I vividly remember a 2013 audition on Britain’s Got Talent by Hungarian shadow theatre company Attraction. Skilfully utilising a blend of light and shadow, the team put on an emotional production telling the story of a young couple meeting, falling in love, marrying, and reproducing, before the husband is shipped off to war. He is killed in battle and the story closes with his wife and daughter leaving flowers at his grave.
Light and shadow performances have since become something of a staple on the global Got Talent stage. While there may have been others before Attraction, it was certainly the first time I had ever witnessed such artistry through the medium of light and it remains my favourite audition in that particular genre. The ability to skilfully use light as effectively as the company did is truly astonishing.
Having told and explained the parable of the soils, Jesus goes on to offer another mini parable about a lamp and a jar. In it, he highlights the folly of hiding a lamp under a jar, warns his hearers that “nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light,” and exhorts his hearers to be careful how they hear. He uses similar imagery in Matthew 5:14–16 but the two tellings highlight different points.
As we saw yesterday, the parable of the soils, as it is recorded by Luke, was told to highlight the necessity of preparing your heart to receive the word. Jesus continues this theme in the parable of the lamp, as his conclusion makes clear: “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). What should we learn from this parable?
Attraction showed on Britain’s Got Talent that, properly choreographed, light can be effectively used to create beautiful artistry. Jesus’ question, by means of this parable, is simple: How will you use the light that you have received?
To put a lamp under a jar completely defeats the purpose of the lamp. It shows that the user does not understand the lamp’s purpose. It highlights the user’s folly and raises questions about the wisdom of giving the user a lamp to begin with. In context, Jesus raises the same questions about our response to the light of God’s truth.
It is all good and well to sit consistently under the teaching of God’s word, but it only highlights your folly if you do not allow that truth to change the way you live. If your life is not transformed by the truth you hear to adorn the gospel you claim to believe, you may as well light a lamp and then hide it under a basket.
In fact, Jesus goes on to show that one’s response (or lack thereof) to truth will eventually be made manifest. You might think that you can fool people by regularly attending church, but your life will eventually bear the fruit of your response or non-response to the truth to which you are exposed. What is hidden in your heart will eventually come out and reveal whether or not your life is truly submissive to God’s truth.
You can receive all the marriage or parenting counsel in the world, but if you listen without obeying, it will eventually show itself. You can hear the gospel preached week after week but, sooner or later, your life will display your true response to it. You can ask for all the employment counsel you like but it will only prove beneficial if you obey.
As you reflect on this brief parable today, and observe its connection to the parable of the soils, ask yourself how you are preparing to hear the truth of God. Are you humbly, relying on the Spirit, preparing to hear and obey, or will you decide whether or not to obey after you have heard? Commit now to approach the preached word with a humble willingness to hear, for only to the degree that you obey will God give you further opportunity to do so.