‘To answer before listening – that is folly and shame’ (Proverbs 18:13). Is this ever a description of you? Ask God to grant you patience and understanding at all times.
21 He replied, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.”
Listening and hearing
Recently my fluorescent kitchen light has been on the blink. Literally. And I have learned how much I appreciate a steady stable light source that doesn’t keep coming and going. Jesus here uses the image of a lamp showing light, then very quickly goes back to his theme of listening and hearing. And I wonder if my listening sometimes flickers like my kitchen light.
Many people today do not have the luxury of being properly listened to. Perhaps they are alone. Or perhaps because the pace of life moves just too fast.
Listening is very different from hearing. All kinds of stuff are playing in the background of our lives and we usually give them only half an ear. To listen properly we have to concentrate. The same holds true of hearing God’s word. Verse 21 tells us we can’t properly hear God’s word unless we listen carefully, and then try to put it into practice. Testing what we hear against all we already know and then acting on it is the true fruit of listening. We have to use it… or lose it.
At the day’s end, consider how much you have listened to God, and how much you have listened to others. Are the two related? Pray that God will make you a better, more attentive listener.
What was Jesus’ relationship with his family like? Surely it was harmonious? After all, Jesus was perfect. Yet in our reading Jesus appears to snub his brothers and mother, saying his true family are those who obey God. Wasn’t this disrespectful? Shouldn’t he have interrupted his teaching to discover what his family wanted? A similar story in Mark’s Gospel suggests why Jesus responded this way: in it, Jesus’ family turn up ‘to take charge of him’, thinking he was ‘out of his mind’ (Mark 3:21). This is not as surprising as it sounds, for we know that his brothers did not believe in him during his earthly ministry (John 7:5).
Although Jesus considered it important to care for family (in Mark’s Gospel he reprimanded the Pharisees for neglecting their parents) (Mark 7:8–13), he also warned that following him would cause division. He taught that obedience to God comes above everything, even pleasing loved ones. Following him may involve making choices that our relatives do not understand, such as taking up a lower-paid job or moving a distance away.
Putting God first can be a powerful witness to family, though. When Evangelical Alliance’s Gavin Calver was 17, his father Clive felt called to take up a job in America. This involved leaving Gavin in the UK with friends to finish his A-levels. Although devastated, Gavin was challenged by his parents’ obedience to God and this encouraged him to make a full commitment to Christ.1 Even if we do not experience such happy endings in our families, we can be comforted that Jesus knew family difficulties and so understands the pain we suffer. We can also be encouraged that we are never without family: as part of God’s family, we are blessed with many mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers in Christ.
Are there tensions in your family, due to your faith or other reasons? Talk to God about your pain, knowing that Christ, who experienced family problems himself, understands.
1 Gavin Calver, Disappointed with Jesus?, Monarch, 2004, p107–115