“Be ye merciful, even as your Father is merciful. And judge not, and ye shall not be judged: and condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: release, and ye shall be released: give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, shall they give into your bosom. For with what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you again” (Luke 6:36-38).
“You get what you give.”
“You reap what you sow.”
Many such nuggets of commonly received wisdom testify to the principle of reciprocity. Reciprocity refers to providing benefits to others with the expectation of receiving benefits in return.
Jesus speaks to the premise of reciprocity in Luke 6:36-38. You get what you give: if you judge and condemn, you can expect judgment and condemnation in return. If you refrain from such judgment and condemnation, you will be spared judgment and condemnation. As you measure out to others, you will receive in turn; thus, if you are merciful, you will receive mercy, but if you prove merciless, others will act mercilessly toward you.
Jesus is primarily speaking about how we relate toward one another. There are times when judgment is appropriate (1 Corinthians 15:1-13), and yet it must be done with humility, love, care, and not without introspection (Galatians 6:1-3). Have you noticed that the way you treat others rebounds to yourself? It can be positive or negative, and it is far from coincidental.
We do well to have the perspective David maintained about his existence:
“But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? For all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee” (1 Chronicles 29:14).
David did not presume that anything he had was really “his”; he knew that all he was and had were gifts from God, and so giving to God was not nearly as magnanimous as would be imagined, since he was simply giving back to God what was His own.
This perspective helps us to understand what God’s purpose is, at least in part, as He blesses us. He does not provide us blessings merely for our own use and enjoyment; our abundance is not designed to merely satisfy the desires of the flesh, to spend on our passions (1 Timothy 6:3-10, 17-19, James 4:1-3). Instead God blesses us so that we have an opportunity to give (Ephesians 4:28). Our lives, our resources, and all that we are represent a stewardship from God; we must exercise them for the benefit of others, and not merely ourselves (1 Peter 4:10-11).
We are better able to understand God’s promises to us when we understand everything through this perspective. God wants to give us everything and to bless us abundantly (John 15:7, Romans 8:32). He does not want to give us such things so that we can hoard up wealth, luxury, and excess; such is entirely inconsistent with the life and pattern of Jesus and the Apostles (2 Corinthians 11:23-30, 1 Peter 2:21-25). Instead He wants us to be vessels through which He can accomplish His purposes, and thus we are to give as we have prospered, bless as we have been blessed, and know that as we give and bless, we will receive greater gifts and blessings from God, and thus able to continually serve as a benefit and refreshment to others (1 Corinthians 16:2, 2 Corinthians 8:1-9:14).
We are sorely tempted to live for self and trust no one, and yet God calls us to trust Him and His purposes in faith. We are to seek His Kingdom and righteousness first and trust that He will provide life’s necessities (Matthew 6:33). We are to trust our fellow members of the body of Christ, the church, rejoicing with those who rejoice, weeping with those who weep, building up and strengthening others, and trusting that others will rejoice and weep with us, build us up and strengthen us as we are in need (Romans 12:3-8, 1 Corinthians 12:12-28).
We do well to remember Paul’s premise:
But this I say, He that soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he that soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully (2 Corinthians 9:6).
Paul has great confidence in the principle of reciprocity. Whatever you sow in abundance you will reap in abundance; whatever you sow sparingly you will reap sparingly. Judge much, and you will be judged much. Show much mercy, and you will receive great mercy. Give bountifully and you will never lack; give sparingly and you will never have enough. Paul says such things because he has come to know the great love and grace of God, for God is able to make us abound in His grace, provide for our sufficiency, and ultimately save us and give us His glory in the resurrection, well beyond anything we deserve (2 Corinthians 9:8-10).
We must decide how we will live. Will we live full of judgmentalism, hostility, miserly, and selfishly? We will reap condemnation, suffering, alienation, and poverty. Will we live full of mercy, grace, blessing, and giving freely? We would then reap mercy, grace, and untold blessings from God in Christ. May we be a blessing to others, manifesting God’s grace and mercy, and trust in the great provisions of God!
Ethan R. Longhenry