There are over 100 references in the New Testament to the necessity of having ears that will hear the message of the Scriptures. Some address the terrible results of not listening to what God has said. From his prison cell, Paul even told Timothy that “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). The majority of passages, however, stress the benefits of hearing the message that has been recorded, promising that the more one listens, the more one will understand Kingdom principles.
Two vivid illustrations from our Lord’s teaching speak to the way eternal truths are received in the world: the Parable of the Sower and the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares (Matthew 13; Mark 4; Luke 8). The illustration of the sower identifies the seed as “the word” and gives us the picture of how we can expect the word to be received when it is “sown” throughout the world. Sometimes the word is not understood (Matthew 13:19), and Satan comes immediately (Mark 4:15) and “takes away the word out of their hearts” (Luke 8:12). Clearly, some hearts will not be receptive to the truths of Scripture; their ears will not hear.
The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares speaks to this same issue from God’s perspective. The Son of Man sows “sons of the kingdom,” and the devil sows “sons of the wicked one” (Matthew 13:37-39). Apparently, even the angels of God are unable to tell the difference (Matthew 13:28-29). They are told to wait and let them grow together until the end of the age before they are authorized to gather “those who practice lawlessness” out of His Kingdom and “cast them into the furnace of fire” (Matthew 13:39-42). Evidently, there are those among the children of the Kingdom who are mistaken for “ministers of righteousness” (2 Corinthians 11:15).
There are also some who respond to the word and “immediately receive it with gladness” (Mark 4:16). However, that immediate “joy” (Luke 8:13) fades when “tribulation or persecution arises because of the word,” and they stumble (Matthew 13:21). Many pastors can affirm this disappointing reaction among those who initially seem to respond to the gospel but soon disappear or fall away from what they once embraced. The Bible tells us that once these ears have heard but later reject what they knew to be true, they cannot be rededicated to what they have spurned (Hebrews 6:4-6; 2 Peter 2:20-22).
Perhaps the most important principle we can gain from these parables is that some people (perhaps even the majority) will not respond to God’s Word—no matter how often they hear or how much they have experienced. Our job is to be His spokespersons, but some ears are shut tight.