This passage uses a homey metaphor to get its central message across. And, like so many of Jesus’ parables, it requires that we ‘take care of how we hear’ it. Like all metaphors, the images are intended to stand for something deeper, something behind the literal, or merely surface meaning of it.
Faith is a gift and, like all gifts, it is the desire of the gift-giver that we use it for its intended purpose, joyfully. This gift comes from one source only, God. It is given to us out of love. It is a gift from his generous heart. How do we give thanks for such love and generosity?
“Jesus said to the crowd: ‘No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel or sets it under a bed; rather, he places it on a lampstand so that those who enter may see the light. For there is nothing hidden that will not become visible, and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light. Take care, then, how you hear. To anyone who has more will be given, and from one who has not, even what he seems to have will be taken away.” (Luke 8: 16-18)
This passage uses a homey metaphor to get its central message across. And, like so many of Jesus’ parables, it requires that we ‘take care of how we hear’ it. Like all metaphors, the images are intended to stand for something deeper, something behind the literal, or merely surface meaning of it. The image of the lamp here stands for our faith. It is not to be a secret. It is not something that is to be hidden from others. Rather, its purpose is to be seen. It is to light up not just our own private lives. It is to be lived in the open, joyfully, so that others can not only see through the darkness of the world, or their own lives, but so that they can see its beauty and desire it themselves. We are to live the gift of our faith openly and joyfully, in the world, and by doing so, to reveal the grace, the glory, and the beauty that God has breathed into all of creation, but more importantly, into our fellow human beings. If we live our faith openly and, more importantly, humbly, others may come to see how the light of faith in Jesus Christ can push back the darkness in the world, and in their own lives. By living our faith openly and humbly, we give the proper thanks to the One who has so freely given this gift to us. And this is the only way to give proper thanks to the Gift-Giver.
What good is a gift if it is not used? There is no greater gift than the gift of faith. Our faith connects us to God, to his creation, and to all others purposefully and intimately. Faith reveals God and God’s nature to us. It reveals that nature as our source and as our goal. It gives reason and meaning to our existence. It is what makes it possible for us to love God with our whole hearts, our whole minds, our whole souls, and our whole strength. It is what helps us to endure through the difficult times, when everything seems to be against us. Our faith encourages us to see and to serves the needs of others. It gives us reason to confront the injustices of the world with humble courage, rather than with self-righteous anger.
If we have faith in God, it is because he has gifted us with it. We need to give him our thanks for this generous gift by letting it shape all of our actions toward ourselves and toward others. We will give him our thanks for it not only in our private prayers, or our communal Sunday services, but by making God’s love visible in the way we conduct every aspect of our lives.
The great truth that is revealed here in this passage is this: “To anyone who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he seems to have will be taken away.” (Luke 8: 18) If we live the gift of our faith willingly and joyfully, we will be given even more. What joy! This Gift-Giver’s gift has no limits. The only limits on our faith would come from our unwillingness to give thanks for it, or our willful turning away from it. When we freely choose in the depths of our hearts to see and to live the value of our faith, God will increase it even more. What a foolishness it would be to say no to such a generous, meaningful, and genuinely purposeful gift?
Lord, we give you thanks for your loving gift of faith. Give us the courage to say thanks for this gift with our very lives. Let us see you in all those we know and in all those we meet. Let our faith be natural and not forced, or pretentious. We ask this in your name, Jesus. Amen.