A sermon by Dr. Walter A. Maier

“Therefore, whosoever heareth these sayings of Mine and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man which built his house upon a rock, and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house, and it fell not, for it was founded upon a rock. And everyone that heareth these sayings of Mine and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man which built his house upon the sand; and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” MATTHEW 7:24-27.

PRECIOUS SAVIOR: Confidently we commend to Thee the nation’s homes torn by the separation of war, burdened with the weight of worry, crushed under the sorrows of grief and bereavement. Thou hast told us in Thine unbreakable Word, “Behold, I make all things new!” Come, then, we beseech Thee, with Thy Spirit, to make our family life new, and grant us the assurance that our domestic sins, including selfishness, quarrel, hatred, are forgiven through faith in Thine atoning death on the cross! Show us that when Thou dost enter our homes, leading parents and children to worship Thee, their Savior and King, Thou dost give us strength to resist evil and repel the temptations which the war has brought into our households! Look mercifully upon the young men and women, Thy children, who have been take away from their loved ones by the demands of military training! Help them to be clean in body, unsullied in soul! We know the incessant struggle they must wage to keep themselves pure, and we beseech Thy Spirit to bless them daily. We ask for our nation and for others a period of peace which will please Thee and not promote further bloodshed. Be with us, Son of God and Savior of mankind, despite our manifold transgressions, and bring many this day to Thee in repentance and in renewed faith! We ask it according to Thine unfailing promise Amen!

 When our soldiers return from Europe, many of them will tell us of the Eddystone Lighthouse off Plymouth, which, as the Statue of Liberty marks the gateway to the United States, welcomes the traveler to Great Britain. That lighthouse has a startling history. More than two centuries ago the first beacon was built there to warn ships of the dangerous reefs. The architect, Mr. Winstanley, confident that he had erected a permanent structure, had this inscription chiseled into its side: “Blow, O ye winds! Rise, O ocean! Break forth, ye elements, and try my work!” The storm and the waves accepted his challenge. Hardly three years after the tower was completed, while Winstanley was making repairs, a terrifying hurricane churned the ocean into fury and swept the entire lighthouse into the sea, leaving only a few iron stanchions and a single chain. Winstanley and all his men perished.

 Years later, after a second wooden structure was burned away, the task of erecting Eddystone Light was entrusted to John Smeaton, a pioneer in civil engineering. He built squarely on the top of Eddystone, laying the new foundation deep into its rocky depths. However, he also built on faith, for the dedication he engraved on the side of the new lighthouse was not a boastful, taunting expression of his own skill, but these words of Scripture, “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.” He, like many mighty engineers, was a humble Christian. What happened to his lighthouse? It has stood unshaken ever since, for more than 185 years. Towering waves have covered it; winds far worse than those which wiped out the first structure have raged against it; enemies have tried to destroy it; but after almost two centuries it still remains unmoved.

 All this should teach our American families a very vital lesson. If we today try to build our homes on the shifting, shallow sands of new theories, programs or practices which rule out Jesus, then the evil winds of war, the storms and stress of conflict, the high tides of our own sin, selfishness, and passion, will surely sweep true, lasting joy from our households. But if we found our families on faith in Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of the world, the Helper of the home, then the worst we may be called upon to endure: sickness, wounding, sorrow, separation, loss, death, will not be cruel enough to destroy our household happiness.

 That is the important lesson we may learn from our text, the words with which Jesus closed His sermon on the Mount (Saint Matthew seven, verses twenty-four to twenty-seven): “Therefore, whosoever heareth these sayings of Mine and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man which built his house upon a rock; and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not, for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these saying of Mine and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man which built his house upon the sand; and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell, and great was the fall of it.


