Mark 4: The Haves and the Have-nots

Mark 4: The Haves and the Have-nots

“For whoever has, to him more will be given; but to whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him” (Mark 4:25).

I am an admirer of Jordan Peterson, a Canadian clinical psychologist who has made a name for himself trying to help people think properly about themselves, their relationships, and the world. He holds the Bible in high regard as his books and lectures are filled with biblical illustrations. He often mentions musing on Jesus’ statement above found in today’s reading.

Peterson thinks of this text in terms of societal hierarchies and the inequities within them. While inequities are present in hierarchies, the hierarchy does not produce the inequity, but rather the inequity leads to the hierarchy. His mistake is thinking of this text in the construct of unequal outcome in hierarchies. He should think of this text in the sense of inequities produced by the effort of those within the social construct that produce the hierarchies.

Confused? Let’s put it this way. In any given endeavor, if all people start at level, some will inevitably surpass their peers (creating a hierarchy) because of their natural abilities, dedication to work, overcome obstacles, etc. Thus, those who are “naturals” and/or inclined to work end up on the upper side of the hierarchy. Give 100 men 100 acres of identical land to do with as they see fit. Before long, some will be far more successful (and by extension, wealthy) than others. A very few will be in the upper strata, a few in the lowest, and most somewhere in the middle. One’s abilities and discipline, or lack thereof, caused him to have more while others had less, perhaps even to the point of losing the land he was given.

This is the point Jesus is making regarding teaching in parables. The text even says so explicitly (vv 10-11, Matt 13:10-11). Every man had the opportunity to hear the parable, ponder it, seek to understand it, and desire more like teaching. Those who desire to know Jesus’ teachings would seek (and find) more opportunities to hear Him and be similarly rewarded with more (cf Matt 7:7-11), while those who rejected Jesus’ teaching would eventually find themselves void of any opportunity to hear more of Jesus’ teaching because they did not truly appreciate or desire them (cf Acts 17:22-18:1). Parables were one of the ways Jesus divided the truly interested from the hangers on (cf John 6:26-27).

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