Today’s reading was Mark 4:21-25 –
21 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? 22 For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. 23 If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear.”
24 “Consider carefully what you hear,” he continued. “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more. 25 Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.”
This is an ironic passage for me, because coincidentally, today I have to return a lamp that I purchased because it isn’t functioning correctly. To understand this passage requires something of a brief background in Jewish history. The Jewish nation was in many ways supposed to be a lampstand, a city on a hill, a shining beacon of a people in right relationship with God. This privilege was a privilege to be shared, not hoarded.
And though there are in Jewish history examples of proselytism (sharing Judaism with non-Jews), the general pattern was more of keeping it to themselves. This is despite the fact that God had promised to Abraham that through his seed, ALL nations on earth would be blessed.
So, fast forward to the first century, and Jesus is basically accusing the Jews of hoarding this precious knowledge of the possibility of a relationship with God.
I always find it worrying when Jesus’ complaints against the people of God can transfer just as easily to us as Christians, the New Israel of God. This is more on my mind because of a book I’m reading, Walk Across the Room, by Bill Hybels, that challenges Christians on just this point.
The sad reality is that after most Christians have been Christians for more than about two years, they have almost no non-Christian friends. They are surrounded by the saved, and naturally, this severely curtails the opportunities to be a shining light in the darkness. If “the lamp” in the parable above is the gospel, then the bowl or bed it is hidden under is probably our Christian bubble we live in.
Ours is not to be a secret faith, a private religion. It is to be shared. And though many of us have a reluctance to enforce our faith on others, that’s not the form it needs to take. If we truly understood that the world is drowning without a relationship with God, and that what we have is a lifesaver, then we would not be so shy to offer it.
15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,… (1 Peter 3:15)
If we are misers with the good news, if “the measure that we use” is a scarcity mentality, then we will be shortchanging the world. But if we believe there is enough grace to go around, enough forgiveness at the cross, then let our measure be generous. This is not a zero sum equation. When we give what we have, we don’t have less. In gospel math, we have more, because his grace has flowed into us, and through us to another.
Let’s not be holy hoarders. Let’s pray that God will give us a sensitivity to his Spirit, that as we go about our day, we will be prepared to walk across the room, engage with someone, discover their story, and see if there is a natural opportunity for a word of hope or two.