Luke 6:38
“For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”
I have a question for you: which is more full, an oil drum of water or a thimble of water? I did not ask which had a bigger capacity, but which was more full.
Today, Jesus is giving us a long list of moral statements on how to live. But, to me, the most important line, in some ways, is the very last line. If we choose to live a moral life, according to the way of Jesus in the gospel, we are going to find ourselves with an ever-expanding ability to do the right and good for those around us.
It is a question of trading in the thimble for the barrel. When we follow the command of Jesus to love our enemies, to do good to those who hate us, and all the other things that he lists, his first promise is that we will be Children of God.
If we are Children of God, Children of the King, we are distributing the wealth of the King when we care for others. We are not distributing something that we own. But if our desire is to take what we have out to the world around us, because we are Children of the King, it makes sense to take as large of a container as we can into the world, since we are giving away what belongs to the King.
The last verse in the gospel today is, of course, a little longer: “Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”
Since all we have to give is what God has given to us, it is a matter of us learning to not hold onto what is not really ours. It is a matter of us giving of ourselves, and of God, that allows us to genuinely be His children.
This is where the opening question comes in from today. If we are going to give God’s gifts away, and we do so with a large barrel, instead of a small thimble, God’s promise is that he will give us even more. But the more in heaven will be in proportion to what we have done here on earth. Not simply as a reward for doing good, but it will be a matter of how much of God’s love, we will be able to contain when we are in heaven, because we have shared it here on earth. And this will be based on how well we live the law of love that Jesus presents to us in the Gospels.
God cannot be outdone in generosity. However much we give God in this life, even when it is his to begin with, he will give us much more in eternal life. Not because we are deserving, or because of what we have done, but because we have come to understand the magnitude of his desire to reveal his love to the world, and we have been willing to be the magnifier of his love to the world.
If you have opened your arms to show his love to the world, you will be able to embrace so much more of God in heaven. If you have only opened your hand to show his love to the world, all you will be able to take is a handful of God in heaven.
But to return to the original analogy, a barrel full of water or a thimble full of water is still full, and will not be feeling any lack in heaven because our capacity will be maximized.
I use the word maximized on purpose. The founder of the Institute of priests that I belong to was fond of the phrase: apostolic maximalism. Apostolic means being sent, and maximalism means going to the farthest possible in what you do. So we are not to work with the thimble of grace, but with a barrel of grace, no… An ocean of grace. We have been sent because we are Children of the King as his ambassadors of grace.
Lord Jesus, you have instructed us in how we are best to be your disciples, your apostles. You have sent your Spirit with all his gifts that we are to share with the world around us.
First of all, we thank you for those gifts. They are signs of your love to each one of us. But now Lord, help us to share that gift of love with those around us. You know how best we can do that. You know who is most in need. Place in front of us those we can help who will listen to your voice coming through our offering of your gifts to them.
Second, Lord, enlarge our capacity so that we do not have just an open hand, but open arms, that while we work for you here and now, we may be able to open our arms wide to embrace the fullest amount of you when we reach you in heaven. We do not just want to shake your hand, because that is all we have, but we want to embrace you, and be embraced by you.
Give us barrels of your grace, no, oceans of your grace to share with the world around us. Amen.