Some of the various sectarian translations of this statement utilize the phrase, "take heed" instead of "understand clearly." The translation comes from the Greek word, βλέπω (blepō), which the lexicon refers to as, "to see with the mind's eye; to have the power of understanding; to discern mentally, observe, perceive, discover, understand."
The sectarian translation to "take heed" sounds more like a threat - like, you better watch out. Jesus was not threatening his students. He was teaching them. He was asking them to carefully understand his teachings.
Furthermore, the word "hear" is being translated from the Greek word ἀκούω (akouō), which means "to hear" and "to hear something" - "to attend to, consider what is or has been said" and "to understand, perceive the sense of what is said" - according to the lexicon.
Thus Jesus' statement definitely relates to the process of listening - but more importantly, hearing and understanding what is being spoken of.
This produces the phrase, “Understand clearly what you hear." In modern language, a person might say this slightly differently, such as:
"Understand clearly what I am saying."Yet that would not be a direct translation of Jesus' statement, as is the Gospels of Jesus translation above. But this is how it would likely be said today.
"because the measure you use will be used to measure you"
What does Jesus mean by this? Coming off the first statement - regarding understanding Jesus' teachings, Jesus is now discussing his students' application of what he is teaching them.
This comes from the Greek phrase ἐν ᾧ μέτρῳ, indicated a standard of measurement. This is followed by the word μετρέω (metreō), which means "to measure, to measure out or off."
Then we have the word προστίθημι (prostithēmito), which means "to add - i.e. to join to."
This latter word is actually repeated, with the phrase ὑμῖν καὶ between them, and ὑμῖν afterwards. The Greek word ὑμῖν relates to "with you" or "by you" - while the word καὶ refers to "and" or "in addition."
So we find that Jesus is using what would be considered a homonym. A homonym is a word that can be used to describe two different things at the same time. This is communicated in the translation by the use of the word "measure."
The first use of "measure" by Jesus could be described as a standard. And the second use of "measure" could be described as judgment.
Inverting the order to match how most people say this in modern language, we would have something like:
"You will be judged by the standard you use."Of course, such a translation would miss the deliberate use of the homonym as Jesus utilizes. So "measure" is more appropriate to try to capture Jesus' symphonious teaching style.
This translation and interpretation of Jesus' statement are confirmed by his statement in the Book of Matthew:
"For with the manner of your judgment you shall also be judged; and by your standard of measure you shall also be measured." (Matt. 7:2)In fact, this equivalent statement was made by God through Ezekiel:
"But I will judge each of you according to your own ways.” (Ezekiel 33:20)
Being measured by our standards
Is this not a fair means for judging? Surely it is, as the Supreme Being provides the ultimate in fairness.
Consider, for example, a young child who is learning to walk. Will the parents judge and criticize the child's first few steps as one might judge an adult who had been walking for decades?
Certainly not. Even if the child's first steps are fumbling and wobbly, the parents would be excited and pleased that the child - who only crawled before - is now walking. Why? Because their standard of judgment is based upon the child's progress - not their own.
In the same way, we are measured by our standards. If we are humble in our vision of ourselves and others, then we will be measured as such. If we have established higher standards of others - then those are the standards we are measured by.
We are each taking a separate journey with respect to our relationship with the Supreme Being - because each of us is an individual our relationship with the Supreme Being is unique. Thus He has designed a natural process that nurtures us while teaching us.
For a person who has not become devoted to Him, much of this is done automatically through the facilities of the physical world. This is the consequence learning system - whatever we sow, we must reap the results. This system is inherent within the physical world.
But once a person is introduced to the Supreme Being by God's representative - as Jesus was doing with his students - that person can now make spiritual progress according to his sincerity and dedication to the goal: Coming to love and serve the Supreme Being without an expectation of reward.
