“Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:38
“The object of regeneration is that the internal part of a person may be joined to the external….[That joining cannot be accomplished] until good has first been joined to the truths in the natural ….A person’s truth must first of all become truth in will and action, that is, become the good of truth, before the joining can come about…. Action comes first, then the desire for it in the person's will follows. For when a person is led by his understanding to carry out any action, he is at length led by his will to do it, till at last he has taken it on as an action performed habitually. When this point is reached it is introduced into the person’s rational part of his mind…. [And then the] truth is no longer that which motivates him when he does a good action but good. For now he begins to feel within it something of what is blessed and so to speak of heaven. This remains with him after death, and by means of it the Lord raises him up to heaven.” Arcana Celestia n.4353
“Thanks!” we say. We often feel grateful for the gifts of time, effort, courtesy, small and large. Right njow, pay attention for a moment to the act of giving in thanksgiving.
As described in the Word above, the acquisition of the goodness from the Lord depends on our learning and applying truths from the Word. Our task is to be reading the Word, meditating upon it, coming to understand it so that we can apply it to our lives. It is the Lord’s responsibility to provide us with a sense of power in our spiritual life and a feeling of blessing. If we can keep these responsibilities clear in our minds, we will be able to progress in our spiritual growth. We will be able to give freely, in goodly measure, with any sense of diminution of what we have.
Jesus offers us a powerful image of the benefits of giving. It includes a powerful and moving testimony. He reveals a truth that we don’t know on our own: when you give, you will be blessed. He also said: “Freely you have received, freely give.” Matthew 10:8 He promises that we can give with generosity, which is a delight in giving. It then does not feel as something we have to do, or ought to do. This is the meaning of the image of the merchant pouring grain into a customer’s container. As he fills it he shakes it to settle the grain; he pats it down; he fills it until it is mounded up and spilling over the rim! That is a full measure. That is generosity. It is a blessing to the receiver and it brings a blessing upon the giver. This is so clearly the case that it is a common theme in all sorts of stories.
What is less well known, indeed we are often unconscious of it, are the spiritual principles at work. As we give of what we have without thought of return and without worry for ourselves, the Lord provides that our heartfelt desire to do what is good is joined with a blessing we feel in every level of our life.
Remember your experience of giving a much-desired gift to a child. And remember when you gave a gift that helped someone overcome a difficulty. And remember the time you gave a gift that was beautiful and gave the person great enjoyment. The joy you felt was the Lord’s gift to you. Surely you want more of that! For you felt it not only in your mind, not only in your heart, but also in your body! The chemicals released in your brain at such times are the endorphins that are said to produce feelings of pleasure!
One technique we can try is to remind ourselves as often as possible that the standards we demand of others will be applied to us sooner or later. Then we can progress to the more spiritual mature realization that the Lord is calling us to exert ourselves to the greatest extent possible. For in each deed, there is being measured the degree to which we are shunning evil and doing good. There is, you remember, the Golden Rule by which we are all measured: As we do unto others, so it is done unto us.
The application of these teachings in your life is very wide, indeed. One place is called the tithe. The word means “tenth” and indeed the ancient Israelites were commanded to give a tenth of all their produce to the Levites who used it in worship and to support them as they cared for the Tabernacle and did all the work of their worship. And it was to consist of the best of their produce–not the last tenth, but the first.
The internal sense of this giving is about how we are to acknowledge the Lord first and with our best efforts. We are to rely on the Lord first to supply all our needs, spiritual and natural. And we are to make the effort to find out His teachings and apply them before we make up our own. Thus we are to give the Lord our first allegiance and our best efforts. This certainly ought to translate into supporting the work of His kingdom on earth, His Church. The key is to practice generosity towards the Lord. As we shun the evil of disregarding the Lord, we do the good work of supporting His kingdom without thought of return. The blessing we receive will manifold, from a deep sense of satisfaction from participating in the spread of His kingdom, to the most external pleasure of the programs of the organized church.
Another application of Jesus’ teaching is that there is a blessing when we compel ourselves to do a good deed. The Heavenly Doctrines go to great lengths to demonstrate how self-compulsion is founded on an individual’s spiritual freedom. The greatest delight of freedom is indeed when we don’t have to force ourselves to do something. But it can be a very subtle feeling, for our actions then are normal and habitual. The delight of freedom is most obvious to us when we freely choose to compel ourselves to do what we know is good over the objections of our inclination to be evil or selfish or worldly.
To give freely of what we have when we feel least able is a great challenge. To give to another whom we feel is not deserving is fraught with concerns. To give kindness to one who has been cruel to us does not feel just. Of course we are to use our reason and prudence. Of course we do not, as the Writings say, give a knife to a murderer. But notice how the instruction to not support evil easily becomes an excuse to be judgmental and stingy. Even as the Lord loves and cares for the worst sinner, so we are to as well.
We are to feel encouraged when we are confronted by an opportunity to do a good deed! It is a chance the Lord is giving us of practicing shunning an evil and doing a deed that is actually good! It is an opportunity to give up judgment and condemnation and take on forgiveness. It is an opportunity to share in genuine mutual love as the receiver of our gift and we each have pleasure and delight from the same deed! It is an opportunity to cooperate with the Lord in planting remains, those deeply set memories of delight in goodness.
Again, we all want to be filled with love, goodness, truth and wisdom. We all want to be able to give of our selves. We all want to give gifts in great amount and of excellent quality. We all want to make a difference in people’s lives. And our wishes will come true every time we remember the invitation of the Lord to give a full measure. “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. For His mercy endures forever.” Psalm 107:1
Precursor November 2007