Pay Attention


He said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lampstand? For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.”
(Mark 4:21–25 NRSV)


Jesus had just presented the parable of the sower both publicly and privately. Now, it appears that was again speaking to the entire crowd, but by now, the disciples would have unique understanding and perspective. The English translation does not allow us to see the full nature of the discussion for in the original language it is not a lamp that is brought in, but rather, a lamp that comes. The reference is to Jesus Christ, directly. He is the light of the world and when he comes, makes no sense to hide his light. The truth of Jesus’ teaching is to be held high, not hidden from the world. The secrets of the kingdom are to be revealed before all people, if only they will listen — or become fertile soil. 

Again he tells them to listen and pay attention. This teaching is important and the listeners bear responsibility for the reception of the good news. When there are those who are willing to receive the teaching, they will soak it in and receive even more. However, for those who are like the hard soil, although they have heard the good news it has not been received, and therefore it will be taken away. You must use that which you have been given. 


What comes into focus in this scene is that paying attention to what is happening in the kingdom of God is vital to the life of a disciple. We are privileged to experience Jesus every day in our lives, if we are paying attention. Unfortunately the busyness of our lives can easily result in the light being hidden, covered over by a crowded schedule, or carelessly knocked to the sidelines when flipping from one thing to another on Facebook or Twitter. 

Clement of Alexandria put it this way: 

  • A well, when pumped regularly, produces purer water. If neglected, and no one uses it, it changes into a source of pollution. Use keeps metal brighter, but disuse produces rust. For, in a word, exercise produces a healthy condition both in souls and bodies. So “No one lights a candle and puts it under a bowl, but upon a candlestick, that it may give light.” For of what use is wisdom, if it fails to make those who hear it wise? STROMATEIS 1.1.

If we pay attention we discover that God is constantly at work in our world. Far too often we miss what’s going on because we just don’t see it. When we learn to pay attention we see the ways in which we are being invited to participate in Christ’s mission in the world. Suddenly we have divine appointments and we have the privilege of passing on the light of Christ. 

Let’s pay attention and use which we have been given. We must pass on the light of wisdom which comes from Christ and when we do, suddenly we will receive more than we could have ever imagined. It is when we fail to pay attention that we may just lose everything. 


Lord, may I live a life of attentiveness to you and your kingdom. Amen. 


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