The Word's Christian Fellowship, Inc.
#106 Pay Attention                                                                                            April 6, 2014 

An idiom or idiomatic expression is a word or expression that has a figurative meaning among a group of people who speak a common language and share a common culture.  People outside of the culture in which the idiom is used, even though they perhaps speak the language, might not understand the idiom or idiomatic expression.

There is an idiom or idiomatic expression we’ve all heard and used.  It’s the phrase, “Pay attention!”  How do we literally do that?  Do we keep “attention” in our wallets?  If we only have large bills of “attention,” will we get change back if we’re owed some after we do pay?  Most importantly, what do we receive when we “pay attention?” 

“Pay attention” cannot be taken literally.  It has a figurative meaning.  It’s an idiom.  It can literally mean to concentrate or to focus your attention, as in, “Pay attention while you’re driving.”  It can also mean to listen carefully so that you can understand and apply the information, as in, “Pay attention now, I’m going to explain this to you so you’ll understand.”  Perhaps you’ve used the idiom or heard it used in a conditional sense, such as, “If you’re interested, pay attention.”

There is a similar idiom to our “pay attention” that the Lord Jesus Christ used at times during his earthly ministry:
“If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.”
One of the times he used the idiom is recorded in Mark’s Gospel.

Mark 7:14-16:
14  And when he had called all the people unto him, he said unto them, Hearken unto me every one of you, and understand:
15  There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man.
16  If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.

Isn’t that revealing?  At the beginning of what Jesus Christ explained, he spoke literally: “Hearken unto me every one of you, and understand.”  Following what he explained in verse fifteen, he emphasized the importance of “hearkening” and “understanding” by way of the idiom. He said, “If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.”

This idiom may sound strange to our ears but Jesus Christ understood it.  The people he was speaking to understood it as well.  Notice what happens next in this record from Mark’s Gospel.

Mark 7:17:  And when he was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked him concerning the parable.

They didn’t ask about the idiom that he used that we have recorded in verse 16 in our Bibles, but about the parable of verse 15, “There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man.”

Jesus Christ began to explain the parable in verse 18.

Mark 7:18:  And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him;

The disciples didn’t understand the parable, but isn’t it wonderful that they wanted to understand? They understood the importance of the parable and the importance of understanding it because of what Jesus Christ had first said literally, “Hearken unto me every one of you, and understand.”  They also recognized the importance of understanding it because he’d given it emphasis by way of the idiomatic expression, “If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.”

There’s nothing strange about the idiom, no more so than if Jesus Christ had said at the beginning of the parable,
“Listen carefully so you understand this,” and then at the end, “If you’re interested, pay attention and understand.” 

Like the disciples, if we’re interested in the Truth of God’s Word, if we want to understand God’s Will, if we have ears to hear then we ought to hear, or to use a more modern idiom, we ought to -- pay attention -- to God’s Word.

©  Stephen A. Harrison,  The Word’s Christian Fellowship, Inc.  4415 Yank Road  Wilson, NC 27893