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.
Last week in my personal devotions I was studying the Gospel of Mark. I read a familiar passage of scripture from Mark 4. I confess that I have always struggled a bit with verse 25. That verse says that "the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away." I have struggled with that verse because it seemed unfair to me that the person who already has a lot will get more and the person who as little will lose what he has. What kind of God takes from the poor and gives to the rich? What kind of God takes from the less talented and gives to the talented? What kind of God takes from the person who has no family and friends and gives to the one who has an abundance of both? I have never liked this verse much. I do not ever recall preaching or teaching it to others because I was uncomfortable with what I thought it said.
But when I read this passage last week, the Holy Spirit helped me understand it from a whole new perspective. Suddenly I realized that in the context that it was written, it means something quite different than what I have been thinking all these years. The verse comes after the parable of the sower and in the context of Jesus's teaching about people who live generous lives. What this verse is actually saying is that people who lives generous lives will find generosity and those who live stingy lives will have less. It relates to the same principles as Galatians 6:7-9, where Paul reminds us, "Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows he will also reap, because the one who sows to his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up." When we live our lives in ways that give of our time, our talents and our treasures to others, then we are rewarded in many ways, making our own lives better. When we live our lives for self, only seeking to fulfill our own desires, we reap the consequences of that selfishness.
When I realized the truth of this passage, suddenly it went from being a passage that I did not like to one that makes perfect sense. What a simple truth we can all put into practice. If we want "more" out of life, we must learn to give of ourselves to the Lord and to others. But if we refuse to do that, then even the small satisfaction we get from our selfish approach to life will eventually disappear. That sounds fair.
Lord, help us live generous lives making a difference in the world around us. Amen.
Dr. Terry W. Dorsett is a church planter and author who has lived in New England since 1993. He is a happy father of three young adults, a blessed husband of one great wife, a joyful grandfather, a thankful cancer survivor and convinced that New England needs Jesus more than ever!