The following post is the manuscript from the talk by Kyle Davies delivered Sunday, March 8, 2020, at Generations Church.
We are going to start off by having a little fun today. We are going to begin with a little exercise. I am going to throw nines dots up on the screen. I want you to draw nine dots on your teaching time notes. Maybe you’ve seen this before, your goal is to draw a line through all nine dots without picking up your pencil and in less than 4 total straight lines.
As you begin, I want to recap our series Substance to this point. If you are new you can always go back and listen to last weeks on the podcast. Kaleb gave us a good start – get connected to Jesus. “Paul apparently being convinced that true gratitude for God’s grace is an important offensive measure against the false teaching.
Paul develops a powerful positive theological argument against false teaching by rehearsing the completeness of the spiritual victory we share in Christ.
Christ is substantive. Specifically in Colossians 2:17, the substance is the Messiah. This is important because Paul, who writes most of the back section of your Bible, is writing to a group of people who are being pressured to believe and live out that Christ is not enough.
Paul knows what they have been initially taught because he led Epaphras to follow Jesus and Epaphras started this new church community.
What has happened is teachers have come in after the fact and attempted to influence this church in another direction.
Here’s their basic message: We have some additional practices that will add to your life and help you be fulfilled.
Let me elaborate on that a moment: We know following Jesus is hard. It’s difficult. And you might not always feel like you are fulfilled when you are following Jesus. The reason you might feel this way is because some others, us specifically, have these incredible experiences that move us closer to God. You don’t have to feel insecure about missing out on these experiences. We can help you experience these same incredible moments. So, just let us give you some practices and you’ll be able to have these great experiences and minimize any suffering. We will make sure that you measure up, that you are satisfied, and that when others ask you about following Jesus you can point to these experiences through the practices that we will give you.
These false teachers are attempting to give these Colossians believers additional practices or additional rules that are not dependent on Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and return. This is an attempt to coerce the Colossians believers into believing that true spiritual fulfillment is not found in Christ alone.
Now, you may be wondering “why” well our Scriptures don’t give us the clear “why.” Let’s revisit our activity for a moment.
Did anyone get frustrated and look up the answer? In our culture and our time, we have a propensity for wanting to get things right.
When we open our Bible and begin to walk with Jesus sometimes there is clarity about what right is. Sometimes there is a mystery that makes it hard to apply the principled way of Jesus to different situations throughout our week. No two situations are exactly identical. To avoid true dependency on Jesus, we opt for some rules. Even if it’s simply to rebel against them. We like to know the boundaries of play.
Many times we say in safe comfortable predictable patterns because it’s easier to play by a set of rules that we make up and that we establish rather than take a step dependence upon God each and every day. Even if this set of rules says that we cannot know for sure.
It’s easier to live by a set of rules we make up because we can establish the mark for success, eliminate failure, and know the standard. Change is difficult. It’s messy and often unclear.
Let’s go ahead and look at the solution to the nine dots. What you see here is that you actually have to think outside the box to accomplish the task. My guess is your brain made some assumptions about the process.
Paul’s words here in Colossians 2 begin to address these additional rules that we put in place in our own lives because of our propensity for achievement, approval, control, or satisfaction.
While the desire may be different for each of us
Paul addresses these additional rules. These rules can be both assumed or articulated.
These rules…….Take you captive. They hold you prisoner. The philosophy is the product of mere speculation and does not put adherents in touch with divine truth. Ambrosiaster commenting on Paul in the 300s: “Paul calls this tradition of philosophy fallacious and inept, because it is not worked out according to the power of God but according to the weaknesses of the human mind, which restricts the power of God to the limits of its own knowledge so that no one will ever know that is is possible to do anything other than what the carnal reason suggests.”
Common to both Jews and pagans was the basic idea of cause and effect and in a sense it rules nature and the minds of men. We live under the idea that we get what we deserve; when we are good, we deserve to receive good; when we are bad, we deserve to receive bad. Paul warned the Colossians to not subject themselves to this grace-eliminating kind of thinking, and to consider themselves dead to it.
