We’re memorizing a more well-known verse this week. Hang around almost any church very long and you’ll hear it quoted. A lot.
“Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over will be poured into your lap. For the measure you use will be used for you.” Luke 6:38 (NIV)
This verse is popular in church circles because of that first word—Give—which is always linked to financial giving. The prosperity gospel folks use it as the centerpiece of their entrepreneurial heresy (give to the church/pastor and God will make you wealthy).
Curiously, the verse does not promise that wealth will be given in return: “It will be given to you,” Jesus says. Not wealth but it. And the only way to link Luke 6:38 to financial giving is to wrench it out of its context.
The verse is the conclusion to a paragraph in Luke’s version of the Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus issues 13 commands, all of them requiring us to give something. Give mercy, forgiveness, love, the coat and shirt off your back, Jesus demands. (You can read it here.)
As for the it that will be given to you, he is pointing to the experience of God’s power and presence, something he called the kingdom of God.
In Cynthia Bourgeault’s Wisdom Jesus, she quotes South African writer Michael Brown:
“Giving is receiving is the energetic frequency upon which our universe is aligned. All other approaches to energy exchange immediately cause dissonance and disharmony in our life experience.”
And then goes on to observe:
“Surely Jesus knew this as well, and his teaching … invites us into a deeper trust of that flow.”
When Jesus commands us to “Give,” and then promises, “and it will be given to you,” he is inviting us to step into the stream of God’s divine energy. Like a mighty river, it flows just beneath where we measure and weigh. Whenever we give to others what we would like given to us—love, forgiveness, mercy, the shirt off our back—we wade into the great river of divine energy. There we find clarity that giving ourselves away is what we were made for.
When we give, Jesus promises, we receive in return far more than we have given away. A good measure, he says, pressed down, shaken together running over, because God is not chintzy. What we receive in return for giving generously, in my experience, is something like touching the hem of Jesus’ garment.
You can hear me talk about what the verse means here (but you’ll miss seeing me measure oatmeal into a cup, shake it, press it down and spill it all over the table).