Letter from Mickey Mantle

‘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

Dear brothers and sisters,

The words above come from Jesus’ teaching by the sea in Mark chapter 4 hot on the heels of his better known ‘parable of the soils’. It is one of the four brief additional parables Jesus teaches to those gathered around him after that first major parable. This one is my personal favourite if that is permitted! What Jesus promises here is both so challenging and yet so encouraging.

The subject is our hearing. When it comes to spiritual realities the most important organ in the human body is the ear.  Jesus has been speaking about how one enters into the kingdom of God. Time and again he says the same thing in different ways to those gathered around him by the shore to make his point crystal clear: ‘listen!’ (4:3, 9, 18, 20, 23, 24, 33). It is the words of Jesus about himself that are the gateway into eternal life. The keys to the kingdom are one’s ears. What you listen to matters! But not only that. How you listen matters even more.

Jesus tells us to ‘pay attention to what we hear. The attitude of our heart and the desire as we listen to the word of God matters. Listening is a moral issue. Jesus tells us that whenever we come to the Bible we are do so with humble, hungry and obedient hearts not proud, bored and defiant ones. Jesus’ mini-parable is intended to motivate our attitude to listening to his word.

After this initial command to ‘pay attention’ Jesus takes us to the Middle Eastern food market of his time. After surveying all the delicious fare you decide on at the stall with a  sumptuous mound of medjool dates. This is the 1st century world so there is no plastic bag or even Woolies green ‘bag for good’ available for you to take your goods. Instead you have come with your own ‘measure’, a cup or a pot or a vat. And ‘with the measure you use, it will be measured to you’. If you have arrived with a small Keep Cup then all that the shop owner can pour into your measure is a dozen dates. If on the other hand you have come ready with a great big wheelie bin as your measure then the shop keeper will be able to tip in all 1000 and more of his dates for you to take home. And here Jesus goes beyond the strict bounds of the metaphor saying ‘and still more will be added to you’. It is as if the owner goes under his counter and comes up with a bonus sack of dates that he hands over to you with a smile because you have been such a good customer!

What a challenge to all of us whenever we come to Jesus’ word. How are we going to hear? What kind of heart will we have? Will we come with a big measure? Will we have ‘big ears’ as it were, ready to receive an abundance of spiritual food (to mangle metaphors)? We are to come to Jesus words with humble, hungry and obedient hearts. Coming instead with proud, bored and defiant hearts has stark consequences: ‘even what he has will be taken away’. What we listen to matters. But how we listen matters even more. Listening is a moral issue. The way we do it matters for eternal life. Why not spend a moment praying that God would graciously grant soften your heart so that you come with a great measure this Sunday to hear his word.

I so look forward to seeing you soon.

Your brother in Christ,
Mickey Mantle