….Tell lies. They are deceitful. They give you a false sense of success. They misrepresent what it means to follow Jesus for yourself and for others. They seem to be arguing that certain practices must be added in order to achieve true spiritual fulfillment. One cannot add to Jesus without, in effect, subtracting from his exclusive place in creation and in salvation history. The phrase “based elements of the world” conjures up the idea of spiritual attunement to air, earth, fire, and water. They may have felt they needed to appease these spirits or Gods in these natural sources.
Paul is not actually attempting to deny their reality, however, their preoccupation with rules about material things, was like the pagans, and were thus in need of pleasing. Thus, putting them in the place of Christ. The false teachers are proclaiming and demanding a doctrine and demanding practices that do not depend on Christ.
….Give you less authority We have authority in Christ: Christians need not fear these powers, therefore, because they are firmly under the control of their own head, the one in whom all the fullness of deity had come to reside. The Colossians believers will have no interest in listening to the false teachers once the realize that they are already filled. Paul says that this is a fact to be enjoyed, not a status to be achieved.
Sandwiched in the middle of these reasons, Paul writes a statement that proves why these are true.
Read verse 9. “FULLNESS” Jesus claimed to be God, received worship as God, and was crucified because of his claims to be God. We will touch on this more next week. God has taken up residence in and therefore revealed himself in a body. Meaning, there was never a time in Jesus’ earthly existence where he ceased to be God.
Picture this: You go to the Pacific Ocean with a friend—two finite dots alongside a seemingly infinite expanse. As you stand there, you take a pint jar and allow the ocean to rush into it, in an instant the jar would be filled with the fullness of the Pacific. But you could never put the fullness of the Pacific Ocean into the jar. Thinking of Christ, we realize that because he is infinite, he can hold all the fullness of Deity. And whenever one of us finite creatures dips the tiny vessel of our life into him, we instantly become full of his fullness.
From the perspective of our humanity, the capacity of our containers is of great importance. Our souls are elastic, so to speak, and there are no limits to possible capacity. We can always open to hold more and more of his fullness. The walls can always stretch further; the roof can always rise higher; the floor can always hold more. The more we receive of his fullness, the more we can receive.
Paul is not advocating the view, so common in his day, that true spirituality was to be found by abandoning or by strictly subduing the body. Rather, god has chosen precisely a body in which to take residence and through that body, sacrificed on the cross and raised from the dead to win ultimate victory over the powers of darkness.
When we fail to understand Jesus, we succeed in limiting ourselves.
So what: We underestimate what God wants to do through us. When we don’t know how to cope with that reality we begin to draw lines, boundaries, and form rules.
We underestimate what God wants to do through us.
The substance of life is Christ. This is why at GenChurch we have a value Spirit over Self. Daily depending of Christ is very different than depending on the rules you establish.
For example, Damien Lillard on playing outside the Three Point Line because of size. He can’t drive inside. He can’t play defense. It’s limiting.
This is what we do to ourselves when we depend on other rules of life. Fulfillment isn’t found in a formula. Christ’s fullness in you provides fulfillment.
Now what: How do I begin to depend more on Jesus?
Over that past several weeks I have been going back to the chiropractor, I’m extremely thankful. I needed and adjustment. The alignment of your spine is important. I didn’t realize that my spine could cut off the nerves to different parts of my body and keep other systems from functioning well. I needed an alignment.
The lives of Christians must align with the way of Jesus. Sometimes we need an adjustment. This is how we functionally use our values around our church. The way the choices are framed up helps position so that we can be healthy believers. One of our Values is Give Over Get.
As we have looked at Give over Get, this series has been about our character and priorities of generous living aligning with the gospel of Jesus.
There are very real barriers and habits that prevent us from living a life of holistic generosity in our relationships, how we use the gift/skills God has given us, and the perspective we have on money.
With that final word—money—right these some of you just went on the defensive. You’ve been in churches, or haven’t in the church because of this subject. I hope that if you have been journeying with us through this series that you have seen that generous living applies to more than you finances, but it does apply to your finances.
How we handle and think about money in relation to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus does communicate the condition of our hearts—because Jesus says so.
Go back and look at the last four passages we have taught from:
Money is always involved. Time is money. Or, you use a skill that you could get paid for and you volunteer for free. It needs to be stated that generosity doesn’t just take place in relationships with your time and grace. It doesn’t just take place in terms of your time in serving others and in serving in the church. It takes place in actually using money. They took an X-ray to see where I was out of alignment.
