“No ones 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 may see the light. For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be 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.” (Luke 8:16-18)
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? For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear.”
“Consider carefully what you hear,” he continued. “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you – and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.” (Mark 4:21-25)
Light and sight – it’s a natural association. We can’t see in the dark; we see in the light, and the more light we have, the better our sight. We know that God’s Word is a lamp for our feet, a light on our path. (Ps. 119: 105) But in these passages, Jesus seems to be associating light with hearing: Consider carefully what you hear, how you listen. If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear. As I read these words, I hear these questions:
- Do I think my sin, my weakness, my shortcomings, are hidden from God? Have I tried to hide them from myself? Bringing them into the light is the first step to dealing with them.
- Do I hide God’s light? Do I take what He has revealed to me and stuff it out of sight so I won’t have to do anything about it?
How, then, do I listen?
- Do I expect God to speak to me personally?
- Do I keep my ears open for God’s leading all the time, or do I just make short appointments to hear?
- Do I listen while waiting for a chance to get in my “Yes, but . . .” ?
- Do I listen eagerly or meagerly? Do I listen with anticipation, followed by participation?
Having listened, how do I consider carefully what I hear? How do I know that what I think I’m hearing from God – either as I read Scripture, as I’m praying, or have a thought that seems prompted by Him – how do I discern that what I’m hearing is the truth, or merely just what I want to hear? In my experience, it helps to use the following hearing aids:
- Does what I’m hearing match up with the whole of Scripture, and not just a few words I’m cherry-picking?
- Is it consistent with the character of God as He has revealed Himself?
- Does it serve to teach, rebuke, correct and train me in righteousness? (2 Tim 3:16; Ps 141:5)
- Does it awake in me a desire to change, to grow, to mature?
Hearing clearly is a challenge in a world full of background distortions and value contortions – never mind our own propensity for filtering according to our needs, fears, and baggage. But Jesus warns us that if we don’t hear, we won’t have light. If we don’t have light, we’ll stumble and eventually fall. The more we engage in real listening to God, the more light He’ll provide. If we don’t want to listen and prefer to grope along with the faint glow from an old flashlight that feels comfortable, we’ll soon find ourselves in the dark.
James gives us the ultimate hearing test: Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
Hearing is useless without doing. Hearing without doing separates us from the family of God, from a vital relationship with Jesus, who said, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.”
Heavenly Father, help me to listen well, to hear clearly, and to do Your will as I depend on Your enabling power. Amen.