 The Lord knows that in this age of growing godlessness and overhasty courtship too many marriages are built on the shifting sands of unbelief and are therefore doomed to collapse. Radicals demand that in the United States weddings be kept entirely separate from religion, particularly, of course, from the Christian faith. They tried to build the home without God in the U. S. S. R., but they admit that they failed. However, I am happy to say this to the credit of the Russian people: When they saw that their radical principles were ruining families, they made a right-about-face and enacted laws stricter than some of our own. We in the United States, however, have permitted domestic lawlessness to go from bad to worse, without any official protest.

 See how these godless marriages work out. They start with the justice of the peace, instead of at the Lord’s altar, and end in divorce courts! When the Almighty is ruled out, marriage becomes a matter of convenience to be maintained only as long as one wishes and to be discarded at the slightest whim.

 American atheists print as part of their platform the demand that divorce be granted on request. Think of it, no Word of God to warn that in divorce either husband or wife or both are guilty of sin! No court hearing! No effort to reconcile the estranged couple! No desire to safeguard the children from the handicaps of separation! Instead, divorce available to every married person, without expense, without court procedure, without delay, simply by request! That is the avowed program of American freethinkers, a plan which can destroy the United States faster than the most powerful enemy coalition, despite the sanction of divorce found in some of the socially, financially, and politically most prominent families. Unbelief often delights in the sensual and obscene. Infamous foes of our Christian faith have often been men of filthy minds, unnatural vices, shocking perversions. Today a New York freethinkers’ publishing company sends many of you a folder with lust-filled illustrations, which clearly ought to be denied the privileges of the United States mail. I have asked the post office officials in Washington to bar this offensive circular; somehow the authorities have not seen fit to banish this sacrilegious, obscene attack on the Bible.

 With all its pride and pretense, this denial of God can offer no real help in family crises, no guidance through life’s deep sorrows. How true the words of Jesus in our text, “Every one that heareth these sayings of Mine and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man which built his house upon the sand; and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell, and great was the fall of it”! When sickness or suffering overtake godless, Christless households, they have no real comfort, Let history tell you of the despair and agony with which unbelievers have breathed their last! Hear Voltaire’s nurse exclaim that for all Europe’s wealth he would not see another atheist die! Then you will know that a home begun without the Savior is indeed built on quicksand!

 Nor should families be established on the divided foundation of belief and unbelief, for example, with a wife for the Lord, but the husband against Him—even with the husband Protestant and the wife Catholic! These religiously mixed marriages are responsible for more domestic disaster than I can tell you. They form the largest single cause of marital trouble mentioned in the letters I receive. How tragic that husbands and wives, who of all people on earth should be closest, do not worship God’s Son in the same faith here on earth, and that hereafter in heaven there will be no room for unbelievers! Christian young people, never, even in the haste of a war marriage, pledge yourselves to a life companion who cannot bow with you before the Savior in the one true faith! Don’t be satisfied with promises that your irreligious friend will join the church after your new home has been started! Be sure he pledges himself to Christ before the wedding! Don’t sign any paper which will commit you to bring up your children in a religion you can never conscientiously accept!

 Again—and this is a frequent folly in our day—many people mistakenly believe that a happy marital life can be built only on sex. Understand me correctly: this is truly one of the Almighty’s greatest human gifts, so marvelous when preserved as He, the divine Creator, bestowed it, that the Church should continually and earnestly plead with each of its young people, “Keep thyself pure!” Yet this magnificent blessing has been perverted and poisoned by sin! How destructive it becomes when overruled by evil passion! How wildly people in New York flight for eight-dollar tickets to theatrical performances in which chastity and decency are repeatedly ridiculed! Too often those who unduly emphasize the physical side of marriage are openly antagonistic to God’s Word. A teacher in a Pennsylvania state college estimates that three of every four engaged couples have broken the purity commandment before marriage; and when he asks himself whether premarital chastity is necessary for happy wedded life he answers, “Frankly, I don’t know.” Think of it, a teacher a a tax-supported school tells the country, in magazines totaling about twelve million circulation, that he does not know whether young men and young women should keep themselves clean before marriage; that he does not know whether the Bible is right when it says, “Flee fornication”; that he does not know whether virginity pays! Well, if he, as a teacher of those who would teach others, does not know, need we be surprised that young people in greater numbers than ever before are forgetting Heaven’s Law, casting its warnings heedlessly aside, catering to the flesh, preparing misery for their later life, and bringing divine wrath on themselves?

