The Fair Measure

‘Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.’
He also told them this parable: ‘Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit? The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.
Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.’
Luke 6:37-42

I know that the readers of this are from many different countries. But I can tell you that in my own country of England, nearly everything is sold already packaged. You need to trust the volume or weight that is stated on the packaging. But in the country I spend the much of the year, many things are not already packaged and you ask for a certain weight or a certain volume. In this case, you have to trust that the balance is not ‘rigged’ to show a greater weight than true (to increase the trader’s profit by deceptive means). And you have to trust that the volume markings are true, and not less than actual, so that you are not deceived into buying less than the actual amount.

Many things can be sold by volume, or even if they are sold pre-packed, there will be an explanation why the volume seems less than expected in the bottle or tin. There can be words like ‘contents may settle in transportation.’ And this is true.

Have you ever tried to refill a coffee jar with one of those economy plastic bags that are becoming increasingly popular for economically restocking your coffee? The weight stated on the packet may even be a bit more than the weight of coffee in the original jar.

You probably know the technique that is needed to be used, and it is spoken of in verse 38. You fill the jar, but you still have more in the packet. But you don’t just put a tie on the packet and the lid on the jar and put up with the inconvenience – because there is more work to do that will solve the problem. First you put the lid on the jar and then you bang it several times on the worktop (not too hard – you don’t want to break the jar). This causes the contents to ‘settle’ and now you notice that there is plenty more room in the jar for more contents. So you fill again and repeat again if necessary. If you still have some left in the packet after doing this two or three times, then there is another technique you can use. You can take a broad stick with a flat end, that just fits through the neck of the jar, and use this to press down on the coffee in the jar. I guarantee that you will find a lot more room this way! And so you can finally empty that refill packet completely into the jar.

But now imagine that you are in a public bazaar or market and you are buying something by volume. You want to know that your purchase is fair, that you get your full money’s worth. If you are a local and become familiar with the market, then you will know the different techniques of the different stallholders. Some will have a measure, quickly fill it and, almost before you have had the time to notice if it is properly full or not, will be pouring out the measure into your bag to take home. Others will almost fill the measure, then bang it down a few times to settle the contents. After that they refill and repeat until the measure is reached. You begin to know that some stallholders will repeat this process more than others, and so which stallholders give a better value for your money. Others still will add pressing down the contents as well as banging the measure. And these give just about the best value for money. And the most diligent will not only shake the contents and press them down, but keep on adding until the measure is overflowing. That is the stallholder that you most want to buy from!

This is exactly what is being spoken of in verse 38 of our reading. It is about having a full, complete, accurate and fair measure. And this is in the context of judging. And I have to ask, when others judge you, have they been accurate? Have they been fair? About the specific thing criticised, maybe they have been fair – but is this really the ‘whole’ you? I would say that, to be fair, it is never right to criticise anything unless you also praise the good things about a person. And people are too lazy to do that because, by the time a fair amount of praise has been given for all the good things, the detail of criticism is really so inconsequential by comparison.

But, you may think, that one thing is not so inconsequential – because that person is gay, or that person is a thief.

My answer to this is something that I have said before. These feelings that one sin is more gross than another is from human sensibilities and logic. We are told in scripture that you can keep the whole law, but fail once in the ‘least significant’ and you have failed as though you never kept any of the commandments. So you are wearing clothes made of different fibres and materials? Then you have failed god just as much as if you are gay, or a thief, or a murderer. You are equally guilty as they are, and just as likely to face the fires of hell.

And here is the thing. If you tell another person that they face hell, then the Lord will give to you the full measure of what you want for them. Shaken down, pressed together, and overflowing into your lap. And you will have no cause for complaint about this, because Jesus warned you right here.

Still eager to tell that brother or sister that they are on the way to hell?

Yes, there is a hell. And actually the New Testament is one of the worst places to learn about it, because examples are given according to the culture and common knowledge of the time. It was to help people of the time and place gain a better understanding of the seriousness, but is much more related to the Roman/Greek religion, which was widely understood even by those who were not a part of that religion (remember that the Holy Land had been under Greek rule for many years, and until freedom was achieved with the help of the Maccabites. But Greeks continued in the land even after this. So these concepts were very familiar to all Jews at the time of Christ, and, of course, across the Roman Empire. And the descriptions of the Greek hell are one and the same with many descriptions in the New Testament).

But even knowing this, the fact that they were teaching about hell at all means that it is real and that it is not where we wish to be for all eternity. The warnings are many and often. But the warnings are not given with direct reference to any individuals who were struggling with this or that sin. And that is how it should be for us also. Because otherwise the Lord has promised to give judgement on us in full measure, shaken together, pressed down, and running over into our lap – to exactly the measure we declared for our brother or sister.

Isn’t this rather different from the ‘prosperity’ message that is most often used about this verse in recent years! And it is also, by implication, a warning to give the proper measure of love and care to our brothers and sisters, lest we fall into the sin of Sodom as described by Ezekiel 16:49. Because even by what we fail to do in this care and love to others, the same will be measured to us, shaken together, pressed down, and overflowing into our lap.

And this links also directly to the Beatitudes as quoted by Luke:

‘woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you…’

Honestly, for me the message could not be more clear. And it has absolutely nothing to do with the ‘prosperity gospel.’

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