Exercising our measure


Photo by Jack Lemon on Unsplash

And [Jesus] said to them, “Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given. For whoever has, to him more will be given; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.” (Mark 4:24~25)

I’m intrigued by the following thought. In Arcana Caelestia 8342, Swedenborg writes: ‘The good which flows in from the Lord is not given as much as people desire, but as much as they can receive.’

The common saying, ‘his eyes are bigger than his stomach’ comes to mind here. Children often desire more than they can take in or enjoy. Wanting and being able to receive are two different things.

‘The good that flows in with us is only as great as is our effort’

On a deeper level this is true of adults too. We often want things that we don’t have the capacity to handle - greater responsibilities, power, privileges. We wish we enjoyed more skill and effectiveness in our work or in dealing with our loved ones' needs or problems. More deeply, we want an inner contentment, peace, happiness of mind. We wish to be full of the enjoyment of loving others, of being useful, of being right with God.  We wish to be free of anxiety, free of guilt, free of cares.

It’s important to want these good things. It’s important to nurture an optimistic hope and a desire for them. But ‘positive thinking’ must go beyond the wanting stage.

When Jesus said, “To you who hear, more will be given; for whoever has, to him more will be given,” He clearly didn’t mean merely hear. He meant ‘hear’ in the sense of ‘pay attention’, ‘hearken’, ‘put into practice’. A runner gains capacity by actually running - actually exercising his or her lungs and legs. ‘It is a universal law that influx adjusts itself according to efflux’ (Arcana Caelestia 5828.3). The good that flows in with us is only as great as is our effort - our spirit’s outflow, and the effect of that effort over time.

The Lord is always filling us with as much goodness as we can possibly receive! He is doing all He can for us! Every instant! And while we may be impatient at times with how much more we could be receiving good things, if we reflect, we will undoubtedly realise how much we actually have. As long as we are making small efforts, He is growing good things in us and for us - way beyond our conscious efforts! He wants us to remember this, and to trust Him; that’s why He followed up His words about ‘our measure’ with these words:

And He said, "The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come." (Mark 4:26~29)