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)
Since verse 10 of this chapter, Jesus has been talking to His closest followers, including the twelve. What He is talking about here is so very pertinent to the church today - to us - maybe more so than most any other time in history. I say that because we have available to us so many messages today, that it is critical that the Christian be discerning. There are so many sources claiming to be the truth that if you are out of touch with God's Word, you can be easily drawn away.
This phrase, "Pay attention to what you hear" is the central part of this entire passage. In the Greek it is, blepete ti akouete, which, as far as I can determine from studying, means, "to look at what you hear". Now, that is a bit confusing, so I found a teacher that explains it better.
Let me tell you what it is in the Greek, it’s a real simple phrase. In fact, this is a little bit misleading in this English translation. The actual Greek is blepeta tee akouata, two verbs and a simple particle on between...blepeta means "to see", first of all in the normal sense of physical sight, secondarily in the sense of perception. In fact, it is used to refer to mental function, to understanding, to consideration. So, what blepeta tee akouata really says is "be understanding what"... tee can be who or what... "be understanding what you hear". In other words, listen carefully to the Word of God. "Be seeing what you are hearing", that’s the literal Greek, "be seeing what you are hearing", perceive the Word of God thoughtfully, carefully. (John MacArthur)
Our Lord is commanding us to consider what we hear regarding the Word of God thoughtfully and carefully. Not every person who claims to be a preacher is necessarily preaching the true Gospel. Charles Spurgeon speaks to this.
Be careful what you hear; hear the truth, and the truth only. It does seem to me as if some people said, "Here is a place of worship; there is sure to be a sermon, let us go in and hear it." Ah! but all that is preached is not gospel, and it is not all hearing that will be valuable to your souls.Especially at this present time it is incumbent upon Christians to learn how to use the discerning faculty with regard to what is, and what is not, truth. Would you eat all meat indiscriminately without tasting and testing its quality? If so, would you not soon be ill? Does a man take any drug that may happen to be upon the chemist's shelves? Does he not expect great care to be exercised in the doctor's dispensary, lest he should be taking poison where he hoped for a salutary medicine?Remember what the apostle John says, "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God" (1 John 4:1).
Oh, how relevant is this to us today? There are so many vying for our attention, plying a gospel that is not that from God, a gospel that tickles our ears, offering to us refreshing cisterns of water that are, in fact, empty pits of destruction. People are seeking answers, wandering in the wilderness without a shepherd, easy pickings for the one that is prowling around as a lion seeking to devour them. The lone sheep that is not under the care of an under-shepherd among a flock of like is easy prey.
Continuing in His method of speaking about things that the common man would understand, Jesus is telling them about the Kingdom of God in layman's terms. He is telling them to think on and earnestly consider what it is they are listening to, not letting it go in one ear and out the other. That's what He's speaking about when He continues, "with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you". Jesus ties all of these parables into the same theme He started in the parable of the 4 Soils - it's a farming, agricultural theme. In this case, He is telling them nothing they don't already understand, that you reap what you sow. And if you sow half-heartedly, you'll reap a harvest of the same caliber. If you give no mind to the value of what you're feeding your spirit and mind, you cannot expect to reap everlasting rewards of spiritual fruit. Garbage in, garbage out. The one that has no interest in hearing the truth will hear nothing of value, and subsequently will reap nothing of value. On the flip-side, the one who is honestly seeking truth will hear the Gospel and will allow it to break up the hard ground of their heart, having the seed sown as we read in the previous parable.
Finally, in context with the previous subjects of the lamp under the basket, Jesus is referring to the light (or the seed, if we attach to the 4 soils parable) of the Gospel we have received. We are not given the seed or the light without the intention that we will share that light and sow that seed. The Apostle Paul speaks to this in his letter to the Galatians.
Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.(Gal 6:7-10)
I'll wrap up looking at verse 25. This one is kinda confusing at first, but if you break it up and consider it closely, you can understand it easily. There are two people: one that has, and one that doesn't have. Luke records this a little differently, and it helped me understand it better.
Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away." (Luke 8:18) [emphasis mine]
Interesting, isn't it? One has and more will be given him. The other thinks he has, but even that thought will be taken from him.
What is Jesus talking about? I believe He is coming full circle to paying attention to what you hear. The one that has ears to hear will hear, and will hear more. He will have an insatiable thirst for hearing of Christ and His Gospel. It is, after all, by hearing that faith comes (Romans 10:17), and it is only through faith that one is saved (Ephesians 2:8).
The other man, the one that thinks he has, I believe this to be one of those that will hear, "I never knew you" (Matthew 7:21-23), on that last day. This man went to church, he participated in religious activity of all kinds, he was a "good person" - he just never truly repented of his sin, he loved it too much, and he consequently never trusted Christ to be his Savior. Perhaps he intended to play that card in the same hand with his full house of righteous deeds, a kind of "Christ + me" formula that is wholly inconsistent with Scripture. You see, he thought he had it - eternal life - he even gleaned some of the blessings of God's people by standing close to them, like the husband in 1 Corinthians 7 that is not a believer, but "is made holy because of his wife". He thought he had it, but what he thought he had will be taken from him.