MEASURING UP

“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.” (Luke 6:37-38)

This passage stops me in my tracks to take a hard look at the measure I’m using.

I often use measuring spoons and cups, ranging from tiny to tremendous. While I do a little fiddling with amounts on some ingredients (I love a little extra vanilla), I know that if I add something that doesn’t belong, leave out something crucial, or just scrimp on the required amounts, what I’m trying to produce will turn out to be a sad specimen.

Judgment, Jesus tells me, is not an ingredient that belongs in my life. But it’s so available, always right there ready to be used, so easily reached for and taken hold of. A little bit can’t hurt, can it? Just a quarter-teaspoon? So I pick it up and before I know it, I’ve poured in a whole cup. Then I let this concoction simmer until it’s really heated through, and I’ve got a big pot of condemnation I can draw from for a long time. When friends come over, I serve it to them. We all chew on it and swallow it whole, and encourage each other to keep adding judgment to our recipes.

When I add judgment and condemnation, I’m not cooking up anything nourishing, and God doesn’t want any part of it.

This tendency to judge is easy to spot – in others. Many years ago I heard an excellent sermon on guarding against a critical spirit. The pastor’s wife later told me the most critical person in the church responded by saying she could name a lot of people who really needed to hear that!

If I really want to know if I’m being judgmental, I try to put myself in the other person’s place as honestly as I can. How would I feel if they said the things to me that I have said, or plan to say, to them? If I’m sure I know what motivates them, what they think or feel, how would I respond to being told what my motives are and what I think or feel? If I tell them I know what they should do, how would I respond to being told they know what I should do?

Only God knows the heart. Who am I to judge my neighbor?

Forgiveness, Jesus continues, is an essential ingredient I can’t afford to leave out of my daily recipe. This ingredient is quite scarce. If I don’t have it, I need to do what it takes to get it. That often means choosing to pick it up, and not waiting until I feel like it. In the end, forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling. It’s a choice that frees me to get on with the things that really matter. It doesn’t depend on who’s right. Only God knows that answer, and he’s the only one qualified to deal with the question. Ultimately, do I want to be right, or do I want to be in relationship? Forgiveness reflects the essence of God; being right is all about me. To turn out well, my recipe needs all the forgiveness I can cram in.

When it comes to giving, there are all sorts of ingredients I can add. We each have gifts and resources that can enhance and nourish each other and contribute to God’s purposes. Some may be costly in time, effort and money and can only be added by the teaspoon. Others may be readily available and can be poured in by the quart. The key is for me to give under God’s guidance, for God’s purposes and his glory, not mine. When I measure out generously with a pure heart, Jesus tells me what will happen by using a word picture of how grain was measured out to a buyer in ancient times. The measuring container was filled, then shaken so the grain would settle and allow more to be added, until it overflowed into the apron on the buyer’s lap. The apron would be folded over into a pouch to retain the overflow.

What measure am I using, and what is contained in it? I can see other’s shortcomings; how willing am I to look hard at my own? What am I liable to receive from God – a teaspoon or an overflow?

Please help me, Father, to see clearly, to give and forgive freely, and to need an apron.