word is golden
Keep me attuned to its soft, round light
Calm my mind when it wants to go bouncing off sharp crystal edges
When I am drawn to surface rather than depth,
to brilliance, rather than warmth.
Keep me focused on the real thing, the precious thing, the solid thing.
All that glisters is not you.