Measure for Measure

by Lois Tverberg

“Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into
your lap a good measure-pressed down, shaken
together, and running over. For by your standard of
measure it will be measured to you in return.”
Luke 6:38

We all know the line of the Lord’s Prayer that says, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us” Jesus often emphasized the idea that the way we treat others is the way God will treat us, and that we should have mercy on others if we want God to have mercy on us. Jesus says that “with the measure you use, it will be measured out to you.” (Luke 6:38)

ScaleThis idea of “measure for measure,” expecting God to treat us as we treat others, has been a part of Jewish culture ever since Jesus’ time. One rabbi who lived in the 18th century had an interesting spin on it, saying:

“When a poor man asks you for aid, do not use his faults as an excuse for not helping him. For then God will look for your offenses and he is sure to find many. (1)

This is very convicting, because often when a person is experiencing hardship, the first thing we wonder is whether they brought it on themselves. We might say, “Well, you made your bed, now lie in it!” But, who among us has not ruined something important in our lives? A person may have lost a job or destroyed a marriage by his own irresponsible behavior, but it still doesn’t mean that he doesn’t need our help.

It is an interesting challenge that instead of acting in judgment for the way others run their lives, our first thought should be how we might help them. Certainly, we need to have discernment about whether we are an “enabler” to a person who needs to change how they live. But knowing that a person has faults should not harden us to asking how we can care for them. Otherwise, the next time we beg the Lord for his help, we might hear him answer back, “You brought your problems on yourself – why should I help you?”

(1) Rabbi Shmelke of Nikolsberg, (d. 1778), quoted in Jewish Wisdom, by J. Telushkin, (c) 1994, Morrow and Co., p. 15.

Photo: Rick Hunter