21 He said to them, “Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand? 22 For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. 23 If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear.”24 “Consider carefully what you hear,” he continued. “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more. 25 Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.”
(Mark 4:21-25 NIV)
In the previous passage, Jesus unpacked the meaning of the parable of the farmer and the seeds to The Twelve and the smaller group of others gathered together.
In today’s text, Mark gathers several of Jesus’ teachings into one group or section. In the other Gospels, these same teachings are split apart into multiple unrelated sections.
Verse 21 is the first teaching. Jesus, in His rabbinical fashion, asks two questions with obvious answers:
- “Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed?”
The obvious answer – no, of course not.
- “Instead, don’t you put it on its stand?”
The obvious answer – yes, of course.
Jesus uses a common object like a lamp to teach a deeper spiritual lesson. The purpose of the lamp is to illuminate the room. To hide it or cover it up is to defeat its primary purpose.
In Jesus’ parable, the lamp (and the light it produces) signifies truth. In the context of a parable, its purpose is to illuminate, to dispel darkness, to teach a truth. In the Jewish mind, to see something that was not as it should be required action. To see (understand) a truth required action, namely obedience.
Verse 22 has a similar theme about light and its spiritual corollary of truth. Jesus said that truth cannot be hidden; it cannot be suppressed or covered up. The truth will eventually come to the surface for all to see and hear. The nature of the truth (either good or bad) is immaterial to its illumination – the fact is that it will eventually be known (for either good or bad).
In verse 23, Jesus issues a command similar to verse 9 – “Listen!” or “Pay attention!”. He did not want anyone in the group to miss this important truth.
In verses 24 – 25, Jesus teaches another important truth – the principle of reciprocity. Jesus begins by issuing a somber warning: “Consider carefully what you hear”. Jesus then goes on to say that the same measure we use will be the same measure God uses in return.
While many use this verse to refer to financial matters (giving and receiving), Jesus was still talking about truth and our response to it.
We get out what we put in.
By issuing this warning, Jesus was telling His listeners to not harden their hearts against the truth they were being taught. Jesus’ words were the light that illuminated their lives; His very life and how He lived was a living testimony of His words.
Jesus walked what He talked – both were truth.
In verse 25, Jesus further describes the idea of the measure. This truth is very much the parallel to the parable of the farmer and the seeds and is likely why Mark grouped these teachings together.
By tying verses 24 and 25 together, we get the larger picture of what Jesus was saying. Jesus was asking whether we listen in small or large measure to God’s truth. If we listen in small measure (i.e., reject the truth we hear), then what we know will be taken away. If we listen in large measure, then what truth we have will be added to.
Do we give God’s truth the sniff test and reject it, or do we drink deeply from His well?
Like the parable of the farmer and the seeds, the soil of our hearts determines the end result. If a person’s heart is hardened to the seed of God’s truth, the seed will disappear. If a person’s heart is like the rocky soil, they may receive God’s truth initially, but their unwillingness to endure persecution will show the true nature of their apostasy. If a person’s heart is like the weed-infested soil, then greed and selfishness and cares about worldly matters will choke out God’s truth and reliance on Him. Only when a person’s heart is like the good soil will the person grow, thrive, and bear fruit for His glory and our good.
While Jesus’ teaching on truth and the principle of reciprocity is focused on the spiritual realm of our lives, it has truth and application in all areas of our life. Here are a few to consider – the list is endless:
- Mental – casual study will turn us off from a subject; deeper research will provide great learnings and fascinating truths and topics of conversation.
- Physical – taking care of our bodies will open doors to activities we can participate in; neglecting our bodies will hinder us from doing what God calls us to do.
- Skills – increasing the skills of our trade or profession will yield more skills; not practicing our skills will ensure their loss (use it or lose it).
- Social – if we want to have friends, we must be friendly. We will attract the same kinds of friends that we are (they will be like us).
- Financial – we get out of life what we invest in. Do we only invest in ourselves, or do we invest in the Lord and in others?
- Responsibility – if we shoulder our responsibilities faithfully, we will be given more responsibility. If we shirk our responsibility, we will be told what to do.
- Worship – we get out of our relationship to the Lord (and the church) what we put into it. Are we a consumer (a taker) or an active participant (a contributor)?
May we pay attention to the truths that the Lord is teaching us – first, what He is calling us to be, and secondly, what He is calling us to do.