Back in the day when I worked for a market research company, detail was a key part of my job. Often the client paid thousands of pounds for one set of results contained in one book of tables, so it was vital that every figure was checked and double-checked to make sure it was correct. Similarly, whenever we submitted proposals for new projects, we all proof-read each others’ documents, to make sure it was both clear and easy to read – as well as containing no spelling mistakes!
I can’t say that I ever enjoyed this type of work, though I learned to do it thoroughly, and get a sort of weird pleasure in spotting a missing apostrophe or a figure that was 1-digit out. I do remember once, though, getting the all-clear from a colleague on a proposal of mine only to discover when we’d won the project that the price I’d included was wrong (which the colleague couldn’t have known) – and we were obliged to run the project at a loss! It pays to pay close attention.
And if that’s true in our workplaces, it’s also true when it comes to the most important piece of writing of them all – the text of scripture, and in particular the teaching of Jesus. Here we find the key to life, both now and in eternity: no wonder Jesus tells us to ‘consider carefully what you hear’ (v24). He’s just shared one of the greatest stories ever told – the parable of the sower – which has implications for every single one of us. But, he counsels, are we listening carefully enough?
Jesus’ encouragement to us today is that close attention to him is always rewarded: ‘with the measure you use’ (i.e. the effort you invest in your faith) – ‘it will be measured to you’ (v24). Just as the parable reminded us, how we sow determines what we reap: and seeking Jesus brings rich reward in a life full of faith, hope, purpose and gratitude.
Conversely, Jesus warns against a sense of complacency or entitlement – which is perhaps especially important to heed if we come from a strong Christian background, or have been fortunate to be part of great churches for most of our lives. Verse 25 could effectively be paraphrased: ‘Don’t take your spiritual heritage for granted. I will bless those who continue to seek me.’
Today, let’s give thanks for the freedom we enjoy to be able to study the Word, and for all the many tools available to help us go deeper in Scripture. And let’s pay close attention to whatever Jesus is saying to us at the moment: for that attention is always repaid by our generous Lord – helping us to grow, and to bear fruit for his glory.