Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 13:52 (Holman) “Therefore,” He said to them, “every student of Scripture instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who brings out of his storeroom what is new and what is old.”
Jesus predicted the Twelve would become good students and generous landowners. If needed, Jesus never hesitated to chide His followers for their lack of faith, and slowness to learn, but in our text He gave them a positive glimpse of what they would accomplish. He was expecting tall accomplishments from them.
The Twelve did not disappoint Him. By fulfilling Jesus’ expectations of them, they became wonderful role models for later believers to follow. Our text, through the filter of the Twelve, urges us to do well in two areas they did well in.
One, excel as students. The Disciples did not fully understand God’s ways at first, but Jesus knew someday they would. As kingdom citizens, they knew their duty was to invest their minds in learning the ways of God’s government.
Loyal Christ-followers are always humbly learning, ever seeking to know more. In the first and greatest command, Jesus ordered us to love God with all our heart, soul, strength, and also with our mind. Ignorance is not a spiritual gift.
Successful Christians have always loved digging into the truths of God. When we talk about studying the Kingdom, we mean more than book learning.
Bible study is certainly critical, but the real object of our thirst for learning is not to become a repository of information, but a reservoir of responsive love.
We learn mainly to love Jesus and others better. The main lesson of the Kingdom is, there is a King! A King to know ever more fully, and to love ever more deeply. The second lesson is others. People matter to God, and should to us.
If loving Jesus and others better ceases to be our motive, learning becomes pedantic, dull, rote. A preacher or teacher can slip into coming to Scripture only to find a jumping-off-point for the next lesson. In seminary my brain was engulfed in Bible study, but my spirit was starving. The Bible is meant to be enjoyed by us way down deep, to be taken into our innermost parts.
Let me illustrate this from my love for Granny Smith apples. I have learned a vital truth about them. Reading about Granny Smiths and studying them does not bless me. To benefit me, they have to be ingested. When I bite into one, I am thrilled. (When God thought of a Granny Smith apple, it was a good day.)
Too many err by not basking in God’s spiritual provision for us. They never try to dig in, to apply to themselves the tenets of our faith. Christianity can never improve us until we take it in deep. To embrace a teaching is the only way to know it. It’s hard to forget a truth that’s been branded in us with a hot iron.
Live in the Bible. Pray without ceasing. Be in church every Sunday. Be in a small group. (When God thought of the spiritual disciplines, it was a good day.)
Beware detached spirituality. Some believers can’t read their Bibles and stay awake. Stand up, walk while you read, plead for God to make the verses live.
Some can’t pray without slipping into mechanically repeated phrases. They somewhere forgot how to come before God as a lowly sinner, miserable, in need of forgiveness, or as a humble learner, desperate, who craves to know God better, or as a lover, passionate, who pants after the living God.
Becoming a good student requires us to learn it, live it, love it. Thus the question, is this all there is to it, is our only duty to sit and soak? Our text says no.
Two, excel as landowners. In Jesus’ day a landowner was responsible for the entire welfare of every family member and laborer who lived on his property.
The best landowners, relishing their role as the guardian-providers, were generous with food and clothing. What they had they wanted others to have.
Good students and generous landowners are not mutually exclusive of each other. We prove we are good students by becoming generous landowners. As we are learning we should be receiving in order to give. We lay up in order to lay out.
God doesn’t like to send His benefits down a dead-end street. Why would He want to pour His blessings into a bottled-up container, where only one will benefit, when He can as easily funnel it to one person who’ll channel it to many?
What we receive must be multiplied, shared, passed on. “Many are full, but they have no vent; have a talent, but they bury it” (Henry). This is wrong. We are to light other candles with our candle; this enriches others without diminishing us.
If the key to being a good student is passion for learning, the key to being a generous landowner is thorough ingathering. A landowner can distribute to his family and laborers only to the extent his storeroom is stockpiled and supplied.
The same is true of believers. We can bless others only to the extent our inner spiritual storeroom is filled. If we are satisfied to live a shallow Christian life, our lack of depth cheats God, others, and us. To serve God right, bless others, and help ourselves as we should, requires keeping our inner reserves replenished.
Fullness and abundance are required underneath. Even in our intimate holy walk before God, it’s not about us primarily. First, it’s about God; He is worthy. Second, it’s about others. They desperately need to be spiritually enriched by us.
Stay spiritually full. For a lamp, oil in the wick isn’t as important as oil in the vessel. The former sparks a short flash; the latter fuels a long lasting flame.
Wealth is defined not by coins in our pockets, but by deposits we have in a bank. To live, we must have air in not only the nose, but also the lungs.
Don’t live a shallow life. We owe God, others, and ourselves much better. Ever be an overflowing benediction. Refuse to let yourself be spiritually drained.
Be a generous landowner. Bring from our spiritual barns supplies new and old. New as in this year’s harvest, lessons applied to people where they live today. Old as in last year’s crop, rooted in the unchanging, unfailing Scriptures of God.
We need Bible truth breathed into living forms. Beware presenting the old without the new. Know Israel’s archaeology but don’t neglect today’s USA needs.
Don’t present the new without the old. Don’t discard the Bible. It’s old but dependable. Truth is eternal. Facts remain. Bethlehem and Calvary will always be the center of all worthwhile learning. Stay tethered to the Bible, or we’ll leave people adrift in a swamp of human opinion, rather than anchored in bedrock truth.
Know the old; be a student concentrating on vital learning. Sense the new; be a landowner focusing on people. Look around us. Do we see people every day who desperately need a new chance based on an old blessing we have, but take for granted? Parent, spouse, sibling, child, mail man, store clerk, fellow worker? Do we bless them spiritually? Do we have in us reserves necessary to be a spiritual factor in their lives? Are we doing anything to nudge them closer to God?