“With the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Jesus uses this phrase three different times, each with a little different application. The most common application I’ve heard is in reference to judging others, which is the application found in Matthew 7. Another reference is found in Luke 6, where he applies the phrase to giving. In Chapter 24 of The Story (p336), the context is Mark 4 and it immediately follows Jesus’ parable of the sower. Jesus was teaching beside the lake (not in a church Sunday school class) and a crowd gathers around him. It’s early in his ministry and he is setting precedent. He explains that just as seeds are affected by the type of soil they reside, the same is true with his words and teachings. The question of whether his teachings take root and produce fruit is not a matter of the teaching, but of the heart where the teachings land. He says, “Whoever has ears let him hear.”
It’s obvious by Jesus’ parable that it’s possible for us to listen to his teachings, read his stories and walk away unchanged. It’s possible for religious people to go to church every Sunday, go to bible studies, participate in small groups, but still not really “hear” his words. Often religion becomes the wax that builds up in our ears to the point where we are no longer listening. Jesus wanted his early followers to know this. He also wants us to know this.
You see, if the measure we use will also be measured to us, we must not just be hearers. One commentary puts it this way: Here the meaning is that the more one listens to the word of Jesus with spiritual perception and appropriates it, the more the truth about Jesus will be revealed. The key to understanding this phrase – no matter the application – is that it includes both a perception and an appropriation. If we just listen without appropriating, we are participating in dead religion, but if we have “ears that hear” and we put what we hear into practice, we receive life. We participate in the Kingdom of God that Jesus initiated on this planet. We partner with him in accomplishing great things through our acceptance of others, through our giving of our resources and through our understanding and application of his teachings.
The early church seemed to get this. In Acts, we read that the early Jesus-followers committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal and to the prayers. Their commitment to the teaching was evidenced by the way they loved one another and shared life together in both the intimacy of meals and in prayers for one another.
To listen and not appropriate was not an option for kingdom life then and it shouldn’t be today. However, we know this happens because it happens in us. I am guilty of reading the red-letter words of Jesus and not letting it take root and grow and produce the fruit he intended. When I do that, I am religious because I listen, but I am not following Jesus. Things must change.