A “Good Measure” Will Be Put Where Now?
Have you ever read this verse?
Luke 6:38, ESV
“Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
Okay, so have you ever wondered: “Yeah, that’s nice. But, um, bad stuff still happens to me”?
Yeah, me too.
So, good is supposed to come back to us. Well, that doesn’t seem to be happening here.
People often subscribe to a direct correlation here when there isn’t one. We are mistaken if we think:
I “do good” to this person = they “do good” to me;
I “do a good deed” = I shouldn’t get in that traffic accident.
See, that is human thinking. And I get it because I think along the same lines. But here is what Christ is actually saying in this verse. Let’s put it in context (because context is everything!).
Luke 6:27-38, ESV
But I say to you who hear, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. "If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. "Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you."
Jesus is talking to His freshly chosen disciples and a great crowd of people who came to be “healed of their diseases” (Luke 6:18) in this passage.
He is preaching grace along with law and letting the people know that judgment belongs to God alone. This passage is helpful on several levels and topics, but for today, let’s focus on the importance of taking the high road and tending to our own character. It’s a command, not a suggestion, and I often forget that.
It’s not simply a “good idea” to love our enemies, do good, bless, and pray. It’s an act of obedience and a choice to willfully follow God.
We often think that if we do these commands, it’s an if-then statement. But there is no “then” going on here. Just do good. End of story.
The command right after that to give to everyone who begs includes the following clause: “from one who takes away your goods.” Sounds to me like it’s a given that some people will take from us. Whether that is outright stealing or just never returning something we offered (taking advantage of us), it’s to be expected that we will experience those kinds of losses. Doing good is not tied to those incidents not happening. In fact, we are to “do good” in spite of them!
Following that, Jesus says relate to people as we want to be treated ourselves. Hmmm. That is also clearly a statement of having good character whether or not it is returned to us. It’s often not, but we are to be kind and patient anyway. The fruit of the Spirit leaves no room for otherwise:
Galatians 5:22-26, ESV
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
Jesus goes on to express that we don’t show good character by loving the lovable, being kind to those who return the favor, or lending to those who return. Even those folks without Christ can manage that. The challenge here is to do this when the doing requires the fruit of the Spirit, the reliance on God, the choice to obey His will. It is not a formula of “if I do this for God, the exact same measure of goodness from that same person/persons will come back to me.”
I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent seasons of my life tripped up by misunderstanding this.
Here’s the result of us bearing the fruit of the Spirit to those we may never see a return from. Ready?
“…your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.”
The reward given out is significant and determined and offered by God. Being “sons of the Most High” is reward enough. Why? Because when we are merciful, we reflect our perfect Father in heaven who “is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.”
Taking that further, we can and should expect ungrateful and evil responses at times. There are a few more commands in the passage before we finally get to an if-then statement:
- Expect nothing in return.
- Be merciful.
- Do not judge.
- Do not condemn.
These last four commands show a more direct correlation:
If you want this treatment from your Father, show it to others. He commands it.
But all of the commands come before the statement:
“Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
There’s the relationship: What you do comes back to you. It is being measured. There is a return. But the way in which God metes it out is up to Him. He is sovereign. There is a return, but we don’t get to control it. It doesn’t look like:
- I was nice to this jerk, so he should change his mind about me and be kind as well.
- I gave my kid’s teacher the benefit of the doubt; she should give me one now.
- I didn’t lie, so that person should be honest.
- I put good into the world, so bad things shouldn’t happen to me.
So let’s get back to where the good measure goes. It’s personal. It is determined by a loving Father in heaven, and to make sure we understand where it comes from, He goes to the trouble of dropping it into our what now?
“Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your _______.”
See, God gives it out. He brings it directly to us. Why? Because we choose to do good things through His power and following His command, and as a return, He, and only He, gives us good things. He may send them through other people, but He does the giving.
Somehow, this whole lap visual helps me remember that good begets good because God does that. It is not dependent on another person’s right or wrong response to my obedience—and that's a massive relief!
Author Bonnie Lyn Smith writes about mental health advocacy, special education, faith in the valleys of life, drawing healthy boundaries, relational healing, renewing our minds, walking with a Holy God, and much ado about grace. Join the conversation at Espressos of Faith.
She is the author of Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day and the founder and editor-in-chief of Ground Truth Press, a book publishing company.
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