Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Generous Measure

, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men
give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again. Luke 6:38

When reading the verse above, it is helpful to know that in the Middle East, generosity was/is considered among the very highest of virtues. If a person was described as having that attribute, others would automatically assume that he possessed many many other excellent qualities. A miserly person was scorned by others. James Neil, a writer from the late 1800's, gives a wonderful description of the generous measuring process:

"Another sight that arrested my attention in Jerusalem was the measuring of wheat and barley. Each year in July or August all the dwellers in Eastern cities have to buy sufficient corn to last them for a year.

When it is brought to the purchaser’s door, a professional measurer invariably attends to find out and certify the true contents of each sack, who acts as a kind of impartial umpire between the buyer and the seller. He uses a wooden measure, like our own bushel measure but not so deep, called a timneh. He seats himself cross-legged on the ground, and upon the grain being turned out in a heap before him, begins to scoop it into the timneh with his hands. Next, he seizes the measure, when it is partly full, and gives it two or three swift half-turns as it stands on the ground, thus shaking it together and so making it occupy a smaller space. He again scoops in more corn and repeats the shaking as before, and does so again and again until the measure is filled up to the brim. This done, he presses upon it all over with the outstretched palms of his hands, using the whole weight of his body so as to pack it still more closely.

Then, out of the center of the pressed surface, he removes some of its contents, and makes a small hollow. He is about to erect a building on the top, and very naturally digs a foundation. With more handfuls of corn he now raises a cone above the timneh. With much skilfulness he carries this cone up to a great height, until no more grain can possibly be piled on its steep sides and that which he adds begins to run down and flow over. Upon this, the interesting and elaborate process is complete, the measure is regarded as of full weight and is handed over to the buyer. "Corn" (wheat) is generally meted out in this way, and is quoted in the market at so much per timneh.

I have been at great pains to find out the exact contents, by weight, of the Palestine measure. The experiment I caused to be made was with wheat of the best quality. I found that a timneh of such filled up to the brim, unshaken and unpressed and without the cone, weighs just thirty-seven pounds, and with the cone just forty-four pounds. When, however, shaken together, pressed down, and, flowing over in the manner I have described, it holds forty-eight pounds.

Give,” said our Blessed Lord, in graphic and vivid allusion to this professional measuring, “and it shall be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, shall they give into your bosom [that is, into the capacious natural breast-pocket formed by that part of the loose Eastern kamise, or shirt, which is above the girdle]; for with what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you again” (Luke 6.38; see also Matt 7.2 and Mark 4.24).

Observe, there is no less than eleven pounds difference in weight between a measure filled to the brim, as we fill it here, and one such as I have described filled according to the bountiful method of Bible lands, when it is “pressed down, shaken together, running over.” In this way 30 per cent, is added to its value! This is, indeed, good interest for our money, but thus liberally shall those be rewarded who have learned to imitate the example of their God and Saviour — who, blessed be His name, gave His own life — in the divine art of generous giving."

(Neil, Revd James., Peeps Into Palestine, Stanley Martin & Co. Ltd, UK, ~1913)

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