livret de famille

Luke 8.16-21

Jason Procopio

At our last men’s night, we talked about the ways we most commonly waste time. Everyone was surprised to learn that with only one exception, the way in which every guy there wastes time is on YouTube.

YouTube is a black hole—some things you find there are for entertainment, some are for information, and some are for no discernible use at all. Now although there are some useful things on YouTube, the useful videos aren’t generally the ones that the majority of young men watch. Most young men, if they’re watching “information”-type videos, watch the ones on how to hang upside down for an hour without getting a headache, how to build homemade lightsabers, how to make a mile-long track for toy race cars… 

Here’s why I think we could reasonably categorize most of these kinds of videos as “a waste of time”. I’d venture a guess (and guys, you can correct me if I’m wrong) that very few people actually do the things they learn how to do in those videos. I doubt anyone in this church has built an inflatable Superman suit, or made a boat float on gas in an aquarium. And even the useful things—like how to make your workday more effective, or how to use paperclips to keep your computer cords from tangling—are very rarely implemented. We watch, we go, “Good idea!” and then we forget it. 

All of this information, while interesting, doesn’t do much good if you never use it.

Last week we saw Jesus’s parable of the sower. He described four types of soil in which seed was thrown, and the various ways these soils caused the plant to bear fruit (or not). And he said that each of these soils were pictures of different types of people, and the way they receive the gospel.

What he says in today’s passage is the continuation of what we saw last week; it’s what he says immediately after. So let’s pick up where we left off, at verse 16.

Hiding the Light (v. 16-18a)

Here we have another image—”the light” in this verse is representing the same thing as the “fruit” in the last one. It’s what happens in us when we hear the Word of God, accept it, and put it into practice. Jesus says (v. 16),

16 No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light.

I think this image is hilarious. I used to hide under my covers after bedtime with a flashlight so I could read without my parents knowing (as bookworm children tend to do). But I did it so I could read; I didn’t want it shining everywhere, but I did want it shining on my book. Never once did I bring a flashlight into my room, turn it on, hide it under my covers…and then just go to sleep. 

That’s what he’s saying here. No one lights a lamp and covers it with a jar, or puts it under a bed. Why? Because that would be dumb; you light a lamp to give light. 

And it’s not just dumb; it won’t work. At the time when Jesus said this, there were no electric lamps. Putting a lamp under a jar or under a bed would either just put the flame out, or it would light the bed on fire. So when he says, No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, he’s not just saying, “Don’t do this.” He’s saying it won’t work. 

So you see what this picture is getting at. If we truly have faith, it will be impossible to hide it, and it doesn’t make sense to try. And yet, strangely, that’s exactly what many Christians do. They treat their faith as something interior, as something that only happens on the inside. So they’ll read their Bibles and understand the words and be happy with what they’ve learned…and go out and live as if they’ve learned nothing at all of consequence. It produces happy emotions on the inside, but no discernible change on the outside. 

But Jesus says that it doesn’t work that way. If what is inside is truly good—if I really do have faith—then it will be visible.  

V. 17:  

17 For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light.

We often say, “Become what you are. You’re a Christian, a child of God; so act the way God tells his children to live—prove you are one of his children.” That’s true. This is what Jesus suggests in Matthew 5.16: it’s a perfectly legitimate and biblical way of encouraging each other to holiness. But you’ll notice that what Jesus says here is subtly different.

He doesn’t say, “Do this to show that you are a child of God.”

He says rather, “If you are a child of God, then people will see it. And if you’re not, people will see that too. For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light.

Brothers and sisters, what is inside will be visible outside. What is true about you will come out—no one fools everyone forever. If you say you have faith, and there is no visible, outward evidence of that faith, your faith probably isn’t faith. If you say you have faith, but that faith is only visible to you, then it’s not faith you have; it’s imagination.

