Every week I work with some great students at Skyview. It has been fun to get to know them. There are several types of students with whom I work in the program. My favorite two types are: 1) the student who actually wanted to learn the material, and 2) the students who ask: “What do I need to do to pass? What’s the minimum requirement?”
In looking at Luke 10: 25-42, we read about two seemingly disconnected stories. However, upon closer examination, we see that both stories are the expression of the same principle. Our relationship with God communicates the strength of our relationship with others and vice versa. Jesus is on the road to Jerusalem. His disciples have gone ahead of him proclaiming the kingdom of God. The announcement of God’s kingdom is met with both intrigue and backlash. One such interaction comes with a lawyer who would have thoroughly understood the law of God. Initially, the lawyer seems to understand the core of the Jewish faith. The lawyer then adds a question t his interaction with Jesus. At the heart of this lawyer’s question is: “What’s the minimum requirement?”
Jesus knows that’s its all too common for us to look over people, look past people, or pretend not to see them at all.
This series “Give Over Get” is about living generously the first part is in our relationships. The question “What’s the minimum requirement?” undermines “looking” and “generous living” in our Generations Church value. Surely this (generous living) doesn’t mean this person.
Jesus’ encounter with this lawyer reveals how he does not allow distinctions to be made when it comes to the treatment of people. There are no easy escapes for failing to serve and be a neighbor. The are no boundaries or defining lines that prevent us from applying generosity and subsequent grace to our interaction.
Jesus decides to tell the story of the “Good” Samaritan.
Jesus picks the treacherous road from Jericho to Jerusalem as the site of the incident. This seventeen-mile journey was well known for its danger. The road was hazardous, as the man who falls among robbers finds out. Thieves took advantage of the caves that lined the road as it wound through the desert, jumping travelers as they passed through. So this man is stripped of his clothing, beaten, and robbed. He is left for dead, cast off at the side of the road.” Serves him right”
The idea of a good Samaritan was an oxymoron to a Jew. So he says, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus tells the man to “go and do likewise.” The point is obvious. The lawyer wants to know if he can be a neighbor to a select, elite few. Jesus tells him through the Samaritan’s example, “Let the neighbor be you.”
Rather than worrying if someone else is a neighbor, Jesus’ call is to be a neighbor to those who have need. By reversing the perspective Jesus changes both the question and the answer. He makes the call no longer one of assessing other people, but of being a certain kind of person in one’s activity.
Here we see the priority and character come together in expressing Give over Get.
One additional point emerges. By making the Samaritain the example, Jesus points out that neighbors may come in surprising places. The lawyer’s attempt to limit his neighbors may actually be limiting where his “family” might come from. Those who run people through a sieve limit their capacity for meaningful friendships.
Growing up, Jimmy developed a reputation for being emotionally distant. This posture helped protect him from all the emotional shrapnel he was exposed to in his home life. Everyone else might be quick to fly off the handle, but not Jimmy. He’d be rational to a fault.
But after years on his own, Jimmy changed. He began to see the value of acknowledging and sharing his emotions and doing so with friends and colleagues added to the richness of his life. He wanted to reveal this change to his family but was afraid. The patterns of who he was with them were deeply etched and, though far from perfect, were comfortable and predictable. His detachment had cost, but they were familiar costs.
He discussed his fears with a friend, who asked Jimmy some hard questions: “what are you really afraid of? How does following Jesus adjust your fears?” Jimmy’s first response was that he was acting out of obligation to his family: “Someone in my family has to be the rational one. Otherwise, it will be chaos. The way things are now, everything more or less works.”
All true, but Jimmy probed further. Eventually, he discovered that fear that at some level he knew was present all along: “What if they reject me? What if they laugh? What if they think, “What’s gotten not him?” Jimmy knew he’d be in for a serious identity shake-up if his parents responded badly, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to risk it.
Jimmy’s increased awareness of his identity concerns wasn’t the end of the story. His friend persisted with Scriptural reminders about his identity in Christ. Jimmy determined he would show greater emotion around his family, and at first, the going was not smooth. There were awkward moments, and some members of his family wondered why he was acting differently. But Jimmy persisted because of a friend who encouraged him to Give Over Get, and in time a more genuine set of relationships replaced the old ones. – A modified excerpt from Difficult Conversations
Image management can cripple our ability to live generously. When we always look to get our of relationships we withhold a portion of ourselves and never experience growth.
In the example of the Samaritan, we see the personal compassionate meeting of basic needs, not the mere throwing of money at a problem in the hopes it will fix itself. The Samaritan not only provides resources but personally undertakes to make sure that others who become a part of the process are aware that he wants the victim brought back to health. It takes eyes and ears to be a neighbor, a compassionate heart, and a willingness to be vulnerable.
Sometimes we can think there is so much suffering in the world that we do not know where to start. Such thinking can become an excuse for inaction. If I cannot know where to begin, I will not even start to help, because if I do, I will be overwhelmed.
We distract ourselves. We fill up our time so that we can have the justification to limit our relational connection with others.
It comes in a series of three passages, each of which treats a different key aspect of our relationship to God: how we relate to neighbors, how we engage in dialogue with God, and how we view one another and our time with the Lord. We will cover the first two of the three stories. Go read the last one.
Martha’s consumption with assessing others as she performs what she is called to do, and Mary’s wisdom in seeking some time at the feet of Jesus. Both qualities, one negative and the other positive are at the heart of following Jesus. A community suffocates when all its energy is spent being an assessment agency for one another while distracting oneself from true relationships. Generous living chooses grace in our relationships.
How do we move past the “what’s the minimum requirement mindset?”
[ONE] In order to live a give over get lifestyle in our relationships, it takes margin. Margin is the space between our load and our limits. Planning for margin means planning for the unplannable. It means we understand what’s possible for us as finite creatures and we schedule for less than that. This is why Jesus approves of Mary’s posture.
Your busyness limits your ability to be present with God. Your busyness is crippling your ability to be a good neighbor.
[TWO] It takes separating choices from identity.
- Am I competent?
- Am I a good person?
- Am I worthy of love?
You have to get your eyes off yourself. You don’t expect to struggle. You will suffer if you are committed to people. We will move from distracted living to directed living.
“Starting each day with eternity makes our petty problems and long to-do lists seem less significant. By sitting at the feet of Jesus, we will grow more like him—more patient, more loving, more thoughtful. We’ll see that our screen does not satisfy our Savior. We’ll see that wisdom was not born yesterday, or thirty-four seconds ago on social media. We’ll learn to keep our complaints to a minimum and our eyes not he cross. And we’ll become more helpful to those around us.” Kevin Deyoung, Crazy Busy