I can remember exactly when I became concerned about my hearing. It was when a constant ringing in my ears manifested itself. It was the night me and my family got back from our second California vacation in 2003. In 2001 and again in 2003 (when Evan was a student at Master’s) the family drove out to California and stayed with Dan and Julie Fachner, former members of Berean. The trip was arduous. We drove straight through; 36 hours without stopping except for gas/restroom breaks. That was a total of four 36-hour legs (out and back, out and back) over the two trips.
It was at the end of the 2003 trip when we got home, something was amiss. I remember lying down in my bed at home the night we got home and hearing this ringing in my ears and realizing it was due to the road noise from the 36-hour trip. This in itself was not unusual. After all the trips I would have a few hours of “ringing” due to the noise of traveling in old “big blue”; our family 12 passenger van, which was loud. But I’d go to bed and in the morning the ringing would be gone. The trouble is, this time, the ringing never went away. Since recognized as tinnitus, my hearing, while otherwise normal, has for the last 17 years continually had the background “white noise” of the constant ringing. I don’t know how it might impact my hearing as I continue to age but it is a concern.
But of far greater concern to me is how I, my family, and the church hear spiritually. In Luke 8:18 Jesus says to his disciples, “Take care how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away”.
This admonition comes at the end of the parable of the soils (Luke 8:1-15). That parable is revealing four different kinds of “soils” or hearts (vv. 1-8) upon which the “seed” (the Word of God; the gospel v. 11) is sown. The four soils are: 1) The pathway (v. 5, 12) which was hardened by constant traffic and thus the seed never germinates 2) The rocky soil (vv. 6, 13) in which the seed germinates but cannot take “root” and thus they “believe for a while” but in a time of testing, fall away 3) the thorny soil (vv. 7, 14) where the seed germinates and begins to take root but cares and pleasures of the world choke the plant that it does not produce fruit, and 4) the good soil (vv. 8, 15) where the seed not only takes root but where it is “(held) fast in an honest and good heart, and bear(s) fruit with patience”.
Significant to this parable is Jesus’ words after the initial giving of the parable to the crowd before the exposition of it to his disciples in vv. 9-15. He says at the end of v. 8 “he who has ears to hear, let him hear”. This is common phraseology in Scripture (Deut. 29:4; Jer. 25:4; Ezek. 12:2; Mt. 11:15; Mk. 4;9; 4:23; Lk. 14:35). This term speaks of those who have been given “spiritual ears” to hear spiritual truth. Most don’t. And to them a like term with a different meaning is applied, “Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” (Isa. 6:10, c.f. Matt. 13:15; Acts 28:27). This is a pronouncement of condemnation of how spiritual truth will actually harden those who refuse to hear it.
So, you can see how spiritual hearing is vital. First it is vital to our salvation. I never want to presume that any do not need to hear truths like this simply because they are professing Christians. Of the four soils, only one is representative of a truly regenerate person; the one who is holding fast the Word in his/her heart and producing fruit in their lives. Jesus’ warning is stark and sobering in v. 18. After he warns us to take care how we hear, he gives the reason; because the one who has (by virtue of having “hearing ears”) will be given more, and from the one who has not (by virtue of unhearing ears) , even what he thinks that he has will be taken away”.
Spiritual hearing is a matter of eternal salvation. I fear there are many who “think” they have it, but don’t. If we are not hearing the Word in our lives, even what we think we have, will be taken away, in the sense that we never really had it. Hearing ears equate to being saved. Unhearing ears equates to not being saved. Can you see how important it is that we check our hearing? The way we hear, is an indication of what kind of soil we are. Paul often encourages Christians to “examine themselves” as to whether or not they are genuinely in the faith (e.g. 2 Cor. 13:5; 1 Cor. 15:1-2). A hearing check is one of the ways we do that.