 If he—and many others in American colleges agree with him—does not know whether chastity pays before marriage, how can he know whether faithfulness is worth while after marriage? Evidently millions in the United States think it foolish to keep wedding vows, because more homes are broken by adultery than ever before, and often not by ordinary divorce, either. Saint Louis papers last week published an account of two wives who, by pre-arrangement, were divorced before local courts one day, only to exchange their husbands and remarry the next. They were ready even to pose for a photographer, claiming that their swapping mates was “a perfectly natural and right thing to do.” That is not what God’s Word says. It declares such action utterly unnatural and wicked. The very first pages of the Bible tell us that “a man…shall cleave unto his wife,” not discard or exchange her. Even this is not the worst. Many do not wait for the formality and expense of divorce. Soldiers write us” “My wife has left the children and run away with another man. I don’t know where she is.”

 Few voices are raised in energetic protest. We need clear, uncompromising warnings to show how terrifying these sins are and how, if unforgiven, they lead to hell, Therefore, if the Holy Spirit gives me the grace now to speak to some of you who have secretly planned to break your home, forsake your children, let me plead with you to stop this moment! Don’t ruin your own souls and drag others down to destruction with you! Don’t listen to the whispering, lying voice which tempts you to wrong, promises happiness, but delivers dismay and death! Before it is too late, fall on your knees to seek forgiveness of the Father for Jesus’ sake! The Holy Spirit has so blessed this broadcast that every time I have broadcast this appeal some evil, home-wrecking design has been frustrated. A woman from Baltimore wrote me: I was just at the point of leaving my husband when I heard your broadcast. My mind was changed. I am going to stay and do my duty. I know now that with God’s help all my sins will be forgiven and my guilt removed.” May He who loved you and gave Himself for you similarly tear every lustful desire from your hearts, strengthen your sense of loyalty, and keep you in His grace!

 Still others shun these open violations of God’s will, but practice deception, cunning, misrepresentation. Such deceit is the curse of our entire age. A few days ago newspapers carried a statement by the assistant to the United States Attorney General, who declared that thus far the Department of Justice has recovered $100,000,000 (we know this is only a small part of the entire amount) from selfish schemers who sought to enrich themselves by illegal war profits while our fighting men were spilling their blood on foreign soil. A hundred million dollars taken from the American people while our soldiers lose their lives, their minds, their limbs, in the nation’s defense! With all our vaunted virtues and advanced culture, this is the age of concealed dishonesty in business, in politics, sometimes in the government, often in Christ-denying churches—and may God forgive our country this terrifying sin!—even in many homes, where of all places complete truth and absolute sincerity should reign, but where secret affairs frequently thrive, particularly in these days when wives work outside their homes.

 Listen carefully when I tell you that no man or woman has ever found happiness in this way! You may sit back in your chair before you turn you radio off, smile to yourself and say, “Well, I, for one, have.” But pay close attention when I give you the Almighty’s own warning, “Be sure you sin will find you out!” Don’t laugh this away and boast, “Nobody will never know my affairs!” God always knows, and no matter how smart you think you are, you husbands who falsely use business pressure as an excuse to stay away from your wives evening after evening; you wives who write your husbands on the battlefront letters of undying love and mail them on your way to wild drinking parties, hear the Word which has never made a mistake, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man” (or a woman) “soweth, that shall he also reap”!

