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, running over, will be put into your lap;
for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.
Luke 6:37-38 (NRSV)
Recently I’ve been helping the Marshfield Community Theatre with some of the set pieces for the upcoming production of Beauty and the Beast. (On a side note, you should go and see the musical, because it’s a great story, because it supports local theater, and because Sean Deakyne is playing Lumiere!) All that construction has gotten me thinking about the importance of measurements.
For example, I was using a tool to mark some boards. I wanted to cut them at four inches and noticed that one side of the square was directly at that mark. I marked the boards, made my cuts, and did all the assembly. When I brought out the measuring tape, the piece was one half inch taller than I anticipated. What went wrong?
Well, when I looked back at the square I was using to make the marks, there is an extra half inch between the edge of the tool and the one inch mark. Zero isn’t marked. I just assumed it would be the edge of the tool. I was wrong. Careful measuring is important.
Measuring is important in the church, too. We want to be a growing and vital community of faith. To determine if we are, we have to measure something. To know if our plans result in the desired outcome, we have to find a way to measure that outcome. But, that isn’t always easy, especially in the church.
There are some things in church which are fairly easy to quantify and measure. How many people are attending worship? We can measure that. How does the offering compare to last year? We can measure that.
But areas of spiritual and personal growth are harder to measure. How have I grown as a Christian, husband, father, etc. in the past year? Well, that is a little harder to pinpoint. And, if that weren’t hard enough, there is the added challenge of figuring out how much of that growth is a result of my experience in church and how much happened as a result of other experiences.
Measuring personal and spiritual growth is a subjective art. Furthermore, it requires a qualitative measurement as opposed to a quantitative one. “Regular” church attendance does not directly correlate to spiritual growth. It may be a contributing factor, but it isn’t the only factor. (It may not even be the most important factor…)
In all this thinking about measuring, I remembered this little passage from Luke 6, where Jesus is talking with the disciples about judgement and measurement. Jesus says “do not judge.” But he does not say, “do not measure.” Actually, he says “the measure you give is the measure you will get back.” We should be measuring our growth, especially our spiritual growth, both as individuals and as a church. As we do so, we should be generous and gracious with our measurements.