Here’s what I want us to do…write these words side by side: NOT ENOUGH – ENOUGH – EXTRA.
What you actually are and what you feel you are maybe two different things. Everyone falls within this category.
In a chapter that deals with the end times, Jesus stresses money’s importance. This text, therefore, calls us to examine our hearts in the scope of eternity. Jesus has arrived in Jerusalem. We see him sitting at the temple. Two pictures are present: the Pharisees and the widow. See Luke 20:45 – Luke 21:4.
Everything the Pharisees do reward them for their hard work and their exercise of effort and talent. Instead of seeing the abilities they have as being the faithful exercise of stewardship from God, they take personal credit for them. But if what was given to them they received from God, there is no room for boasting and self-exaltation. Especially as we look at the widow, the point of the larger story, we should not be criticized for the wealth we have, rather the posture in which we wield it. Giving out of abundance is appreciated, but it costs little.
Jesus turns to a contrastive image. That is why Jesus praises the widow here. Her attitude and action serve as an example of how believers should live. Giving to God is part of communicating our dependence on Him. This dependance is evident through the amount that is given and the heart behind the gift.
The widow gives two mites which are a fraction of a day’s wage; 1/100 of a denarius. She gave two mites, not just one. The widow might have kept one coin for herself, and no one would blame her if she did. Giving one meant giving half of all her money. The widow challenged the mindset that says, “I’ll give when I have more.” To watching the first-century world, this specific act of giving echoes back to God as the provider.
Randy Alcorn in Money, Possessions, and Eternity meditates on this scene in a convicting way. He asks us to consider what our counsel to this woman might have been if she had asked us what she should do with these last two coins. would we say something like, “The Lord knows these are your last two coins and would understand if you purchased bread instead?” Many of us would. yet Jesus commends this woman for giving her last in worship to God. Giving all she had demonstrated her surrender to God. It was an act of great faith.”
The widow had virtually nothing, yet was a giver. This means that we can all please God with our giving just as much as the richest man can please God with his giving. Whatever we give sacrificially to God, He sees it and is pleased. The widow made a spectacular contribution. God sees the amount of your gift.
Jesus sees us when we give. I want to take a step back. Jesus turns the tables of evaluation here. How does one measure giving? True giving aligns the bank account and the heart with God.
We tend to appreciate the amount of a gift, not necessarily the sacrifice that went into the giving. It’s never about the amount of $$ you give. It’s about the heart. He notices how much we give, as we see with both the Pharisees and the widow, but is far more interested in the faith and motive and heart in giving than simply the amount.
The proportional amount communicates the heart. The woman gives to God her all. The value of a gift is determined by what it costs the giver. This is what made the widow’s gift so valuable. It is not sacrifice to give to God out of your extra. The others gave out of their abundance; she gave sacrificially, out of her poverty.
Give over get has a lot less to do what’s actually in your bank account. Not Enough – Enough – Extra
This means that no one is too poor to give. God wants you to live a generous life. In one sense, this woman’s gift would not have been missed had she kept her two coins to live on. But what would have been missed was her sense of participation within the community unto God. We are about expanding God’s family.
God does not need our money. If God needed our money, then how much we give would be more important than our heart in giving.
When you give to something you begin to care about its well-being. When you give to the church, just as the woman gave in the temple, you giving is for the benefit of another not just the consumption of the services. Instead, it is our privilege to give to Him, and we need to give because it is good for us, not because it is good for God. It brings our alignment.
The woman’s generosity grows her heart toward God and others. Giving out of less means that basic things may be given up in order to honor God. One’s prioritization in giving shows where one’s emphasis lies. If you can pick up a Dutch Bros/Black Rock/Starbucks but cannot bring yourself you give.
What we give to God deserves priority. He should not receive our leftovers. As is all too common, the leftovers mysteriously shrink in size to take care of things that are not necessities.
When we give to God what is set aside from the first we limit what we use for ourselves. It develops not only a healthy recognition that our resources belong first of all to God, but it can also lead us to be more disciplined with what is left for us after we give. This startling confrontation with our finances brings about our alignment. She did not see her money as the source of her security.
