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What does “pressed down, shaken together, and running over” mean in Luke 6:38?

pressed down, shaken together, and running over

In Luke 6, Jesus describes the way His faithful followers are to live. In verses 27–38, He zeroes in on heart attitudes, teaching His disciples to cultivate an inner generosity of forgiveness, grace, and love: “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back” (verses 37–38, NLT).

Jesus wants us to remember that we reap what we sow and in proportion to the measure that we sow. If we don’t want to be judged and condemned, we’ll stop judging and condemning others. If we wish to receive abundant forgiveness, then we’ll liberally demonstrate forgiveness toward others (Matthew 6:14; 18:21–35; Ephesians 4:32). We will treat others how we would want to be treated if we were in their shoes (Luke 6:31). If we seek only to acquire things for ourselves, we will lose everything (Luke 9:25). But if we spend our lives generously pouring out God’s grace, forgiveness, and love onto others, we will receive back “a good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over” (Luke 6:38).

The terminology “pressed down, shaken together” described the measuring practice of a generous merchant in Bible times. In the original Greek, the word translated as “pressed down” (piezomai) means “to be or become compacted by downward force or pressure.” “Shaken together” (saleuomai) denotes the process of agitating an ingredient in a back-and-forth motion until it becomes tightly packed and settled.

For example, an open-handed seller of barley grain would pour his grain into a measuring jar or basket, then press it down and shake it together to maximize the space. He would do this until the grain overflowed, ensuring the full grain volume would be given. The contents were then spilled into the recipient’s lap, who folded his outer garment like a pocket and used it to transport the grain (see Ruth 3:15).

Jesus used the “pressed down, shaken together” illustration to help us understand a principle of reciprocity in our treatment of others and our approach to life. He said we will get back to the degree we are willing to invest in others and in this life—“The amount you give will determine the amount you get back” (verse 38). Jesus wasn’t focused on financial giving here. He was talking about everything we do, urging us to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).

Are we stingy with our grace, kindness, forgiveness, and love toward others, or are we lavishing these gifts to the same degree Jesus poured them out on us? We cannot love like Jesus in our own strength, but only through the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5; Galatians 5:22–23).

Although Jesus wasn’t explicitly talking about monetary giving in Luke 6:38, the “pressed down shaken together” principle does apply: “Give freely and become more wealthy; be stingy and lose everything” (Proverbs 11:24, NLT; see also Proverbs 11:25; 22:9; Malachi 3:10). The apostle Paul taught, “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:6–8, see also 2 Corinthians 9:9–11).

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What does “pressed down, shaken together, and running over” mean in Luke 6:38?
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This page last updated: January 4, 2024