 Once more—and this is the most popular delusion—people like to think that money is the sure basis for domestic joy. “Give us the comforts, the little luxuries of life,” they say, “and we will find happiness for our household.” They only think so. If it takes dollars to build radiant homes, we should have more family felicity today than ever before, after even unskilled labor often received $50-$60 a week, while trained workers doubled and trebled that amount. But “the love of money is the root of all” kinds of “evil” in the home. I myself have seen the depths of misery in a millionaire’s luxurious apartment and the climax of the cleanest joy in a worker’s flat. A few years ago the news papers reported that one of America’s wealthiest women on her honeymoon in Calcutta announced that she would rebuild a wing of her Florida mansion according to the plans of India’s most famous structure, the marble $20,000,000 Taj Mahal. For that future splendor she also purchased a large brass image of the monkey god, stating, “We have so many monkeys on our Florida grounds that they might appreciate a deity.” This woman, who played with millions as some of you deal with hundreds, is now divorced from the husband of that India honeymoon. Her heaped wealth helped bring scandal, disaster into her life. Just yesterday the newspapers announced that another wealthy woman, the heiress to $15,000,000, is now separated from the man she married only a few years ago. You can never buy joy and peace for the family. Husbands and wives who worked shoulder to shoulder through the years of small income and hardship are often separated by prosperity and large salaries. Money can be a bountiful blessing for God’s children, but to unbelievers it may bring the doom of disaster.

 You see, then, homes can be built without Christ, families founded without faith. Indeed, the godless often have magnificent mansions, unbounded wealth, unbroken health, unlimited luxury, unruffled pleasure, while you who love the Lord Jesus face hardship, heavy need, disease, and one affliction after the other. Nevertheless, the time is coming, as sure as night follows day, when, as the Savior predicts in our parable, the storms of sorrow and the whirlwind of woe will sweep down on these godless families, and then the shifting sands of their unbelief can offer no foundation for courage and confidence. When an only child lies sick unto death in a hospital, what comfort can an unbelieving father and mother find, even though they are university graduates? When sudden grief overtakes a socially prominent household which has no room for Jesus, where in their contacts with the so-called “better classes” can they find unfailing consolation and guidance? When the War Department wires, “We regret to inform you that your son was killed in action,” how can parents who have never known Christ’s atonement and His victory over the grave discover light in the darkness of bereavement? We shake our heads both in sympathy and dismay when we picture millions of European dwellings bombed to pieces, but right here throughout our country, homes in far greater number are being wrecked by sin and godlessness. Thank the Almighty with me, however, that if a house blasted by bombs can be restored and even improved, so then in an even higher degree, spiritually wrecked families can be rebuilt for unfailing joy and eternal glory.


 This blessing is promised us by our text where Jesus Himself says, “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of Mine and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man which built his house upon a rock; and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not, for it was founded upon a rock.”

 Be clear on this: the Word of our Savior which He asks us to hear and believe is the Bible, particularly His Gospel assurance that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself.” The real, central, climax message of our Lord, which separates Him from all other religious teachers, is not simply an appeal to be honest, upright, fair, kind, considerate, helpful, merciful. Even enlightened heathen have taught these virtues. How I wish that a thoroughgoing reformation would shake some of our churches from top to bottom when I receive letters like this from a North Carolina listener: “My family has been a member of my denomination for generations before me, and I have always heard of the glorious walk with God and of the beauties of heaven without being told how to gain either. Most of the time ‘be good, do good’ were stressed more than the truth that Jesus paid the price for my salvation” No; the real sum and substance, bone and marrow, beginning and end, of our faith, the truth which clearly separates the New Testament from every non-Christian book, is the marvelous mercy of the Savior, who, as the Son of the Eternal, co-equal with the Father and the Spirit, King of kings, Ruler of rulers, came into this world to lead mankind back to God. We hated Him, but He loved us. We tried to run away from Him, but He sought and overtook us. Sinners blasphemed Him, but He blessed them, bled for them, and brought them the promise of salvation. Keep clearly in mind that every one of us stands condemned before heaven on these counts: First, we were born in sin, with inherited guilt; second, we have committed unnumbered wrongs and are burdened with their actual guilt; third, we have transgressed against the Almighty, our fellow men, and ourselves; fourth, we have not only broken each commandment in the divine Law, but we have also failed to do anything good and acceptable in the Lord’s sight. Everyone of us, I repeat, must plead guilty to these four indictments and face their appalling penalty: death everlasting, punishment unending, banishment from heaven, and separation from God.