This includes the expectation of salvation
We must remember the context of Jesus' statements. He has just explained to his students the meaning of the parable he spoke of earlier - about the farmer and the seed, with the good seed described as producing a crop:
“But other seed fell on good soil – and yielded a crop that sprouted up and grew tall and brought a harvest – some thirty, some sixty and some hundred-fold. One who has ears to hear with should listen.” (Mark 4:3-9)Then Jesus discusses how the Truth must be revealed:
Thus we can know that Jesus is asking his students to listen deeply to his teachings, and apply them to their lives while knowing their progress is being nurtued by the mercy of the Supreme Being.
In other words, it is not as if we don't achieve spiritual perfection in this life we will be thrown into hell forever. This is the philosophy of fanatics, who threaten people to make up for their own emptiness.
The judgments of fanatics
Fanatics would have us judged by their standard - we either join their institution or be damned.
Many religious institutions in the world - today and over the centuries - believe they can force people to accept their fanatical teachings. Yes, this still goes on today - with some even threatening people with beheading unless they surrender to their fanatical institutions.
This has nothing to do with the Supreme Being. Fanaticism has nothing to do with coming to know and love God. It is diametrically opposed, in fact, to love for God.
Love requires freedom and free will. No one can be forced to love. Who, after all, could love someone who forced them to surrender to an institution or be slaughtered? No one. They might fear God - yes - but this would not accomplish Jesus' teachings:
" 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)Love is quite the opposite of force and fear. In fact, the translation to "fear" (as in "fear God") in most sectarian Bible translations - specifically those of the Old Testament - come from the Hebrew word יָרֵא (yare'), better translated to "reverence, honor, respect" and "to be held in awe" according to the lexicon.
Certainly, the latter are consistent with loving the Supreme Being. A person who loves the Supreme Being can also be reverent to Him, can honor Him, respect Him and be in awe of God.
But we cannot love someone we are afraid of. The two emotions are diametrically opposed.
Why? Because to fear someone is a self-centered emotion. It means to be afraid because we are concerned about ourselves. We are afraid they will hurt us somehow.
Love, on the other hand is the opposite - it means to care for someone else more than we care for ourselves.
We find, in fact, that Moses often used this word יָרֵא (yare') - as he said:
"Revere [often mistranslated to "fear"] the LORD your God, serve Him only and take your oaths in His Name." (Deut. 6:13)And Moses also said:
"If you carefully observe all these commands I am giving you to follow—to love the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to Him and to hold fast to Him— (Deut. 11:22)Why would someone want to hold fast to someone they were afraid of?
So we can know that the many translators of these Hebrew words over the centuries were not loving the Supreme Being. They were not in awe of the Supreme Being. They were focused on pleasing their fanatical institutions and leaders, who were trying to scare people into joining or staying in their institution. So they translated the word יָרֵא (yare') in a manner that satisfied their institutions and resulted in earthly rewards such as salaries and promotions.
In fact, the vast majority of Bible translators over the centuries have performed their translation work subject to being paid. This, along with maintaining others' respect, finds the service an exchange for earthly rewards. And their translations reflect these purposes.
Even those who may have conducted translation work as a part of their theological ministry or professorships, these persons also needed to maintain their positions among the various institutions. If they translated something differently from the institutional versions, they would be ostracized and put at risk of losing their salaried positions.
Their translations reflect these professional positions, as they miss subtle points regarding the nature of the Supreme Being. It is harder to mistranslate the Hebrew word אָהַב ('ahab) - meaning to love.
Loving the Supreme Being - giving ones life to Him as a result of coming to know Him - forms the basis of religion - originating from the Latin word ligare, meaning "to bind."
To bond with the Supreme Being out of love is the concept of "holding fast to Him" that Moses spoke of. This is the foundation of Jesus' teachings. Yet sectarian institutions trivialize the importance of creating a bond of love for God.
Instead, today these institutions promote the bonds of love for the family of this temporary body instead of promoting our need to renew our natural bond of love for God.
This is unfortunate, because a bond of love for God is life itself.
(The New Testament verses in this article are quoted from the Gospels of Jesus)