Monday, September 26, 2011

What Goes Around ...


Stay with me on this, it may be of encouragement to you. We are going to look at a concept that seems to span religions, and even secular life. Jesus said, "you will reap what you sow", many religions have the concept of Karma even in today's vernacular, we hear - What goes around comes around. Many televangelists and others in the Prosperity Gospel crowd use a verse in Luke's Gospel to encourage their followers to dig deep and give. They promise that when they give, they will get more in return, "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 the measure you use, it will be measured to you." (Luke 6:38 - NIV).

My problem is that when I hear a verse like that quoted, I always want to see what the actual paragraph is talking about. If you will indulge me, I would like to look at the context here and let this paragraph take on a much larger meaning.

"But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them, without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful as your Father is merciful.
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 the measure you use, it will be measured to you." (Luke 6:35-38 - NIV)

Let's break this down. He says do not judge, and you will not be judged. So, what I hear in the phrase is that if you are a judgmental person, you will receive judgment. I don't know about you, but I often run into people who have made judgments about people -- You have all heard it. Whenever a person starts to tell me "dirt" on a person I usually say "I don't want to know". I am usually thinking at that point, I wonder what they say about me behind my back. What Jesus is saying here is that judgmental people usually are friends with other judgmental people. They share their fears, doubts and gossip about people they have written off or judged. Judgement dovetails very neatly into the next phrase Jesus says.


Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Judgment and condemnation are very close friends. I remember a few year ago when it turned out that  televangelist Jim Bakker was using raised funds to cover up a tryst with Jessica Hahn. His ministry was destroyed and he eventually went to prison. However, during this time another televangelist, Jimmy Swaggart, declared to his worldwide audience, "Jim Bakker is a cancer on the Body of Christ!" Not long after this, Jimmy Swaggart was found with a prostitute and crashed and burned.


In my experience, many people use judgment and condemnation to appear righteous while covering their own dirty laundry.


Now to the other side of the coin. He goes on, Forgive, and you will be forgiven. He had just spoken about loving your enemies. He also said that God is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. When I think of Mother Teresa, who dedicated herself to serve in the slums of Calcutta, I think of forgiveness. She is a person that people admire, with the exception of a few of the judgmental and condemning crowd. If you are struggling with a problem in your life, of the three mentioned so far - which one would you rather talk to - Judgment, Condemnation or Forgiveness?


Now we come to the phrase we began with, give, and it will be given to you. I am not convinced that this is limited to a monetary gift. I think it can be sharing what you have. Giving is not limited to the rich, we can all give comfort and yes our money. Jesus calls us to be instruments of his healing touch and his love. Often times, giving is hugging a person who is hurting, visiting a widow or being there with a friend who has seen their life shredded before them.


So here is what I believe this passage is saying:
If you fill your life with judgement, condemnation, forgiveness or giving - that is what you will get. If I may quote Jesus,


"A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For the measure you use, it will be measured to you." 

So, now comes the time of self reflection. Which group do you find yourself in? In the span of your life, which is only a hyphen between two dates on a tombstone, how are you perceived? What have you left in the wake of your life? Judgment? Condemnation? Forgiveness? Giving?

Get ready, because what goes around comes around. And according to Jesus - more than you can handle.

Peace ~Al