Abd-Allah was an eighth-century military commander who led an army capable of overthrowing the Abbasid Empire. Fearing his power, the Abbasid ruler made an unsuccessful attempt to kill the commander in battle.
Having failed to destroy Abd-Allah by force, the ruler devised a plan. He offered Abd-Allah a beautiful mansion in return for peace, a deal the battle-weary commander readily accepted.
However, the rainy season soon revealed the ruler’s treachery. He had buried salt blocks beneath the mansion’s foundation. The first substantial rain dissolved the salt and caused the house to collapse, killing Abd-Allah along with his entire household.
Although Abd-Allah couldn’t be destroyed by force, a good thing with a bad foundation ruined him. Satan has used this trick for thousands of years. He cannot force us to sin (1 Cor 10:13), but he can offer us good things that don’t have solid foundations.
Jesus tells us in Mathew 7:24-27 that the foundation of the Christian life is doing God’s will. Work, politics, fashion, collections, gardening, hunting, sports, and traveling are all good things. However, if we pursue these things at the expense of doing God’s will, Christ says we are like a man who builds his house on the sand.
Like salt, just because something is good doesn’t mean that it makes a solid foundation. God has given us many good things to enjoy, but if we build our lives around them, we’ll be ruined just like Abd-Allah.
(Note: see Wilson Bishai’s Islamic History of the Middle East for more about Abd-Allah)