A Parable of Cheap Screws

Last Fall, our Church finished putting in a new sign for our building. It was part of a long project that including trenching and electrical work. It also needed numerous revisions to the design that would appear on the sign. There was metal that needed to be fabricated and plastic cut. All total the project cost about $8,000 to get our new sign in front for the world to see.

This past Friday morning I received a text from a woman in our congregation saying that our sign had fallen. I was sick, and it was my day off, so I didn’t think much about it. I assumed a few of our letters showing the worship time had fallen and it was a minor problem.

That night I was feeling better and decided to drive over to the building and give it a quick look. Sure enough, the sign had fallen. Not a few letters but the entire North side of the sign had detached and dropped to the ground. One corner was broken, and there was a significant crack on the other side.

I was disappointed and unsure exactly what to do so I contacted the Church leadership and told them the situation. One man called the installer and the next day they came out to look at it.

The problem with the sign was a series of cheap screws. The added weight of the ice along with the cold had caused some cheap screws to snap in half. All of them had broken on one side, and the other side was three-quarters of the way broken. One $8,000 sign had been rendered useless by a handful of screws worth a couple of bucks.

How easy it is to accept cheap substitutes. Those screws looked like good screws. They did the job of a quality screw. They initially held everything in place. They worked well until the weight was added to them. Then it came crashing down.

Jesus tells a parable of a man who built his house on the sand and one who built his house on the rock. Both houses looked fine until the pressure of the waves beat against them. The storm revealed the weaker version to be less than needed to withstand a struggle. The one built on sand came crashing down.

The point of Jesus parable multilayered. One application seems to be that you cannot know a strong person until life gets difficult. It may look like someone is building a great life when everything is going well. Their family looks happy, their children seem to be doing well, and they seem to have it all together. Then the weight comes, and the storms hit, and you find out who built their life on a foundation of sand using cheap screws.

The primary application of this story is the importance of building our lives on the solid foundation of Jesus teachings. He says, “Whoever hears the words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house upon the rock (Matthew 7:24).”

Somedays my life may look the same as the people around me, who have no faith in Jesus. In fact, some days their life may look better. They saved time by skipping the foundation. They saved money by using cheap materials.

At those moments when I feel like they have chosen the better path, I need to be reminded that I did not build my life this way just for today. I made it for the long haul. The choice of cheap screws will eventually reveal itself with a big crash.

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