In addition, if you say you have faith and you are persistently and unrepentantly hiding sin in your life that runs counter to your faith, that sin will not stay hidden. “[Nothing] is...secret that will not be known and come to light.” It’s like what Moses said in Numbers 32.23: Behold, you have sinned against the Lord, and be sure your sin will find you out. 

That sounds like hyperbole, I know—plenty of people, plenty of Christians, get away with awful things all the time. But even if no one finds out “the thing” you are doing, that thing will have an effect on other areas of your life, and those areas will be visible. You may “get away with it,” but be sure that your faith will suffer for it—or worse, be proven nonexistent—and that will be visible at some point or another.

So given that reality, what are we to do? How are we to respond to this pretty horrifying prospect that everything we are inside will eventually become visible on the outside? Jesus tells us in v. 18:  

18 Take care then how you hear… 

Remember, this is all part of a whole. In the parable of the sower, which we saw last week, every section of the parable begins with someone hearing the Word of God, and ends with the different ways in which they respond to that Word. And there was only one good option, only one good soil. V. 15:  

15 As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience. 

So when Jesus tells us to “take care how we hear,” that’s what he means. Take care to really hear what you hear—take what you hear to heart, and put it into practice. The way you listen to the Word will determine how you live…and the way you live will prove that you’ve listened well.

The One Who Has & The One Who Has Not (v. 18)

Of course Jesus isn’t done; v. 18 concludes what he was saying before, while simultaneously moving on to something new.  

18 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.

Dr. Jordan B. Peterson, in his book 12 Rules for Life, writes about dominance structures amongst lobsters. Struggling for turf actually produces a physiological change in the lobsters that engage in them: the lobster who wins will have a high level of serotonin and a low level of octopamine, which makes it more confident and stronger; the lobster who loses will actually undergo the opposite change in its brain (low serotonin/high octopamine), making it less likely to win a fight in the future. While expounding all this, Dr. Peterson actually quotes Luke 8.18 and said, “You truly know you are the Son of God when your dicta apply even to crustaceans.”

Many people have seen what Jesus says here like a simple truism: those who win tend to win more, because they have more opportunity; and those who lose tend to lose more, because they've lost the resources to fight back. And while that's certainly true (if we're speaking in generalities), that is not what Jesus is getting at here. He's giving the grounds (or the reason) for why we should take care how we hear.

In order to understand what he’s saying, we need to see from the context what these people “have” or “don’t have.” Jesus said the “good soil” is those who hear the Word, hold it fast, and bear fruit with patience; if there's light in you, then people will see it. These are people who hear the Word, accept it, and live it. If you don’t live it, then you don’t understand it, and you haven’t accepted it. So what these people have or don’t have (depending on the case) is an understanding and acceptance of God’s Word, as evidenced by their lives. The one who “has” is the one who hears God’s Word and puts it into practice; and the one who “has not” is the one who hears God’s Word and does nothing with it, or who never allows it to mature.

Now we see better what Jesus means. Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given. So the one who “has,” who hears God’s Word and puts it into practice, will be given more—he will grow in his ability to hear God’s Word and obey God’s Word. 

I really hope you see this, because it’s important. Most people assume they have to understand a commandment before obeying it. They want to understand why God tells us to do some things and to not do other things before they actually commit to obeying. 

But I’m sorry—if you know anything about the Bible, you know it doesn’t work that way. In the Bible, God doesn’t always give explanations as to why he tells us to do or not do certain things. Often he does, but not always. Sometimes he just says, “Do it, because I said so,” and expects us to obey.

If we think about it, it makes sense, because he’s God and we’re not. How often did our parents tell us to do things without telling us why? They’d say things like, “Please do what I say. Trust me—you’ll understand why when you’re older.” 

And here’s the crazy thing: they were right! We do understand now that we’re older. We’ve all had that moment of realization, where we shake our heads and think, Crap—Dad was right. We’ll never tell him that, but we’ll find ourselves saying the same things to our kids.