What is always most vital is that we should be given over fully trusting God himself. This is what the gospel demands. The call of Christ requires us to turn away from the world, from sin, and from our own control to trust solely in him. The gospel calls us to give ourselves over to God, acknowledging that he has purchased our lives with the blood of his Son. we constantly give our lives over to Him. Cross out not enough and extra HE IS ENOUGH. When He is enough the questions about what is enough to give disappears and alignment begins.
We are about expanding God’s family at Generations Church. When we invite people to give this is what we are inviting them to give toward: Expanding God’s family because of Jesus for generations to come.
I think it would be foolish of me to talk about money without addressing how Generations Church utilizes it. We value Give over Get – You give to see the vision and values lived out in Salmon Creek.
How can a new church do this? We rely on the generosity of others. Generations Church is supported by people who have given sacrificially. Yes, we need you to give. There are two ways to give for those of you who may want to give, but feel liek to you may not have the means.
May we live and give in such a way that reflects how generous Jesus has been toward us.
The following post is a guest post/sermon from Jon Grabhorn, Engagement Pastor at Generations Church.
These past few weeks we have been in this teaching series of “Give Over Get.” And during this time we have been challenged to reflect Jesus’ characteristics and priorities, and then last week were challenged in living our generosity through our relationships. This week we are going to focus on living our generosity through serving.
In our teaching time today, we are going to look at three consecutive short stories that make up one story. While our primary teaching text is Matthew 20:1-16 the story starts in Matthew 19:16.
As Jesus is walking along his journey to Jerusalem he is asked a question by a man labeled as the Rich Young Ruler. He is asked a question that many of us may have asked ourselves at some point, “Jesus, what good things must I do to get this eternal inheritance you talk about?”
Jesus redirects the young man and points him to God as the source of all that is good. He simply tells him that if he wants to enter into this eternal life that he needs to keep the commandments. Which the young man quickly responds, “Which ones?” Jesus interestingly enough responds with the second half of the ten commandments and the second greatest commandment: do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.
The young man has an interesting response that I think often gets overlooked. There is a quick shift from confidence to insecurity. He states, “I have kept them all,” but, “what do I still lack?” The man seems to have this incomplete feeling within him that something is lacking.
Jesus bluntly tells him, “To be perfect, give up all your possessions and then come follow me.” This can seem a little harsh, and I think too often can be used in an improper way. Jesus isn’t calling us to never own anything, he is rather hitting on the young man’s insecurity. The young man is struggling with the external comfort he receives from his possessions, and they have become a godly idol. Jesus is calling the man to exchange the reliance upon worldly wealth in exchange for the wealth of eternal life.
The young man hearing this from Jesus turns and walks away sorrowful. There is a clear internal struggle within this man, and we don’t know what he would go on to do. But the story does not end here.
Following this interaction, Jesus turns to his disciples and tells them, “It is hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” I don’t know about you, but I struggle enough to get a little piece of thread through the eye of a needle.
The disciples hearing this ask Jesus, “Who then can be saved?” And Jesus gives a profound statement, “With man, it is impossible to enter into the kingdom of heaven, but with God all things are possible.” It is because of God alone that we can be saved. Our possessions, our good deeds, our lifestyle does not save us, it is only God. Recognize that when we talk about eternal life it is a gift that is inherited, it is not a reward to be earned.
Peter being Peter, asks Jesus a question that seems a little self-centered and self-seeking. He basically asks, “Jesus, look at all that we have done for you. We have left everything, possessions, friends, family, everything; just to follow you. So because we have done this what do we receive?” Peter here is assessing how he has lived his life in comparison to others, as though it warrants him to have a better standing or higher status in the kingdom of God.
Jesus acknowledges that his disciples receive rewards in heaven for their faithfulness. Verse 30 sets up our text for today. Jesus tells them, “Many of those who are first will be last, and the last first.” The parable Kyle read earlier acts as a subtle rebuke and reorientation for Peter’s line of thinking.
For the Kingdom of Heaven is like… when you see this into you know that Jesus is about to give an earthly illustration that has heavenly meaning. So he begins by talking about this vineyard, which is often used as a location of activities for the kingdom in our world. A vineyard was Israel’s most important crop, so the nation of Israel was often referred to a vineyard because of its importance to God.