 Yet in His marvelous, measureless love Jesus came to remove these charges, restore us to our Father, and renew our lives. This He did not by overlooking our sins, forgetting them, disregarding them as trivial, writing them off, but by fulfilling Heaven’s Law in our place, paying Himself the full penalty of all our transgressions, becoming our Substitute before the bar of eternal justice, enduring the anguish we should have suffered, experiencing in His own soul the awful God-forsakenness, the torture and torment, which should have been ours, dying on the cross the death we deserved, rising from the grave to give us the assurance of our resurrection, even now interceding for every contrite sinner before the celestial throne.

 This, my beloved, is the true, saving faith, and here is the all-supreme question: Does that trust reign in your home? I am not asking you for a head faith, a lip faith, a church faith, a paper faith, a denominational faith, but for your personal faith, your soul faith. Don’t say, “I leave my religion to my wife,” She can never save you. Don’t say only, “I had a churchgoing father and a Bible-reading mother.” They can never save you. Don’t say, “I was baptized and confirmed!” That alone—without your own personal reliance on your Redeemer—can never save you. You yourself must approach the Savior, sincerely confess your own sins, penitently seek His forgiveness, and assuredly cling to the promises of His grace.

 Does this faith bless your home? I repeat the question because our royal Redeemer, Jesus, is the rock Foundation on which alone you can safely build for eternity. Why? When the Lord of life abides with the family, the household has a joy which neither wealth nor wisdom can ever secure, the assurance of divine mercy and the pledge of heaven’s happiness. Christ-blessed families love good and hate evil. In Jesus and His Spirit they find strength to reject temptation and choose that which pleases the Father. The Holy Comforter gives them power to follow divine instruction in obeying God’s Word. In houses built on God’s own Son, husbands do not merely tolerate their wives or regard them as little more than servants, but they follow the Apostle’s admonition, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for it!” One of their greatest joys will be found in sharing everything they own with their wives, giving them the best they have, making them as happy as possible, cherishing them with ever-increasing devotion, and daily assuring them of their love.

 Spirit-filled wives will not crowd taverns and line up before bars, as so many women do today that even newspapers print full-page editorials against this evil. Instead, they will gladly take care of the cooking, washing, cleaning, and perform their household tasks as unto the Lord, striving to keep their home clean, comfortable, Christ blessed.

 Believing fathers and mothers will not be misled by this new talk of “planned parenthood,” as the birth control program now seeks to disguise itself; rather, realizing that “children are an heritage of the Lord,” God’s great gift, they will welcome each baby the Almighty entrusts to them as a miracle of His love, a precious life to be dedicated to the Savior. They will not make the serious mistake of finding time for everyone else except for their own children. A few years ago a prisoner was asked to stand up in court to face sentence for forgery. He was no stranger to the judge, for his father was a famous legal authority, whose book on the law of trusts was regarded as an exhaustive treatment of that subject. Sternly the judge asked, “Do you remember your father, whom you have disgraced?” Slowly the prisoner answered, “I remember him perfectly. When I went to him for advice or companionship, he would look up from his book, The Law of Trusts, and say: ‘Run away, bud; I am busy.’ My father finished his book, and here I am.” The authority on trusts had neglected his own most personal trust. Parents devoted to Jesus, however, will be ready to give up anything which prevents them from taking time to help their flesh and blood, befriend them, guide them, and enjoy their confidence. Christ-blessed sons and daughters, on the other hand, will gladly make any sacrifices required for their parents’ happiness. They will love and support them as long as they live, and find one of their highest joys in providing pleasure and comfort for these who gave them life.