Why? Because as we grow, we learn by experience. It was experience that drove our parents to just tell us to do certain things, and they didn’t explain it to us at the time because they knew we wouldn’t understand; but as we grow, we get it. 

Same thing here. As we obey, by experience we very naturally begin to see the logic in the commandment. We learn by experience that God actually knows what he’s talking about when he commands us to do something.

Let me give you an example of how this works (one which we’ve discussed a lot with many of you). Loanne and I had a very difficult time when we saw what the Bible said about the roles of men and women in marriage (particularly in Ephesians 5). We’d been married for about five years when we discovered this. 

It didn’t seem logical for the Bible to command me, a lazy, immature man (at the time) to love my wife as Christ loved the church, to take the initiative and responsibility for leading my family, when I had a perfectly capable and pro-active wife who could naturally do it better than me. It didn’t make sense for God to command my wife to recognize and submit to the responsibility on my shoulders and to help me fulfill it. It seemed to us that I would have been the more competent “helpmate,” and she would be the more competent “head.” 

But there it was, and although we didn’t understand the commandment, we couldn’t un-see it.

So we decided to try to put it into practice, even though we didn’t understand it. And if you could compare the way our home is now to the way it was ten years ago, you’d see that it is more peaceful; it is more loving; and it is a generally holier place than it was before. (It’s not perfect, but the difference is staggering.) Obedience to that commandment has impacted our family across the board, in areas that have nothing to do with masculinity or femininity. If you asked either of us now why God calls men and women to particular roles in marriage, we could give you the biblical reasons why, and a million other reasons that we’ve learned from experience. And as we grow in this, we become better and better equipped to see God’s grace in that commandment, and to obey it more faithfully.

To the one who has, more will be given. The one who hears God’s Word and puts it into practice will grow in his ability to understand God’s Word more fully and obey God’s Word more completely.

And Jesus continues, 

...and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.

This is simpler. 

For the one who hears the Word and doesn’t live it, his life will be one giant house of cards. He will try to make a life for himself according to his idea of “the good life,” but the fallen world in which he lives will fight him every step of the way. It won’t work. 

Now, I know you’ll say there are millions of people out there who refuse to accept the truth of the gospel and refuse to live their lives according to it, and who are wildly successful and seemingly happy. Sure. But here’s the thing (and I'm not trying to be glib, but it's the truth): one day they’ll die. None of their “success” is going to last. And on that day, they’ll stand before the throne of judgment, and realize everything they’d been building was for nothing. Even what they thought they had will be taken away.

From the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.

To the one who has, more will be given.

So TAKE CARE HOW YOU HEAR.

Hear the Word, accept the Word, live the Word.

Livret de famille (v. 19-21) 

Here, in v. 19, Luke ends this section with a kind of coda in which Jesus summarizes everything that’s come before. But his summary is incredible.

19 Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd. 20 And he was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you.” 21 But he answered them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.” 

Now, this may seem kind of harsh on Jesus’s part, but if you know the gospels you know he’s not rejecting his family, particularly his mother (we see him, in one of his last acts before dying, loving his mother well by asking John to care for her after his death). He’s trying to make a point. 

And I think you can see what that point is. V. 21 is another way of saying the same thing he’s been saying all along. 

V. 15: 

15 As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience. 

V. 16: 

16 No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. 

V. 18: 

18 Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given...

What does all this boil down to? Hear the Word; accept the Word; obey the Word. Your ability to do this will help you grow in it, and that growth is proof of who you really are.

But the way he says it here, in v. 21, is simply remarkable. He doesn't just say that the ones who obey the Word will grow in their faith. He says that the ones who hear the Word of God and do it are a part of his family. 

In France, when you get married, every new family is given a little booklet called a livret de famille. The first two pages of our livret de famille says that I, Jason Procopio (on the left-hand page), am indeed married to Loanne Procopio, née Caullychurn (on the right-hand page). When Jack was born, we took our livret to the town hall, and they added his information to page 3, proving he is indeed our son; and when our daughter is born in a few months, she’ll go on to page 4. And so on.