So we have a landowner who goes out early in the morning to find some workers for his vineyard. After finding some workers he invites them to work in his vineyard for one denarius (basically equivalent to a day’s wage for labor). A little later in the day, around 9:00 am, the landowner saw others standing around in the marketplace, and he gave them a similar offer. He invited them to come work in his vineyard and that they would be paid whatever is right. A little later in the day, around noon, he went out and did the same thing. Again, later in the day, around five, he found some people standing around in the marketplace and asked them why they were standing there. They told him that no-one had hired them, the workday ended around 6:00 pm. So he invited them to go work in his vineyard.
When the end of the day arrived, the landowner went around to the workers in his vineyard to pay them. He started with those who started last and ended with those who started first. Starting with those who started around 5:00 pm came, they each received one denarius. You can imagine the confusion and excitement that came across the other workers. Those who started the first shift in the morning must have been crazy exciting because they thought that is what they were going to receive for working all day. If those guys worked that long and received that, could you imagine what they were about to receive.
To their surprise they too received a denarius each. When they received this they began to complain, “Those men only worked one hour, and yet they made equal to us who have bore the burden of a full days work in the burning heat!”
The landowner has an interesting response to these claims, “Friend, I’m doing you no wrong. Didn’t you agree with me on a denarius? Take what is yours and go. I want to give this last man the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with what is mine? Are you jealous because I am generous?” The laborers are blinded by their self-interest and their assessment of others that they aren’t thankful for what they have received.
Jesus caps off this parable the same way he began it: “The last will be first, and the first last.”
When we look at this passage, there are two points Jesus is making. Remember the vineyard is used to illustrate God’s kingdom on earth. God is the landowner of this vineyard, his kingdom on earth, and we are the workers that he has called into the field. First point, God is calling people to join in his kingdom work. And second, God is calling those who are already working in the field to not assess the new workers, rather to welcome them in and to be grateful for their inheritance.
We emphasize being apart of God’s family here at Generations. We are all a part of God’s kingdom work that he is doing here in Vancouver, WA, but we are also a part of the kingdom that is happening all across our world. It is all one vineyard, one kingdom, one family. And God is inviting people from all walks of life into this family, yes it may even be that person you avoid or struggle to be around. We talked about this some last week, rather than asking “who is our neighbor,” we are to ask “how can I be a neighbor?” God is active in expanding his family. He does so by inviting people into what he is doing, and he is working to redeem the world, all the people in it.
So for those of us who have committed ourselves to God. We have answered his call, we have entered into the vineyard, into the kingdom, into the family. All of us who have entered, we have entered into the same work. The work of expanding God’s vineyard, his kingdom, his family to those who are not in. We are all striving to the same goal. So we don’t compare or assess oneself with another. We all will receive the same inheritance, eternal life with God. Whether you have been in for 30 years or 30 seconds, we are all one family. No amount of time in the vineyard will get you a better seat, closer to God, or higher status in the new heavens and new earth.
Out of this passage, there are three types of people that come to mind:
Maybe you are able to find yourself in one of these three examples.
If you find yourself to be the first type of person, who is new to Christianity and God, my encouragement for you is to try out something that interests you. Accept the invitation into the vineyard, the kingdom, the family and plugin somewhere. Maybe you have a friend that is serving, try going alongside them and see if it is a fit for you. Maybe you enjoy working with kids, playing an instrument, talking with people, social media, and the list could go on. Share that interest with us and we will connect you with one of our teams. Now I do want emphasize, you may try something and it just doesn’t fit you. That is okay! Try something and shift to another team until you find your place.
If you find yourself to be the second type of person, who is someone who has been in the family for a while serving in some different roles but has yet to find the right place or maybe is dealing with some hard times. My encouragement to you is to share that struggle. Something you will find out quickly if you haven’t already is that just because you are a Christian and following God doesn’t mean life is going to be peachy. But that is why for the last three weeks in our flow of teaching we started by encouraging the growth of our inner resolve. That we find our hope, strength, and endurance in Jesus and not our own abilities.
