Tony's Reflection 47 

 When I first got married, shopping was such a trial.

I looked forward to time with my lovely new wife. Every weekend I was full of romantic thoughts about how nice it would be to go shopping with her. We would have time together. We would enjoy each other’s company as we strolled around the shops.

It never worked out that way. I would see something, like it, grab it and move on. 9 times out of 10 Jean wouldn’t like it. Then she would want to stop and ponder. Was this other one better value? Would that one look better? We ended up frustrating each other and quarrelling. So much for my romantic stroll with my wonderful wife. We were too different in what we brought to the task of shopping.

Last week, we left Jesus telling a cautionary tale about shopping and what we bring to that task. He was the man who didn’t bring a big enough carrier bag and was left devastated when he had to leave all the shopping behind.

It gets worse, for poor Jesus, though, on his shopping trip. Re-imagine last week’s scene. Let’s watch him once more, stood in his boat acting out this story, for the crowd.

The next customer arrives at the pretend shop. She has brought a decent-size carrier bag. Jesus mimes watching with forlorn envy as her bag is piled high.

What’s that? She wants some olive oil? The shopkeeper has run out. But wait… Jesus had some olive oil. It’s not doing him any good. He can’t take it home. With great ceremony, the shopkeeper removes the olive oil from Jesus’ pile and perches it just right into the top of the lady’s bag. It will just fit. Jesus hangs his head in the boat and mimes crying with despair… maybe he could have got the olive oil home in his pocket. Even the olive oil is gone now. He shouldn’t have bothered going shopping at all, should he? The crowd giggle.

We have reached the end of our story. That was it for the crowd. A funny little story, all about shopping. Let’s go back to the start though and carry on cracking the code.

As we discovered last week, it is not just a story about shopping, it is about how we hear God’s message to us. “Shopping” is code for “hearing”. Jesus begins his shopping story with a warning. It’s a warning about hearing and listening. A clue to what the story is really about. “Be careful what you listen to…” (Mark 4:24).

What do you spend your time listening to? I am not asking about your music tastes, but what it is you take into your mind, soul and spirit. If I spend my time watching action movies, then inwardly I will be full of adrenaline -soaked, shoot ‘em up violence. If I am preoccupied with current affairs, I will be internally filled with facts, figures and politics. If I spend my time just enjoying worldly pleasures, my inner life will be worldly. If I give my energy to absorbing God and his truth, then that will fill my inner world.

There is nothing wrong with taking in action movies, current affairs, or “worldly pleasures”… if, in doing these things, I am listening to God. While I am enjoying these things, I can be asking him what he wants to say to me or show me, in and through them. If I am doing that while I am watching an action movie, for example, it is really God I am listening to rather than just the actors.

That is the whole point… who or what do we spend our time listening to? “Be careful what you listen to,” says Jesus.
Then there is another promise. It’s really surprising. “Whoever has will be given more…” (Mark 4:25).

Have you already become someone who “brings a big jug” when you listen to God? (This is what we looked at last time.) God will fill what you bring and fill it generously. You will be someone who “has”. A “have” rather than a “have not”.

As God fills your “big jug”, your relationship with him will get on a roll. You will grow in your faith and love.

You will believe more in God, so you will ask him for more and receive more.

You will love him more, so you will be even more eager to know him better and discover more about him. God loves you even more than you love him, so he will be really pleased to come and show you more.

You will be someone who “has” and you will be “given more”. Beautiful, isn’t it?

Then there is a sting in the tail. A dire warning.

“Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them” (Mark 4:25). As he was acting out the story, Jesus thought he had his olive oil. But even that was taken away.

What is this about? It’s about the people who do religious stuff, but miss out on God. They “do not have” in the true sense because, for all their religion, God is not really there.

In one way though, these people do have. At least they look like they do. They have religion. They bring enough to their religion to enjoy it. They weren’t bringing their spirit though and so they missed out on God.

God will come and take away even what they do have. God must be taken seriously. We must bring the very best and the very most we can, when we come to hear from him, or we will lose even what we think we have.

Don’t just do religion. Bring your spirit, open and humble. Receive God.

signed Tony