Brothers and sisters, the way we hear the Word and accept it and live it serves as our spiritual livret de famille. It doesn’t make us a part of God’s family, but it proves that we do indeed belong to God’s family.  

Now there’s always a risk when we talk like this, because there are always certain kinds of people who will say, “Well if that’s true, I’m in trouble!” It’s much easier for these kinds of people to see all the ways in which they’ve failed; so when they do, they begin to doubt their faith.

Jesus isn’t saying these things to make us doubt; he’s saying them to keep us careful. To remind us to keep watch over ourselves. We do not become morally perfect when we become Christians. We will continue to make mistakes. 

But every Christian should be able to look at his life and see progression

Often Christians will excuse their habitual sin by sheepishly saying, “I’m still growing in this.” Maybe they speak too quickly—if they are indeed still growing, there will be growth, and it will be visible. We should be able to look back over our lives and see a certain upward trajectory—not perfection, but becoming more and more like Christ as we go on.

And everything Jesus has said so far has been to keep us moving in that direction. 

Become good soil—hear the Word of God, hold it fast in a good and honest heart, and bear fruit with patience.

Don’t hide your light, but put it in a stand, so that those who are near you can see it.

Take care how you hear—listen, and obey. 

And how beautiful is it that the climax of all of this is family. My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it. 

If you are born again, when you look back on your life with Christ, it won’t be perfect. But there will be a moment there when you heard the gospel, and something lit up in you. You realized that you had rebelled against God and you were a sinner. You realized that Christ took your sins on himself and was punished in your place. You realized that the perfect life he lived, he gave it to you. You realized that on that basis, God declares you righteous. And that knowledge prompted you to begin to live as God called you to live. You haven’t done it perfectly; there have been times when you have forgotten and fallen. But the trajectory of your life is no longer that of running away from God, but of running toward him, becoming progressively more like him.

And Jesus is saying that if we look back and that’s what we see, then we are his brothers. We are his sisters. We are his family; his kin; his blood. We bear his name. And Jesus loves his family. He proved it when he died for us.

Christians all too often have such a distorted view of God’s affection for them. We imagine God’s affection for us is predicated on our ability to obey him. Even if we’d never say it aloud, what we feel when we think about God is, “I need to do this, and this, and this, and then God will love me.” Or rather, “I did this, and this, and this, so God must love me!”

That is not the way the Bible would have us think. The Bible would instead drive us to look at our lives and say, “Look how much God loves me! He has done this, this, and this in me! He has forgiven me, he has granted me repentance, and he has made me able to obey! For all the times I did what you called me to do, thank you. For all the times I obeyed when I didn’t understand why, thank you. For every time I heard your Word and held it fast and bore fruit with patience, thank you. Thank you for loving me that much.”

Conclusion

As we close today, I hope you’re encouraged. And I hope through these texts, you’ll leave today ready to do two things.

Firstly, see the gift of obedience to the Word you hear.

It’s what we’ve seen as we’ve made our way through this text today: if you listen to the Word and obey it, 

• your obedience proves your faith—your light will be visible;

• you will grow in understanding—to the one who has, more will be given;

• and you will have definitive, objective proof of God’s love for you—Jesus’s mother and brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it. 

See the incredible grace God has shown you by giving you commands, and by enabling you to obey those commands.

And so, in the light of that gift he has given you, listen well, and obey with all your might.

Don’t neglect the Bible. Don’t neglect growing in your knowledge of the Bible. Don’t neglect praying to God, conversing with him about what he’s told you. Keep learning more about him. Listen to his Word. And when you listen, live what you have heard. Obey with everything in you. Trust that as you obey, you will grow in your understanding of his Word, and in your desire to obey more.

See the gift of obedience to the Word you hear. Listen well, and obey with all your might.