Also, as we talked about last week that we want to develop a family mentality where we are a neighbor to each other. That we are a supportive community who truly cares and goes over and beyond for one another. There is a danger in being in this stage, I’ve heard it as beware of the 3 B’s: Busyness, Burnout, and Bitterness. That you may be serving away and away, but you aren’t seeing the change you thought you might get. Or you are just exhausted because you keep pouring out. Or you begin to develop a resentfulness towards what you are doing because things aren’t going the way you thought they would. If you find yourself here, your issue isn’t your serving. You may just be in the wrong place, maybe you’re just working the wrong part of the vineyard. Please reach out and share that frustration or struggle. Let’s have the conversation and identify where God might be calling you to work. God is calling you to work, but it may just in a different way than you currently are.
If you find yourself to be the third type of person, the one who has found their role in the vineyard and is thriving. My encouragement to you is to look around the vineyard (those in the family) or the marketplace (those who aren’t in the family) and be willing to invite them to come to serve alongside you. There is plenty of inheritance to go around, just because someone else comes in doesn’t mean your place in eternal life is hindered. Rather there will be so much joy when you see others thriving in the vineyard. Are you open and willing to receive new workers in the kingdom? God is going to continue to invite and bring people in, are we being receptive and helping them find their place? We are all co-laborers in the vineyard.
I want to share a quick story of someone in our family who has found their place in the vineyard, and my hope in sharing this is to emphasize that it is okay to not know your place in the kingdom. But if you are open and willing to have that conversation God will work and he will lead you to that place, and you will see the fruit in how the Spirit will work through your willingness to serve.
Some of you may know Charity. She has been around Generations for quite a while now. She was a part of our initial team that was sent from the Branch. She felt God calling her to join Generations, she had no idea what that looked like, but she trusted and followed. She accepted God’s invitation, without a clear direction. She showed up and began feeling her way around Generations looking for her place. In November she made a note on her GenCard that she was interested in joining a ministry team, to serve somewhere, but she was unsure of where that would be.
About a week later Charity and I are talking over coffee. She shared how she has served in many different roles in the church before but has never found her fit. She loved serving and felt like she was doing good work, but there was still this uneasiness as though this might not be the right fit. She resonated that there was a level of burnout in her last role of serving. In hearing that I asked her a question that I was once asked and now use regularly in my ministry, “What are you passionate about? What do you enjoy to do?”
I think she was a little taken back when I first asked that, but it led to a great conversation. She shared how she loved to plan, organize, and execute events. I began to share a few places where she might be able to use that here at Generations and there was almost an instant and fired up response, she wanted to join our events team.
So I got her connected with the team and she went to work rather quickly. Some of you may have attended our Valentine’s Masquerade event this past Friday. It was such a great time! But it only happened because of the work and effort of those on our events team. Charity is one of the people on the team. She found a place where she was passionate and it showed in how she helped the team. She was ecstatic after the event because she found her place in the vineyard. God has gifted her in her ability to plan, coordinate, picture, and execute events. This was obvious in her ministry towards our Valentine’s event. We saw some of our family show up for a good, fun time to interact with one another, and we also saw new people interact with us. We had people there who have never connected with Generations before, and we were blown away by the connections made from this event.
I love stories like this because you see someone who is committed and in the kingdom, but just hadn’t found their right spot yet. Feel free to ask her about why she does what she does and how she has seen God at work in her life. It is incredible when you see people find their ministry fit, there is an unfathomable passion and overflowing of love that comes from it. It isn’t easy, but when your hope is found in Jesus and you have a family around you that wants to see you thrive, it will completely change how you work in the kingdom.
If you have questions or want to have a conversation about your place here at Generations make a note on your GenCard [For those reading this post, text GenCard to 97000 and we will help you get connected to your ministry fit].
Feel free to be open and honest. We want to see everyone find their role in God’s family and to find their right ministry fit. Communicate that on your GenCard, drop it in the response box, and let’s get together for a conversation about your place in the vineyard. Our desire is to equip and empower others. This is why here at Generations we function as a team, and we want you to be a part of that. We want to see you identify the passion and gifts God has given you, and for you to find how you can use that in his vineyard.
We are all one family. A family that is committed to expanding the family of God, we do it because of Jesus. And that expansion goes on to the next generation and all the generations to follow. We do this by identifying where God is calling us to work in the vineyard, caring for our family that is struggling, and inviting others to join us as we seek to advance God’s kingdom.
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.
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