“give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap.” (Luke 6:38a ESV)
I have often read this verse in light of giving an offering to the Lord. This is only a partial verse. Even when reading the whole verse: “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”, you can still see it as a verse speaking of your offering to the Lord. However, the verse needs to be placed into its proper context. To do that, you have to read the surrounding verses:
“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.” (Luke 6:37-38 ESV)
This portion of scripture discusses how we should treat each other.
Like anyone else, I have both good qualities and bad qualities. I find that my good qualities are often overlooked as I display the bad qualities. For example, I can be a very judgmental person. Without actually meeting someone, I find that I am summing them up by considering just their outward appearance. This scripture tells us not to do that. It starts off telling us not to judge or condemn someone. Then it tells us to forgive, and we will be forgiven. I believe that there are two levels to this. When we forgive someone, then that opens the door for others to forgive us. It also allows God to forgive us.
“For if you forgive others when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matt. 6:14-15 TNIV). These are very powerful verses. Our ability to be forgiven is determined by how we forgive or don’t forgive.
Jesus tells His disciples the parable of the unmerciful servant. Basically, a king wanted to settle the accounts of his servants. One particular servant owed him 10,000 talents millions of dollars). Because this servant could not pay, the king was going to sell everything the man had, including his wife and children, in order to pay the debt. The servant begs for mercy, so the king cancels the debt. Then the servant goes and sees another servant who owed him 100 denarii (a few bucks). This man also begs for mercy, but was thrown into prison until he could pay his debt. The king found out, and called that servant in. “Then summoning him, his lord said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’ And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him.” (Matt. 18:32-34 NASB).
Then we get to the text about giving. This does not tell us what to give, or even to give. Instead it tells us that if we give, we will also be given to, “Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over.” These were phrases to describe the way dry goods were measured.
In the Old Testament, the Israelites were told to not gather their crops from the whole field. The very edges were to be left. This is where the needy would come and collect whatever was left. Imagine the way that they would have filled their sacks. They could have just filled them, and moved on. But to ensure they got the most out of their gleaning, when the sack was full, they would press it down, and shake the bag in order to have more room for crops. They would do this until the bag was so full, it was overflowing. This is the way we will receive.
Before getting too excited, this passage does not say what to give or receive. It simply says that when you give, you will receive. It also says that the measurement you use is the same measurement to be used coming back to you. So, when you give to help others, it will come back to you in heaps, the same way in which you measure it out. But this coin has two sides. When you give out anger, hatred, judgment, etc., it will be returned to you in “good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over.” In other words, we will be paid back good for good, and bad for bad. If I am going to have anything given to me in good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, I want it to be something good, not bad. However, that is dependent on what I am giving out in the first place.
When I was 12 years old, I attended a junior high youth camp. The preacher at this particular camp was a man named John Collins. 30 years later, and I don’t remember much of what he said, but I do remember him telling us, “The highest expression of your spirituality is not your relationship with God; it is your relationship with each other.” How we treat each other reflects our relationship with Jesus.