“No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them.’”
I have to admit to something here.
Every once in a while, I sort of zone out while my wife is speaking. Once I put the laptop down, gazed into her eyes as she spoke, and she said “You’re deliberately listening just to confuse me.”
And just as we fail to give our full attention to one another, so we often miss what God is saying! The Bible is crystal clear on some issues but we may have other preset ideas or prejudices that take us off track. “Therefore consider carefully how you listen.”
In verse 10, Jesus explained that the purpose of the stories he told was both to reveal truth to the spiritually responsive and to conceal truth from the spiritually superficial. But Jesus doesn’t want his disciples to think that his main purpose is to conceal truth. So he gives the picture of the lamp being set on the lampstand, not hidden under a container or bed, to show them that the main purpose of his teaching is to shine that truth out, loud and clear!
But, at the same time, light serves two functions: it illumines, but it also exposes. Jesus’ teaching not only illumines the truth, it also exposes the evil that lurks in the dark corners of the human heart (8:17).
So “consider carefully how you listen,” so that we respond obediently to Jesus’ teaching, rather than shrink from it because it convicts us of sin. If we respond obediently, we will receive more light. If we shrink back, what light we think we have will be taken from us.
As somebody said,”The truth will set you free but first it will make you miserable”!
The Message has a wonderful paraphrase in Matthew 7:24-27 on this:
“These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock.
“But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards.”
“Therefore consider carefully how you listen.” Jesus’ teaching is the light that is put on the lampstand. His words are not given for the primary purpose of concealing God’s truth, but for revealing it. But, the same light that reveals truth also exposes sin. Because of this two-fold function of the light of God’s truth, you can’t stay neutral! Either we respond obediently and draw closer to God or we ignore it and deceive ourselves. What we think we have will one day be taken from us.
Illuminating God’s ways (8:16).
God has given us the Bible, including the teachings of Jesus, to shed light on how we should live so that we don’t grope around in the darkness, whacking our shins on the obstacles that the Word warns us about.
Many people, especially young people, want to know the will of God for their lives. Whom shall I marry? What should I do with my life? Etc. God’s Word reveals principles on each of these crucial questions so that you don’t whack your shins on the wrong ways of the world. Believe me, it’s so helpful to know where the pitfalls are ahead of time.
It’s really hard, for example, for young adults to receive that warning “Do not be unequally yoked” when considering relationships and marriage, but -please believe me- it saves a world of trouble to live by that principle!
Exposing what is hidden (8:17).
God’s light exposes the sinfulness of human hearts. But therein lies the danger: we all are inclined to hide from the light rather than to allow it to expose the unhealthy mess of our hearts.“Men loved the darkness rather than the light for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light lest his deeds should be exposed” (John 3:19-20).
The Puritan pastor, Thomas Watson, said concerning the Scriptures, “Take every word as spoken to yourselves. When the word thunders against sin, think thus: ‘God means my sins;’ when it presses any duty, ‘God intends me in this.’ Many put off Scripture from themselves, as if it only concerned those who lived in the time when it was written; but if you intend to profit by the word, bring it home to yourselves: a medicine will do no good, unless it be applied.”
So, “Consider carefully how you listen.”
It suggests that we allow the Bible to speak to us every day. Make it a part of your daily diet. Insist on a little space in your schedule to read the word of God to yourself. Read a little to your kids before they sleep. Share it with your partner.
Allow it a central place and expect God to speak through it.
And then “apply the medicine”! Take it personally when a word challenges or confront your own behaviour .
Sometimes people complain that reading God’s Word or listening to it being preached is boring. I admit that some bits are difficult and that some preachers are, uh…unexciting. But often our problem is with our own attitude, not with the Word or with the preacher. In Spurgeon’s Lectures to my Students, the great man contrasted listening to a “learned discourse on nothing in particular” to attending the reading of a will where you stand to inherit. And then he said, “Listen to the Bible like that! -to see just what you’re going to get out of it!”
“Consider carefully how you listen“! God has a lot for you, ready and waiting.