In Scripture, there is only one interpretation per verse, and that interpretation is based on the context of the verse. While a verse might have many applications, there is always one interpretation. 

Therefore, when we read the Bible, we must be careful to not assume that if the same thing is said in one place, it can be interpreted elsewhere in the same way. Especially if the context is different. Although the interpretation might differ between two verses, the application can be the same. For example, consider this verse from Mark 4.

“Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.”

Mark 4:25 (NIV)

Jesus says something similar to this elsewhere.

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 13:12 (NIV)

For 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 25:29 (NIV)

“Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them.”

Luke 8:18 (NIV)

We might be tempted to presume that since there are four different Gospel accounts, what we’re reading from one account is the same in another. We would be mistaken if we did this without first reviewing the context. 

Consider Matthew 13:12 and Matthew 25:29 above, which are from the same Gospel account. Does Matthew repeat the same incident? No, he doesn’t. Therefore, we must examine the context of Matthew 13:12 and Matthew 25:29 to ensure the interpretation is the same before we assume it is. 

In Matthew 13:12, Jesus is answering a question. 

The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”

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 13:10-12 (NIV)

Therefore, the context of Matthew 13:12 relates to the parable of the Sower and why Jesus teaches in parables. What is the context of Matthew 25:29?

Matthew 25:29 takes place within the parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), which follows the parable of the Ten Virgins, which relates to Matthew 24, where Jesus talks about the end times and being prepared for it. 

As you can see, the context between Matthew 13:12 and Matthew 25:29 is very different. 

In Matthew 13:12, Jesus told the disciples to share the wisdom he had revealed to them with others. Therefore, the subject of Matthew 13:12 is knowledge and understanding, so Jesus is telling the disciples to share what they have learned, and they will be given more. However, if they don’t share what they know, what they have learned will eventually be taken away. What we might call the “use it or lose it” principle. 

Amid a parable on hoarding wealth or spending it to further the master who gave out the wealth, we see the same principle. However, the interpretation is different because the context is different. It might seem like splitting hairs since the idea is the same. Use the wealth God gives you to further his Kingdom, and more wealth will be given to you. If you don’t use it, it will be taken away. However, in Matthew 25, God takes wealth forcibly away. Thus, this interpretation enhances the principle that if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it by revealing that what you have might be taken away from you by something other than time. Had we assumed the two verses “meant” the same thing, we might have missed the more important message of the two and the application. 

If we examine Matthew 13:12 and Matthew 25:29 in light of the other places where we see something similar said (Mark 4:25 and Luke 8:18), we will notice a connection between Matthew 13:12, Mark 4:25, and Luke 8:18. Each verse is used within the context of the parable of the Sower. Indeed, this verse is part of the answer to why Jesus teaches in parables in each context. Thus, we might conclude that the interpretation of Matthew 13:12, Mark 4:25, and Luke 8:18 is the same, and we would be correct.

However, we should avoid jumping to this conclusion because of these two verses.

He said to them, “Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand?

Mark 4:21 (NIV)

“No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.

Luke 8:16 (NIV)

The context of these two verses is the same. They come right after Jesus explains the parable of the Sower and why he teaches in parables. Therefore, the interpretation is the same. However, in the sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives us this insight. 

Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.

Matthew 5:15 (NIV)

It seems Jesus is saying the same thing in Mark 4:21, Luke 8:16, and Matthew 5:15, right? When you have a light, you don’t cover it up. Instead, you put it where it can be beneficial. This interpretation is correct, but what does it tell us? What is the light, and why don’t we cover it up? 

For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open.

Mark 4:22 (NIV)

For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.

Luke 8:17 (NIV)

It’s clear from the context of Mark 4:22 and Luke 8:17 that the light is the knowledge and understanding given by God to the disciples. However, what is the light in Matthew 5:15?

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden (emphasis added).

Matthew 5:14 (NIV)

We are the light! Indeed, within the context, it’s everyone Jesus was preaching to on the mount. However, as Christians, we are also light. Since we are the light he speaks of in Matthew 5:14, what does Jesus tell us about the light? Verse 15 says we’re not to keep ourselves hidden, and verse 16 tells us why. 

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven (emphasis added).

Matthew 5:16 (NIV)

We can see that the light, then, is very different between Mark 4:22, Luke 8:17, and Matthew 5:15. The light in Mark and Luke, as we have seen, is wisdom, knowledge, and understanding, which can lead to people knowing more about the Lord and being saved. While we are light in Matthew 5:15 and through the gospel’s transformative work, we do God’s work. Therefore people will recognize we are from God and glorify him. Different interpretations with similar applications. 

Why is it important to know the difference between Mark 4:22, Luke 8:17, and Matthew 5:15 or anywhere else in Scripture where it appears as if the same thing is said, but the context might be different? 

In Mark 4:22 and Luke 8:17, there’s an expectation that you (the reader) have learned something and that you have to do something with what you’ve learned. Consider those who might not realize they’ve learned something or could otherwise feel inadequate to share what they’ve learned? Compare that to the fact that, as a Christian, you are different. You have the Holy Spirit dwelling within! All you have to do to share the Gospel message is be the person you are now in Christ! Because you have the Holy Spirit, people will notice. 

Not everyone goes out to share the Gospel message. If they did, the world would be different. However, when someone asks you, “Why?” Why are you different? Why aren’t you afraid of COVID? Aren’t you worried about your job? Why aren’t you stressed out by your situation? Or any other number of questions about your life that is different because of Christ in you, you can point to God and then share what you’ve learned. 

Therefore, when we read Scripture, we must be careful not to assume that two verses mean the same thing because they seem identical. If we do, we could miss out on something valuable. 

Do you know God? God knows you, and he loves you. He sees you as significant because you are. No one is insignificant to Him. He’s with you today, and he wants you to know him. Jesus died for your sins and mine so we could be free of guilt, freed from death, and live eternally with him. Eternal salvation is just a prayer away.

Pray this prayer with me to accept the gift of salvation:

Lord Jesus, forgive me for all my sins. I repent from my ways. Wash me in your blood and cleanse me from all unrighteousness. I believe that you died on the cross, were buried, and on the third day, God the Father raised you from the dead. Right now, Lord Jesus, I open the door to my heart and receive you into my heart as my Lord and personal Savior. Amen.

If you prayed that prayer, then congratulations! You are on the first step of a brand new life. Allow me to be the first to welcome you to my family, the family of God. There are abundant resources available online for new Christians. You can visit here for more information on what to do next. You can also leave me a comment, and I’ll do my best to help you on the next step of this incredible journey.