One of the best-known children’s stories in American literature is the simple tale of The Three Little Pigs. It is actually a fable, and was first published in the 1840’s in England, but the story is thought to be much older.
I assume you know the story, but just in case you haven’t heard it, consider this your spoiler alert. It’s about three nameless pigs who each build houses from different materials. Each of the pigs then had visits from the dreaded big bad wolf, who apparently had a particular hankering for pork. Each heard the same polite plea for entrance to their home, and each made the same defiant response: “not by the hair of my chinny, chin chin.” In the end, the big bad wolf blows down the first two pigs’ houses, made of straw and sticks respectively, but is unable to destroy the third pig’s house, made of bricks.
The story has a simple but universal message and has been adapted and told in several variations over the years. Interestingly, it was included among Uncle Remus’ stories as “The Story of the Pigs,” with the major difference being that there were five pigs in his version. For the record, their names were: Big Pig, Little Pig, Speckle Pig, Blunt and Runt.
However the story is told, it actually reflects a parable of Jesus, which is included in the sermon on the mount. Jesus knew a little something about building, by the way, having taken over his dad’s business as a carpenter. Like the three little pigs, Jesus’ parable also included as its primary characters a couple of builders who are constructing houses. There is a contrast between wise building and foolish building. And in the end, each house faces a test, when the storms come. The rain fell and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against both houses. The house that was built wisely, stood its ground. The one built foolishly fell, “and its collapse was great.” (Matthew 7:24-27)
The difference in Jesus’ story was that it was not the building materials that made the difference, it was the foundation upon which the houses were built. One was built on the rock, the other on sand. And when the storms came, the one built on the firm foundation lasted, while the one built on the shifting sand crumbled.
This was, in effect, Jesus’ concluding illustration to his sermon on the mount. He introduced it with these words: “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” And then he goes on to tell the story, contrasting the two builders, two houses and two foundations.
In this light, we are all “house-builders,” constructing our lives by the choices we make. And the application is simple. If we listen to Jesus and obey his words, we will build our lives on rock solid foundations that can weather any storms–and even handle any big bad wolf that comes our way. Conversely, if we fail to hear and obey his truth and make bad choices, thus building our lives on the wrong foundation, we are destined to collapse.
It’s the gospel according to the three little pigs. Simple enough for children, and for all of us who are willing to listen.
My prayer is that your life is built on the Rock, and that you live in the wisdom of obedience to his word. I look forward to seeing you Sunday.