“And he said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand? For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” 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 4:21-25
Living in Chicago means that it’s never totally dark at night. Even at midnight when you should be able to gaze upon the constellations and think about how small you really are, the lights of the city create a mild hue that almost looks like twilight. Most of the lights you see in the sky aren’t stars at all but are instead airplanes coming in for a landing or taking off for a new destination. Every once in a while when I do have the chance to be out of the city at night I’m amazed at all the stars that are really there.
In this parable, Jesus reminds us that a lamp is not meant to be hidden, but instead is to be put on a stand so as to maximize its light. And of course, in this parable the light is none other than Jesus himself, shining through the lives of those who follow him in faith every day.
There are some important things to notice here.
First, Jesus in your life is meant to be noticed. He’s not happy being a hidden feature in your life.
Genuine faith means realizing that your life is dark, real dark, without him. In fact, in this parable he is suggesting that he is the only light that exists.
That’s important to understand, for we live in a world that claims many lights: Buddha, Gandhi, MLK, and the like. And that’s not to take anything away from the social contributions that many have had. But again, Jesus speaks with exclusivity here–he’s not one of many lamps at your disposal. If you want the true light of God in your life, it’s found only in him.
Second, there’s an element of reciprocation here that’s important to understand. Jesus states that the attitude or disposition you have towards him will have a direct correlation on the blessings of God upon your life.
Sure, there are many people who have lots of “blessings” that have nothing to do with Christ (and don’t seem to care). We see those people everyday and sometimes even find ourselves jealously gazing at their prosperity.
But true blessings from God are those that enrich your life by strengthening your focus on Christ and flowing out from that as the center. All other blessings can quickly turn in to false idols that distract us from seeking the Lord, and thus are not really blessings in the grand scheme of eternity. They may be nice things now, but in light of eternity they are (a) gone and (b) used to show that you were more concerned and satiated by them than the presence of Christ (and his light) in your life.
So where is Jesus leading you with this parable?
First, realize that the truest blessings of God are centered on and in him. They flow from his hand.
Second, remember that your attitude towards Christ matters. It has ramifications for your life now and in eternity. This is why there will be degrees of reward in heaven based on how you live now, and why there will be degrees of punishment in hell based on how often (and to what measure) people rejected the light of God in Christ in this life. Be careful how you hear!
1. On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate yourself when it comes to letting the light of Jesus shine through you? to your friends? to your coworkers? to complete strangers?
2. Obviously not everyone around us will celebrate the light of Christ. How do we balance common sense with outreach? Which side do you err on?
3. Think of all the ‘lights’ that our world celebrates. How does Jesus fit in with this crowd? Or does he fit in at all?