Jesus spoke the words in our verse for today after telling the parable of the lamp. He also spoke similar ones about His parables in general (Matthew 13:12), and about the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:29). Jesus emphasises the need for us to be careful about listening to (and reading) the Word of God. Some think that once they’re saved, the Holy Spirit will do all the work for them. They think they just need to read the Bible, and God will do the rest. These verses say something quite different.
It’s interesting that, in writing about the same parable (the lamp), Luke focuses on how we should listen, while Mark 4:24 focuses on what a person listens to. They make the same point from different angles. What we think of the Word we listen to governs how we listen (action) and what we listen to (content). If we regard God’s Word as of little value, then we won’t read or listen to it with diligence.
Listening (and reading) can be done actively or passively. Luke 8:18 tells us that what we put into it will bring out an equally positive reaction. In other words, the Holy Spirit will give to us understanding and blessing in the same measure as the way we listen and read His Word. Listen half-heartedly and, surprise surprise, we get little out. Listen or read diligently and you will get the same measure back in spiritual understanding.
That should be enough to challenge us to read and listen to God’s Word carefully and actively, but there’s more – a warning! If we fail to do so diligently, then what we think we have, will be taken away. This isn’t to do with our salvation, but everything to do with our understanding. This is borne out in the parable of the talents. The lazy servant, who never used his talent, had it taken away from him.
We’ll find that our understanding of the things of God will become weaker, less coherent, under-developed and immature. This will happen regardless of how long we’ve been a Christian – in the kingdom of God maturity is not measured in years, but in obedience to the Word of God. What particularly struck me were the words ‘what they think they have’. We can be quite confident that we’re knowledgeable about God’s Word, yet it will be taken away. It’s already leaked out through the holes made by us in the way we listen. That’s a scary thought that, while thinking we know a lot, God says we know nothing – it’s been taken from us!
So, are we listening? How are we listening and what are we listening to? Our response will govern whether greater understanding will be given to us, or whether what we have will be taken away. Which will it be for you?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, You challenge me with Your words. Help me to listen to Your Word and to read Your words with concentration and determination. Help me to do so diligently and actively. I so want to receive more and more understanding from You. I know You want me to have it. Thank You. Amen.
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