“And he said to them, ‘Pay attention to what you hear. By the measure you use, it will be measured to you–and more will be added to you. For whoever has, more will be given to him, and whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.'” (CSB – Read the chapter)
One of the cynical maxims that is so often true about this life is that the rich get richer. People who have wind up obtaining more. They use their advantages to gain even more advantages for themselves. Eventually your money starts making money for you all by itself. What we see here seems to be Jesus offering legitimacy to this idea. Well, He is. Just not in the way you think. Let’s talk about what He’s really saying.
Places like this in the Scriptures are why you can’t cherry pick verses and ignore their context. Or, conversely, they are why someone clever can make the Scriptures seem to say whatever they want. You can find places like this where, out of context, the author seems to be saying something totally contradictory to the rest of the text.
This is yet another parable that Jesus didn’t want His audience to miss. He wasn’t really talking about baking or money here. This is about our willingness to live with a kingdom ethic. It’s about the grace that we give (or don’t give) other people. In a sense, this is simply a restatement of the Golden Rule and a pointer to why Jesus’ new commandment (what Andy Stanley calls His “Platinum Rule”) is so important.
When we encounter people as we go through our lives, we have a choice in how we interact with them. We can interact with them from an ethic of selfishness or an ethic of grace. The reality is that we don’t use either ethic consistently. But, Jesus’ point is that the ethic we choose will eventually be the ethic that is used for us. If you want people to be gracious to you, start being gracious with them. If you’re content with people being selfish and underhanded and inconsiderate…well…keep doing what you’re doing.
How this functions practically is that it offers us an invitation to stop letting other people be the measure for the ethic we choose. For most people in most situations, we do just the opposite. That’s what’s natural for us because of sin. We often have conversations with our boys about how they are treating one another. They’re brothers and they behave like it both for good and for ill. When the ill is coming out on top, we’ll have a conversation with them that goes something like this: “You’ve got to stop treating your brother that way.” The oft-heard retort to this guidance goes something like this: “Well, that’s how he treats me! I’ll stop treating him that way when he stops treating me that way.” While this response is infuriating in the moment, it’s honest and I appreciate it for at least that reason.
For most of us, when we relax into what is natural, we operate on the basis of the same law. I’m going to treat you the way you treat me. If we were all angels this wouldn’t be so bad. We’re not though, so an ever-increasing level of chaos is what actually comes from this. If we want to receive something different, the change has to start with us. Well, it has to start with the Holy Spirit’s filling us, but that’s another conversation. By the measure we use, it will be measured to us…and more will be added. If we are ugly and hateful, others will respond not merely in kind, but with an extra dose added to try and dissuade us from doing it again. Of course, this will only result in our treating them the same way and raising the stakes back. This winds up playing out like a high stakes poker game in which, in the end, everyone loses. We’re playing without a kitty and will eventually lose even the shirt off our back.
There is a better way. If we will begin developing the disciplines of kindness and generosity and graciousness in our interactions with others, we can put an end to the cycle of craziness. Now, sure, some people will still be ugly to us because they’re operating out of that old system, but we don’t let them be the determining factor for how we treat them. We don’t give over control of ourselves into their hands. We operate on an entirely different level. And over time, as we gradually build up a reputation as being someone who is unfailingly gracious and kind and generous in our dealings with the people around us, that is how people will engage with us as well. They may treat others poorly, but when we have in this way, more will be given to us. That’s simply how the kingdom of God works. Let’s adjust our lives accordingly. Our world needs it.