 Homes thus blessed by the Savior’s presence may be small, poor, bare. Spirit-controlled families will find that the rains, the floods, the winds of adversity and suffering, will beat furiously against them. Some of you know from your own experience that Christ-glorifying homes meet with money loss, sickness, disappointment, opposition, hatred, everything an evil world can mobilize against them, but the foundation of their eternal hope will not be moved. They are built on a rock. By the miracle of Heaven’s mercy each adversity will fortify their faith, strengthen their trust, purify their love, refine their desires, and help prepare them for the heavenly mansions. Many of you can sing on sickbeds and follow the Apostle as you glory in your infirmities, for in the family grounded on Christ, the solid Rock, there is no despair, no clenching of fists against the Almighty, no uncontrolled shrieking and sorrow, no constant quarreling and bickering, no suicides—instead, the victorious trust in God’s Son which exults, “He hath done all things well.”

 Households firmly grounded on God’s love will not be marred by cursing, shrieking, passionate selfishness, nagging, and argument, which often blast away all happiness and turn some of your homes almost into madhouses. Instead, they will be blessed by peace, understanding, the spirit of self-denial. Following the Savior, who said, “I am among you as he that serveth,” a faith filled family can live together in love and helpful cooperation.

 America needs these Christ-worshiping homes. The war, with its separation of families, its lowered morality, its increase of lustful temptations, its growing godlessness, its fearful loss of life, has worked havoc with our households. Only by a repentant return to God through His Son, by a rededication to the Scriptural family code, can our country, under the Holy Spirit, enjoy its full blessing. All the laws our state and federal legislatures could pass, should they sit day and night for a hundred years; all the economic and trade plans our experts could invent; all the postwar projects and programs, cannot do as much to keep the United States safe and sound for the future as the Spirit of the Lord in the homes of the land.

 Therefore, parents and children of America, receive Jesus as your Savior! Invite Him into your home as your Friend! Consult Him as your Counselor! Read His Word daily, in family devotions, as your guide! Come before Him constantly in prayer! Worship Him every Sunday in a true church, and you will be blessed beyond measure! Nothing else will suffice to bring you and your loved ones peace, happiness, and rest. Even love itself—without the Lord—is not enough.

 Ten years ago a Canadian farmer, his wife and young son, returning home on a cold winter night, to save several miles, took a short cut through an immense frozen wheat field. After a while, as they walked along, the father asked his wife, “You have hold of the boy; haven’t you?” Amazed, the mother replied, “NO; I thought you had him.” “Where is he, then?” the father cried. “We must have lost him!” All night the distracted parents sought the lad in the wide and trackless field, but in vain. The next day a few friends helped them search; on the second day neighbors formed a rescue party. On the third day the whole town joined hands and combed the entire field. They had not gone far until one of the searchers stumbled over the boy. He was cold and stiff in death. When they brought his rigid form to the father, how pitiful it was to hear him moan, “O God, the child is dead. Why didn’t we join hands before? Why didn’t we keep hold of him?” May the Holy Spirit lead the members of American families not only to join hands to remain loyal to each other through all adversity but, first of all, to join hands with the Son of God! May He fill Christian parents with the love of Jesus that will not let loose of their children! May He bless believing boys and girls, baptized in His name, brought up in His truth, by preserving them in the faith which always clings to Him! “Then, with the Savior as the Head and His Gospel as the hope of the household, the family’s strength, you, parents and children created by God, redeemed by Jesus, sanctified by the Holy Spirit, can live together here on earth in the closest foregleam of the heavenly mansions. The Lord help you build your home on Christ, fortify your family through Christ, protect your dwellings with Christ, comfort your grief-torn household by Christ, bless and keep you personally in Christ, God’s Son, the world’s Ransom, your own Redeemer! Amen!

The preceding Lutheran Hour sermon first aired in January 1945