The Listening Principle
“And he said to them, ‘Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away’”(Mark 4:24-25).
Throughout this context, Jesus is focused on how we listen. The parable of the sower (Mark 4:1-8, 14-20) is about how we listen to God’s word and respond to it. At times Jesus interrupts his teaching to simply say, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear”(Mark 4:9) or “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear”(Mark 4:23). Pay attention! Listen up!
But Jesus says something more—and deeper—in the passage above. If we listen well—if we pay attention to the message, absorb it, obey it, and teach it to others—God will give us more. Good listening is rewarded but poor listening means losing even what we have.
There are so many voices vying for our attention and allegiance. People want to be heard. They promise to make us better. They want to set us straight. They offer truth or expertise or novelty. Yet much of what they say is unimportant; we can ignore it without missing anything. The danger is that we begin to treat Jesus and his words like we treat our fellow-man. We start to think that he has some good advice, a momentary perspective shift, or a novel claim. But then we scroll on down our Facebook or Twitter feed, seeking the next hit of interesting information.
The Son of God is speaking. Pay attention to what you hear. If you listen well, he will give you more. Think it through. Meditate on it. Test it out. Work it into your life. Challenge previously held notions. Contrast it with culture. Contrast it with your own history and thinking. Get rid of the cares and concerns and alerts that would distract you from giving it your full attention. There is something deep and profound in the words of Jesus. Take them seriously.
And when you do, you will discover that there are far deeper riches here than you previously imagined. You will discover that there is no bottom to their wisdom. You will see that even the harshest critics seem to love Jesus (even if they hate his people). You will find areas of your life that need to be reworked and possibly even abandoned. You will find real wisdom to help people as you see the world through Jesus’ eyes. You will begin to work to slowly bring your life—then your family life—then your broader relationships—then your local church—into line with Jesus’ prayer, “your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”(Matt 6:10). You will see how many golden opportunities you have each day to “love your neighbor as yourself”(Matt 22:39). New connections and understandings will emerge as you peruse familiar passages with novel insight. “For to the one who has, more will be given.”
If we listen well to Jesus, God will give us more to hear. How are you listening?
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Encouraging Christians to take discipleship seriously.