“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.” – Luke 6:38 (NIV)
What does Luke 6:38 mean? Jesus teaches that we only get what we’re humble and open to receiving from God. Once we receive something from God, we only produce what we’re willing to release to other people. This is because we receive back only from what we invest in. In that sense, we reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7) and the resulting return is a good measure pressed down and overflowing in our laps.
Do you ever feel empty? If you’re a follower of Jesus, then you know that you should feel like you’re full of love, joy, peace, and all the other fruit of the Spirit. But truthfully, sometimes we just feel like we’re running on empty and we don’t have enough to get through the day.
The good news is, Jesus addressed this very issue for us thousands of years ago.
In Luke 6:38 Jesus says the now famous line, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap […]”
But what did he mean? And what’s the implication of this statement for us as his followers?
What does “good measure pressed down” mean in Luke 6:38?
To understand what Jesus meant by his statement, we need to first understand the context in which he said it.
At the time Jesus spoke these words, his ministry had officially taken off and he had become famous throughout Galilee and Judea. In fact, in Luke chapter 6, where the story takes place, we’re told that large crowds had come from all across the nation of Israel, and a portion of that crowd had taken a multi-day journey just to see Jesus.
Then we’re told in Scripture that Jesus had gone up on a mountain to pray where he spent the entire night praying before calling his disciples and choosing 12 of them to be his apostles – the ones who would lead the charge when spreading the news of Jesus.
Jesus and his disciples had come down from this mountain to where the large crowds were gathered from all across the nation of Israel to be healed by Jesus and to hear him speak.
Then Jesus starts saying something rather strange. He begins to tell his disciples, in front of all these people, that they’re blessed when they’re poor, hungry, weeping, hated, excluded, insulted, and rejected because they follow Jesus.
This is a crowd who’s eager to receive healing and encouragement from Jesus, and he starts talking about what it will cost to follow him.
Then he takes it a step further by denouncing those who are rich, well fed, happy, and accepted by all while also denouncing false prophets and the spiritually proud.
If the crowd came from all across the country to find something refreshing and easy, then I can only imagine how this message from Jesus must have felt. It must’ve been overwhelming to say the least.
Then Jesus goes into a series of paradoxical statements that would have likely been perplexing at best and downright offensive at worst.
And it struck right at the heart of generosity…
Does God command us to give?
Jesus said for his disciples to love their enemies, do good to those who hate them, bless those who curse them, pray for those who mistreat them, and give to others without expecting anything back.
Remember, he’s talking to a large group of people who are under Roman rule and are, in all probability, being mistreated on a regular basis. The stories of abuse and hatred from Romans, Samaritans, and other Jews are likely running through their heads on a loop.
Yet Jesus tells them that if their enemies ask for anything from them, they should give to them without expecting anything in return. He says to turn towards someone who’s mistreating them rather than turning away from them.
These are radical statements that go against human nature, common sense, and even seemingly contradict Scripture (which says that justice is to be administered in an eye-for-an-eye way). Then he says something even more confusing…
What you measure is what you get.
Jesus says that if we don’t judge people, then we won’t be judged. If we don’t condemn, then we won’t be condemned. Then he says the line that’s used in churches all across America during the giving portion of their Sunday service. He says, “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.”
At first glance, Jesus is talking about being radically generous. But if we look a little closer we’ll see that he’s getting at something far greater than generosity. He’s laying the foundation for a new way of approaching and relating to God.
The new approach is essentially this: Jesus says if we will submit to and train under him as our teacher, then we can become like him–like God.
What two mindsets was Jesus contrasting in Luke 6:38?
The problem is when we go about our lives taking what we can (as is the case with the rich, the well fed, the complacent, and those who strive to get even with others) and we make personal gain our goal rather than learning and becoming more like God.
Those are two very different mindsets. One is built on what you can get, the other is built on what you can reproduce for God and for others.
Jesus says that it would be asinine for a person to attempt to remove a speck of dust from someone else’s eye when they have an entire log in their own eye. Attempting to fix someone else’s problem is often a Band-Aid that makes us feel better because we’ve taken a sense of control and authority from a situation, and that sense of control leaves us feeling more secure about ourselves. We’re taking what we can from the situation.
This is what Jesus warned against at the beginning of this chapter. He warned against people who were well off in their own eyes rather than seeing themselves as being in need of true life.
He then follows this up by talking about how good trees bear good fruit and bad trees bear bad fruit. The implication is that trees are only as productive as the soil they’re rooted in. And trees only produce when they’re in need of nutrients from the soil.
In other words, the outward expression is always an indication of the inner condition.
For those who are rich and fulfilled outside of God, they’ve already found their reward, so they rarely see a need for God. Therefore, since they aren’t accepting much from God, they produce very little fruit and therefore have very little to give to those around them.
In that sense, what they give–which is very little or nothing–is being returned to them. Most of the time they end up empty and alone because their joy is in what they can gain.
But what we give and how we contribute are indications of the work being done inside of us.
What is God’s promise to the generous in Luke 6:38?
What Jesus was getting at was that when we give our time, attention, resources, or love, we receive much more in return because we are acting as trees rooted in soil. We’re in need of the life only God can provide, and as we draw from that life, we’re naturally drawn to give off fruit to those around us in the form of time, attention, material resources, and love. As we give these things to those around us, the kingdom of God is spread both in our hearts and in the hearts of those we impact, thereby rendering a return that is pressed down and flowing over onto our laps.
This is the Kingdom of God. It’s like a seed that starts small and needy yet spreads everywhere and produces more than we can imagine. (Matthew 13:31-32)
It needs, it receives, it grows, it gives, then it reproduces.
The principle at work in the universe and in the kingdom of God is this:
We receive when we’re humble and empty, we get what we’re open to receive, we produce what we’re willing to release, and we receive what we invest in.
And in that sense, we reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7) and the resulting return is a good measure, pressed down and overflowing in our laps because there simply is no containing it.