Having laid a bit of contextual foundation, it is now possible to commence an attempt at figuring out what exactly is being said by Jesus when He says, “Give, and it will be given to you: A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be poured into your lap. For the measure you use will me the measure you receive” (Luke 6:38). With everything that has been said to this point (in parts 1 and 2), clearly, one cannot simply look at this verse and conclude that Jesus is talking about giving and getting in terms of finances and material items. Additionally, it’s going to take some work to formalize that conclusion.
To get the point of Jesus’ words, one has to revisit the twenty-seventh verse in this chapter. As that is done, it is then possible to systematically build on the foundation that has been laid. There, Jesus says, “But I say to you who are listening: Love your enemies” (6:27a). Who are their enemies? The Jews in the audience (from Judea and Jerusalem) would have heard Jesus speaking about their enemies, which were, by and large and popularly, the Romans. They are being told to love these enemies, when they most likely wanted to have nothing to do with them, and would rather have elected to eject the Romans from their land and from their lives.
Now remember, the person that is saying these things is the man that might very well be the Messiah and the Son of God (both terms for Israel’s promised king – Son of God being a kingly term that was then regularly applied to the Caesar, with no direct connection to thoughts about the “second person of the Trinity”). The messiah, in popular imagination, though this is not the exclusive messianic proposition, is supposed to lead the revolution that defeats their enemies; but instead, here the potential messiah is insisting that the enemies be loved. For a member of Israel, this would be understandably strange and unexpected. Additionally, those in Jesus’ audience that hail from Tyre and Sidon (presumably Gentiles), may find the Romans to be an irritant, but ultimately, they would not harbor the same feelings of animosity towards Rome as would the Jews, for reasons that shall be seen later.
However, so as to actively engage the whole of His audience, Jesus can be heard adding, “do good to those who hate you” (6:27b), perhaps as something of a sympathetic nod to the Gentiles. The Gentiles would not be looked upon by the Jews with the same type of negativity with which they viewed and in which the Jews held the Romans. They would, unfortunately, be held in extreme disfavor (hated) by the Jews. Of course, the Romans were Gentiles as well, so there would clearly be an over-lapping and potential magnification of opinions. Though having said this, it would probably be inappropriate to limit the feelings of hatred to the Jews only. The Romans, having had to deal with stubborn and rebellious and zealous Jews for such a long period of time, might very well have come to hate them as much as they were hated by them. Regardless of the specific direction of the statement, each person that heard these words would be able to search their own heart. Hatred, at the very least, was a two-way street.
The point here is, it is necessary to continually connect the words of Jesus with the very real, historical situation in which they were spoken and by which they were vested with meaning. That is the only way, with some type of solid foundation, for the words to have any meaning for believers today. These were not imagined or potential enemies. No, they were real enemies. Jesus was not talking about some nebulous sense of feelings of hatred. He was talking about very real hatred. Jesus told His fellow countrymen that they should love enemies that oppress them and tax them into slavery, doing this with an eye to what He was going to be saying in short order. He told all of His hearers (Jew & Gentile) to do good to those that would probably be content with seeing them dead, simply so that they would not have to look at or deal with them. It is through understanding this that one is then able to devise an ethic under which it is possible to operate and know that one is acting according to the will of the Creator God, in submission to the dictates of their Lord and King.