Guarding and proclaiming the unchanging truth in a changing world

Put The Word Of God Into Practice

13th December 2019

Augustine was born in north Africa to a pagan Roman father and a Christian Berber mother.  He spent his youth in Carthage as a true pagan and then journeyed to Rome to pursue his education. In his Confessions, he describes his time in a heretical sect and how he then came to Christ by the grace of God and the preaching of Bishop Ambrose of Milan, who baptized him in 386.  Having renounced his pagan ways, Augustine soon returned to Africa and, as Bishop of Hippo, won renown as one of early Church's greatest theologians.

Let me tell you plainly that you are suffering from an illusion if you have hastened to hear the Word without the intention of putting into practice what you hear. Try to realize that if it is a good thing to hear the Word, it is much better to put it into practice. If you do not listen to it, you neglect hearing it and you will not build anything. If you listen to it and fail to act accordingly, you will be constructing a ruin.

In this regard, the Lord makes a suggestion by means of a very exact comparison.  He tells us: Anyone who hears my words and puts them into practice is like the wise man who built his house on a rock.  When the rainy season set in, the torrents came and the winds blew and buffeted the house.  It did not collapse.  Why did it not collapse?  Because it had been solidly set on rock.  Hence, to listen and to put into practice is to build on rock.  And by the mere fact of listening we are already in the process of building.

Anyone, our Lord continues, who hears my words but does not put them into practice is like the foolish man who built also.  But what did the foolish build?  That one also built a house.  But because the foolish man did not put into practice what was heard, this did not do any good, for the house was built on sandy ground.  One then builds on sandy ground who listens but fails to act.  And one builds on rock who listens and puts into practice.  But whoever refuses to listen builds neither on sandy ground nor on rock.  And note what follows: The rains fell, the torrents came, the winds blew and lashed the house.  It collapsed under all this and was completely ruined.

Someone might say to me: "What is the use of listening if there is no intention of acting upon what one hears? For if I listen without putting into practice I shall construct a ruin.  Is it not safer to refrain from listening to anything?"

The Lord does not want to consider this attitude in his comparison, but he has given us what is necessary to determine its value. In this world, there are constant rains, winds, torrents  If you build neither on rock nor on sand since you refuse to listen, it means you will be without any protection.  Rain comes, torrents come: will you then be secure when you are carried away for want of a shelter?  Reflect carefully, therefore, on the decision you will make.  You will not be secure -- as you might imagine you are -- because you have failed to listen. Being without protection and having no shelter of any sort, you will, of necessity, be cast down, carried away, submerged.  If it is a bad thing to build on sand, it is just as bad not to build anything.

So we can conclude that there is nothing better than to build on rock.  It is bad to refuse to listen and it is just as bad to listen but refuse to act.  Put the Word into practice.  Be not satisfied with merely listening; that would be to become a victim of illusion.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430)


Blessed Lord,
who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:
Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,
that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,
which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

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