A story is told about a man who was a painter, not of canvases but of houses. He wisely and shrewdly saved as much as possible for his retirement and selected jobs that would aid this goal. He always had an eye out for a large contract, one so enormous he wouldn’t have to paint another house.
Out of the blue one day, he received a phone call from a very wealthy man with a huge house that needed to be painted. The painter had been highly recommended to him by a friend. He told the painter he didn’t care how long it took or how much money it was, he just wanted the job done well and payment would be given when it was completed. The painter agreed and got all the details.
The next day, the painter went to work. As he arrived at the house, he couldn’t believe his eyes. The house was the largest he had ever seen and it was in bad shape. All of the paint would need to be scraped off and the whole house repainted. He realized this was the last job he would ever have; it would take the rest of his working career to finish this project. He determined to make this his greatest work ever.
He did the work all by himself. It took him fifteen years to scrape the off the house’s cracked and peeling paint, to sand it, and to apply the primer. He took his time and applied special detail refusing to overlook anything or cut any corners. His dedicated work soon began to be noticed and people would come around to watch him and ask about his work. They thought him odd to work so hard on another man’s house, but he took pride in his work.
After another five years of painting, the house was finished and the painter was ready to unveil his work to the owner. He was excited to think about the payment for this job and the retirement that would follow. He called the man and they agreed to meet the next day.
A crowd drew around the painter as he waited for the owner to come. The agreed upon time arrived, but the owner had not come. Finally, an hour late, a large black limousine slowly pulled into the driveway. An old man in an expensive suit stepped out the limousine and surveyed the house. The painter, ready to receive the praise and payment due to him, was so eager he was bouncing on his heels. What he received, however, was a glare from the old man who shouted: “YOU PAINTED THE WRONG HOUSE!” Then, the old man got back into his car and drove away.
Can you imagine the regret and disappointment of the painter? To have worked so hard and to have wound up with nothing? To have set his goals high and lofty and to have stumbled at a foolish mistake? I fear there are many fathers who are going to know exactly how this painter felt. They are headed towards the judgment day expecting to hear “Well done, my good and faithful servant” but are going to hear “You painted the wrong house” instead.
It is a very real possibility that we can become caught up in what we think is important and miss what is truly important. Jesus certainly faulted the Pharisees for this. In Matthew 23:23-24, He faults them for making a big deal about minor details of the Law while neglecting the weightier matters of justice, mercy, and faith. Then, He goes on to describe them as whitewashed tombs—they had focused on appearing righteous, but had ignored the more important matter of their hearts (Matthew 23:25-28).
Like the Pharisees, many fathers are ignoring the weightier matters. They have pursued leadership in their careers and businesses but have neglected the weightier matter of being a leader in their home. They have focused on providing the things of this world instead of providing themselves to their families. In striving to provide their children a college education, they failed to give them a heavenly education. Sadly, they have spent their lives painting the wrong house.
Don’t make this mistake! How do you spend your time and energy? In pursuing the things of this world, in indulging yourself, or in something else equally worthless? What you are doing may look great to you and others around you, but if you have not spent the time to prepare yourself and your family for heaven, it is worthless. When you truly look at your life, are you painting the wrong house or are you investing your time in something that will last?
by Jeremy Sprouse