Measuring Generosity

Jesus says in Luke 6:38: “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.” This imagery of measurement describes the mercy of God toward us and consequently the mercy we are called to show to one another.

Good measure begins with an accurate measurement. The Scriptures frequently condemn false measures as a sign of ungodliness. Leviticus 19:35-36 declares that all measurements shall be just, because “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.” To deal falsely with someone else even from the very beginning is a sign of lovelessness, and thus also a sign that one is not of God.

Pressed down, because a fair and just measure sometimes means pressing down to remove all gaps and spaces, like brown sugar being packed into a measuring cup. Shaken together describes the same motive, like shaking a bag to make the material settle into it. It is not a begrudging attitude, one that seeks to give only under compulsion, but striving to meet the need of the other person to the fullest. It is the same commandment as leaving the edge of the field for the poor (Leviticus 23:22) or taking a small amount of your neighbor’s crop into your own hand but not the bag (Deuteronomy 23:24-25). What you have been given comes from God, not your own hand or your own labor, and what has been given is meant to be given in service of your neighbor. Give then, not begrudgingly, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Running over, because God’s mercy is not limited. Instead of merely the amount needed, God gives far more than we can think or ask. Would you look with envy on your neighbor, forgetting the manifold blessings God has given to you even this single day? Does He not make His sun to rise on the just and on the evil? Christ Himself gave not a single drop of His blood, which alone would have been enough to cover the world’s sins, but a rich fountain which knows no end. After measuring out our neighbor’s needs, let us also pour on still more without compulsion or envy.

The measurement you use will be measured back to you. If you, like Israel, want to disobey the Lord’s commandments even in His blessings, will not your efforts breed worms and stink? Yet if we measure with an omer, will we not have our daily needs met? God’s blessings will rest on those who show mercy as He shows mercy to us. Let us lift each other up generously, measuring out our neighbor’s needs and adding still more besides.