Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear. (Matthew 11:11-15 ESV)
One of the things that Jesus taught was having ears to hear, a euphemism meaning to hear to the point of truly understanding and following through on what was said. In the above verses Jesus talks about John the Baptist, and compares him to Elijah, one of the most powerful prophets in the Old Testament. Jesus was especially critical in this section because of the People’s response to John’s message:
“But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.” Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. (Matthew 11:16-20 ESV)
Here we see that Jesus is talking about how so many people do not really listen. Remember a lot of these people Jesus talks about as not listening were religious people, people who thought they were righteous and following God because they were continuing in the tradition of their church (synagogue). When John the Baptist spoke many of these people, religious or not, said that he had a devil because he did things like fasting and living in the desert. And when Jesus spoke, because he “wined and dined” with people, many people said that he was a glutton and a drunkard. This is an interesting way of saying that people, even people who look like good, churchgoing folks, will find a reason not to listen to you, and pick fault with whatever your manner of life is.
But the point of this lesson is to not be one of those people that doesn’t hear the wisdom of God when it is spoken. The end result of that mistake are some pretty bad things:
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.” (Matthew 11:21-24 ESV)
This is as serious a condemnation as Jesus makes. He says that the people of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum are going to be more severely judged than those of Sodom. And we know what happened to the people of Sodom, it is as famous a tragedy worldwide as anything in the literature or history.
Another place that Jesus preaches the “he who has ears to hear” principle is in regard to the parable of the sower. Here we have good teaching taught to many people, and again there are many people who do not bring forth the fruit of the teaching. Some people don’t hear it all because there isn’t much in them to begin with. Other people hear initially, but because of all the rocks and thorns and thistles in their life they lose what they hear. Then there are those that are fertile ground, and are able to hold onto what grows, and those are the long-term winners.
Part of the problem that goes on here is the idea of mindsets. The principle of “mindsets” is actually a good thing. A mindset is a group of principles, axioms, and ideas that become firmly established in a person or group of people.
Mindsets can be good or bad. Some cultures have (had) the mindset that human sacrifice is necessary in order to have good fortune of this life. In olden times many a baby was sacrificed in order that there might be a fertile crop, or a good growing season. In modern times, some say that abortion is just a continuation of this ideal where women sacrifice the inconvenience of having to raise a baby in order to have a better life. Whether abortion is acceptable or not illustrates the point of different mindsets.
Modern mindsets can include the ideas that it is important to have a strong central government that regulates crime, and safeguards a marketplace that enables prosperity.
In other words, mindsets, in of themselves, are neutral. So, if they are neutral, what needs to take place if the mindset of the group of people is to be truly healthy?
There needs to be a willingness to ferret out the best ideals, while at the same time, a strong commitment is made to maintaining those ideals. You need both. If all you’re doing is constantly seeking out the best new idea then you can literally just go from one camp to the next without ever being in one place long enough for things to take root. On the other hand if all you do is stubbornly adhere to what you or the group you belong to says is the way to go, then you may just be stuck in a stubborn mindset that is really not the best, or even a long-term disaster.
Paul wrote about sticking to a mindset when he wrote about being steadfast and unmovable:
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not vain in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 15:58 ASV)
if so be that ye continue in the faith, grounded and stedfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel which ye heard, which was preached in all creation under heaven; whereof I Paul was made a minister. (Colossians 1:23 ASV)
It’s important that we get the right mindset and stick to it. But it’s got a be the right mindset which is referred to here as “the hope of the gospel”.
I ran across the negative side of mindsets in a crossword puzzle where the clue related to the concept of idée fixe. Idée fixe is really a psychological term with negative implications. Someone who has an idée fixe is really obsessed with us some ideas that are harmful to them. Idée fixe is the extreme negative mindset. It goes to show you that as useful as mindsets are in adhering to good ideas they can be a runaway trains when it comes to negative ones.
What I would like to propose to you is that what a lot of people think are the basic tenets of the Christian faith are really negative mindsets. If that were not true there wouldn’t be so many arguments as shown on this website over so many issues where people have abandoned fellowship with each other, and even killed each other over doctrines of faith.
Sure, it’s easy to see that somebody in a cult like the Jim Jones fiasco has an idée fixe. Or even those that advocate that it was (is) okay for Christians to kill Christians over issues like infant baptism or the Trinity. But don’t the incredible disagreements over so many doctrines like biblical inerrancy, the right form of church government, end times theology, whether the gifts have ceased, the role of women as leaders, and even less powerful, but still controversial issues such as whether or not it’s acceptable to drink alcohol, whether tithing is still required or not, whether Genesis 1 was a literal 168 hour period or not, or that the KJV is the perfect, literal word of God are just some of the illustrations that show that there have got to be a lot of faulty mindsets in churches everywhere.
All of these matters point to the fact that modern-day Christianity is not original Christianity.
The law, the prophets, the Psalms, the teachings of Jesus, these are the elements of Christianity that we really have in common. They are the foundation of original Christianity.
And in that regard, as our Savior Jesus taught, “he who has ears to hear, let him hear”.
© copyright 2012-20 Mark W Smith, all rights reserved.