He said to them, ‘Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lampstand? For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. Let anyone with ears to hear listen!’ And he said to them, ‘Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.’
“For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.” Reading these words from Mark’s gospel towards the end of 2020, we are reading against a background of a government refusing to release money to feed school children, the Black Lives Matter campaign, and the desperation of asylum seekers and refugees.
In the light of this background these are shocking words and we might be forgiven for questioning whether Jesus really meant them, for they seem to deny the picture of justice and mercy which has been our understanding of what Jesus demonstrated as a way to live. So how did these words slip into Mark’s gospel?
The first thing to say is that they didn’t slip in at all. They follow Jesus telling a parable and explaining something of how parables work. In parable fashion these few verses begin with the image of a lamp – a reminder that this is about the teachings of Jesus and an encouragement to understand that within those teachings are hidden depths which are there to be plundered. Everything is available to be disclosed. But nothing is disclosed without careful listening and paying attention to what we hear for the more carefully we give attention to the word of God the more we shall hear.
As with any reading we do, the way we hear the words is informed by the way we have heard them previously, if we actively listen we are able to build on our previous awareness, examine our interpretation and turn our understanding into action. The fact that there are two possible ways to understand these words is demonstration enough of the need to heed Jesus’ command to Listen.
God of words and actions, we give thanks that you offer us the possibility of understanding more from your word, that you offer the possibility of openness and light in our relationship with you.
We pray that we may hear and act upon your command given through the words of your Son to ‘Listen and pay attention to what we hear’. Amen