“Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.” – Matthew 13:12 NIV
There is a lot of talk in today’s world about the “haves” and the “have nots”, and this passage seems to strike right at the heart of that conversation. I’ve heard many a sermon trying to explain what it was that Jesus was driving at when He said these words. It’s a provocative statement when taken in a certain context, especially from a Guy who spent a lot of time talking about the fact that “giving up” was always better than “having”. How do people that already have so much get even more, when those that have so little can’t seem to even get a small piece of the pie? It’s a fair question when asked in relation to today’s America.
However, I think it speaks to our natural human bias if we look at this passage and the first thing we think of when we hear the word “have” are material possessions. I don’t know about you, but in my world I almost always assume that “having” is better. Because when we think of “having” we think of the things that we too often covet: money, power, and fame; and we think that these things will bring us safety, comfort, and fulfillment.
(Believe it or not I actually once heard a speaker use this passage as an example of how to explain compound interest and the importance of putting money away and letting it grow over time. An interesting metaphor, maybe a stretch, but I imagine not what Jesus had in mind when he originally spoke these words.)
Now, I am not even going to begin to try to sort out theologically, or even logically, what Jesus was driving at. There are much better people for that job than me. But if we look at the passage earlier in this chapter, I think it is pretty clear what Jesus was NOT driving at, and that is, as usual, what us mere mortals tend to go to first.
Just before this Jesus tells the parable of the Sower, in which a farmer is spreading his seed trying to get his crops to grow. The seeds fall on four types of ground: a trodden path, rocks, thorns, and good soil. The only place that the crop grows is in the good soil, because that soil “has” life already in it and has prepared a fertile place for the seed to grow. All the other soils “have not,” and the seed dies because it is not fed or nurtured. If we put aside our initial instincts to listen to Jesus in the context of our own cultural expectation, and instead put Him into his very own context, we can begin to turn ourselves into the one thing that we need to be to understand Him: good soil.