He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 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 13:11-12)

What does it mean by that?

  • 4
    Can you be more specific about which part you are asking? Are you interested in the meaning of the secretes of the kingdom being disclosed to only a few or are you interested in the last verse? – Narnian Mar 11 '13 at 12:21
  • bible.cc/matthew/13-11.htm – Mawia Mar 11 '13 at 13:37
  • Should be on Biblical Hermeneutics. – DJClayworth Mar 11 '13 at 16:11
  • @DJClayworth I suspect this user is expecting something in the latest stages of exegesis, more towards application than resolution of a textual issue. I don't see a question here specific enough to be a productive starting point for BH to dig into. – Caleb Mar 13 '13 at 12:06
  • What do you by "it" and what do you mean by "that" in "What does it mean by that?" This question is very unclear. – ThaddeusB Sep 20 '15 at 1:28

The basic idea is that when Jesus spoke in parables, they were great in drawing people with open hearts to him while driving those with hard hearts into deep confusion. Parables were a common mode of teaching among the Rabbis, but Christ used them in such a way that heaven shined down upon the most mundane every day practices of life. He also used them almost exclusively, which was not normal at all. Especially the more people began to reject him, the more he spoke strictly in parables and his parables took a greater tone of warning. They were deeply illuminating to the heart open to God. They were foolish nonsense, provoking mad frustration to those hard of heart. Therefore, they had a winnowing effect. They divided people. Some were left asking questions, seeking and knocking, others left stumbling and cursing questions.

In general, Christ's parables spoke about the nature of his kingdom. How one was in it, or not, based on their nature, which would eventually show itself good or bad. Everything was about the nature of a person, not their works, but a good nature would grow up good, and a bad nature grow up bad. To enter into this kingdom of life, one had to believe in Christ, receive his seed, believe his word and be a new creature. In the end, the bad creatures, weeds, fish, would be tossed, burned, weep and gnash their teeth, etc. The good creatures by virtue of their being in the kingdom, would be congratulated, rewarded, etc. The language was vague enough to confuse anyone who was self righteous not knowing they needed faith and re-birth, but anyone who longed for forgiveness and felt the strings of their heart moved and warmed by Him whose words were eternal life, the same were drawn in.

We can see this play out as when Christ started to say things hard to understand and receive, such as the need 'to eat his flesh', it was too much for many and they left him. The disciples were also confused but their hearts were drawn in and they could not leave him.

From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. (John 6:66-68, NIV)

The same thing is at play when Jesus spoke to a religious leader who seems a bit on the fence between having what he had taken away, or entering into what he had being multiplied into new eternal rebirth:

Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again. ’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. (John 3:6-9, NIV)

Again Jesu spoke to a woman at a well who is on the fence and being drawn in. Jesus implies that what she has will be multiplied into living waters of new eternal life:

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14, NIV)

In other words that which was a blessing to those open to God became judicial in judgment to those who were not open to God. Like a magical filter his parables bought his sheep into the gate, and closed it in confusion to those who were not his sheep. His sheep were introduced into the gospel obtaining an eternal new birth. His enemies had no idea of anything he said and thought it was just meaningless babel. Even the form of knowledge they had of God was taken away when rejecting Christ, leaving them to cross their eyes is utter confusion.

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Was just reading the similar verse in Luke and was drawn into it too...

For I say unto you, That unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him. (Luke 19:26, KJV)

The Luke version appears to add some helpful context, so I suggest reading that chapter. A few directions that seemed to have some sort of foundation...

  • The Luke version of the verse comes at the end of parable about the stewardship the nobleman's servants choose while he was away. 10 servants are all given the same amount of money. When the nobleman returns, he asks what has been done with it. One man traded diligently and turned it into 10. Another turned it into 5. But one stashed it away in fear of the nobleman. At the end, the coin he had kept is taken away from him and given to the one who gained up to 10.

    So one thought that comes forward to me is that it may relate to courage\faith\understanding.

    Because the descriptions in Luke emphasize that the servant did nothing because of his fear. A fear of the nobleman as much as anything. Because he is "austere" and productive. Those who had faith went out and used it and got more. Those who didn't lost what they they had. Understanding is a bigger picture that may fit because understanding is centered upon fear of the Lord (e.g. Prov 1:7)... which would then really put the Matthew 13:12 into more context coming from:

And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? 11He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. (Mat 13:10-11, KJV)

  • A second avenue of consideration comes from the words introducing the whole parable...

    And as they heard these things, he added and spake a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear. (Luke 19:11)

    The parable in Luke suggests that the nobleman expected gains from trading. And his criticism was that the servant could have at least gotten some gain just by putting it in the bank.

    Because His point here is that the Kingdom isn't immediately coming, it follows that this is a message to them of what they should be doing going forward. Not keeping their light hidden, but going forth in service and evangelism as He had displayed to them. That being fully happy to sit on one's faith feeling secure suggests maybe one doesn't have the faith in Jesus\God, the repentance of putting oneself first, that such faith would be.

  • A third connection may start in the situation just before the parable in Luke 19, and may have motivated it. Zacchaeus the tax collector was rich.

    And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. (Luke 19:7, KJV)

    And this is given just after Luke 18:18-27, where Jesus speaks of how very hard it is for the rich people to enter Heaven, being harder than passing a camel through the eye of a needle. So could this verse\parable also serve to remind us not to look on men by what they have, but by who they are? That we must be careful not to judge men by their appearance, by who they are financially, but by what they do. If nothing else, a reminder at least that men of any class can be saved, and does deserve real effort from believers as well. And in Matthew 13:8, it does echo some of the same leadin, saying some brought forth an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.

  • And one final connection that really catches me perhaps most...the idea that if you fight to hold onto what you cannot keep (your life), you lose even it. If you give up your life to Him, then you life a life with purpose now, and life everlasting to come. I believe Paul or Peter says something very similar to this in one of their letters, but I cannot find it unfortunately.

    The servant thinks he has held onto something. He has, by his reasoning, seemingly made himself safe from failure. But he held onto what was never his to begin with (the coin that the nobleman had given him, in the Luke verse). Echoed in the verse

    For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. (Mat 16:25, KJV)

Of the four, the riches connection perhaps makes me the most unsettled. The support noted in Matthew doesn't seem solid, and nothing else in the surrounding context there seems to supports it. But maybe the failing is on me to be secured in the message of not judging by appearance that is certainly given other places in the Bible (James 2, John 7, Luke 15, etc). But, all four messages seem to have some support to them. And perhaps tie together in the end. But, regardless, I hope I didn't detour your question too much, haven't ENTIRELY talked your ears off, and have added some helpful thoughts. Thanks for your time :-)

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