Give Over Get – In Serving

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:

  1. There is the person standing in the marketplace, who has been invited into the vineyard but is unsure whether they will go and what their role will be.
  2. There is the lost believer, the one who has been roaming around the vineyard not able to find the type of work that best fits them.
  3. The experienced believer, who has been working away for a while now in the right spot.

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.

Give Over Get – A Shift

Generations Church is a community of everyday people committed to expanding God’s family together because of Jesus for generations to come.

We have five values that help us accomplish our vision.

  • Spirit over Self
  • Give over Get
  • Story over Sin
  • Progress over Perfection
  • Send over Stay

Our values are structured as a choice.  Too often we have been conditioned to choose the latter of the options (in our values) because we follow faulty maps. We need a shift in our thinking, more than that, we need a shift in our living.

We are going to take a closer look at our value Give over Get – Looking to make a difference in the lives of others and our community through generous living rather than always wanting to receive more.

Before I tell you what this series is, let me tell you what it’s not about. This series isn’t about getting more out of you. In some ways, this series will help provide a common language to give a reason for why this church community differs from other communities in the world.

We pick up the story of Jesus on his way to Jerusalem for the Passover. He has been explaining and demonstrating that his way is upside-down. It’s a re-orientation of all our common social values. In this section of Luke, following Jesus is like a journey where you learn as you go. If you are following Jesus, you common assumptions and actions will be challenged. Jesus is being openly opposed.

Our desires must reflect our destination. Jesus’s destination is Jerusalem. 

  1. What Is Life (12:13-14)

The person is looking for an authority to help this man get what’s his rather than deal with the loss of life(Jesus’ disciples went out ahead of him announcing “good news to the poor that the Kingdom of God is here—Jesus is going to usher in this new way that renews God’s commitment to Israel that his blessing will go through them to all nations while also portraying Jesus as the wise and good King)

Jesus had just taught on our great value to God and on the importance of standing for Him. In the midst of this teaching, a man interrupted Jesus to ask that He take his side in a financial dispute.

According to the law of the day, the elder brother received two-thirds of the inheritance and the younger brother received one-third (Barclay). This man did not ask Jesus to listen to both sides and make a righteous judgment; he asked Jesus to take sides with him against his brother (“Tell my brother to divide the inheritance”). Obviously, Jesus’ previous words about the need for full commitment and God’s care for us didn’t penetrate this man’s heart. He felt he needed to fight for what was his. “If each of them learned the real meaning of life, and sought as its chief endeavor to be ‘rich toward God,’ the question of possessions would settle itself. The one would be eager to share, while the other would be careless about receiving.”  We often mask our covetousness by claiming we are on a righteous crusade.

  1. Life Is Not Defined by a Lot of Stuff (12:15-21)

Greed means wanting what doesn’t belong to you. “He then told them, ‘Watch out and be on guard against all greed, because one’s life is not in the abundance of his possessions.'” Storage businesses appear to be one of the fastest-growing businesses in the country because we covet and hoard, then we buy more space so we can continue coveting and hoarding.

As we move ahead to verse 19, the parable illustrates that some people think a good life is relaxing, eating, drinking, and being merry. The man was a fool – not because he was rich, but because he lived without any awareness of and preparation for eternity. The people who define life by what they possessed and enjoyed will be called fools. This can manifest itself in the search for the perfect vacation or perfect dream house. We have been conditioned to pursue the upgrade.

The man’s problem was not in that he had some treasure on earth; but that he was not rich toward God. This isn’t an attack on having possessions. It’s an affront on being rich towards ourselves and being rich toward God. When we live for the upgrade the upgrade will consume us.

  1. Life Is More Than Food and Clothes (12:22-24)

In this next section, Jesus turns to the disciples — they are in relationship to Him. He challenges them not to worry. This statement on worry is referring to the consumption of stuff; it is not dealing with anxiety. Research clearly shows that worry deteriorates our immune systems; people under constant worry show lower T cell counts, essential for immune response. Prolonged worry has been shown to affect the brain, making a person less able to respond to future stress. And stress also is related to sudden heart failure. When we worry in relation to our stuff, it communicates a connection to our identity. An identity based on material items can be taken away because these material items can be taken away.

Jesus is reminding His disciples. Your life is more than those things. Life is not defined by the things we have; life is worth more than all our things.

I read of a man who stood to speak at a funeral of a friend.  He referred to the dates on the tombstone from the beginning…to the end.

He noted that first came the date of birth and spoke of the following date with tears but said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time they spent alive on earth and now only those who loved them know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own, the cars…the house…the cash.  What matters is how we lived and loved and how we spend our dash.

So, think about this long and hard; are there things you’d like to change?  For you never know how much time is left that still can be rearranged.

To be less quick to anger and show appreciation more and love the people in our lives like we’ve never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect and more often wear a smile…remembering that this special dash might only last a little while.

So, when your eulogy is being read, with your life’s actions to rehash, would you be proud of the things they say about how you lived your dash?

by Linda Ellis

  1. Life Is Wasted by Worry (12:25-28)

We are tempted to think that worrying is the same thing as thinking or planning or even protecting ourselves. Yet take careful note: the birds don’t worry, but they do work. Birds don’t just sit with open mouths, expecting God to fill them. God provides. The worry many people have over the material things of life is rooted in a low understanding of their value before God. They don’t comprehend how much He loves and cares for them. God cares for the flowers, but that means that every day for the flowers is not sun and sweetness. If every day was sunny, and there were never clouds and rain, the flowers would die quickly.

One of the ways God provides is through people. We have seen God provide through people right here in Generations Church. In order to see God provide, we must be willing to express our needs. We also must be willing to GIVE OVER GET to help those in need.

  1. Life Is for Seeking God and His Kingdom (12:29-31)

The purpose of life is to seek God and his kingdom, not things and our needs. The mystery of life is that when we seek God and his kingdom he provides our needs. We receive a kingdom in exchange for worry. Jesus contrasted the life of those who do not know God and are separated from Him with those who do know God and receive His loving care. Those who know God should seek after other things. This is why we use the value GIVE OVER GET. Throughout your day you will face choices, will I be like everyone else, or will I make the choice that communicates something different?

  1. Life Follows Treasure (12:32-34)

The kingdom is not like an Easter Egg Hunt. When we realize this, then the world’s possession and our needs lose their grip on us. Jesus didn’t just tell them to stop worrying; He told them to replace worry with a concern for the kingdom of God. A habit or passion can only be given up for a greater habit or passion.

What is Jesus really saying? The command to give away what we have is a test of discipleship, and it is also a tool to train us as disciples. It points to giving as an antidote or cure to covetousness. “Readiness to respond to the call of renunciation is a sign of genuine conversion, a sign of undivided loyalty to Jesus, a sign of unwavering faith in Him.”

We can use this life’s possessions to bless the needy because we know the Father gives us a kingdom and a treasure that cannot be taken away, stolen, or decay.

We all have areas of our lives where we feel the pressure of this truth. Give over get isn’t simply an amen to affirm your generosity when you have the means. It’s a choice to make when it challenges your circumstances.

Our desires must reflect our destination. People will come into contact with this and ask “well aren’t you concerned about ___.” We must be able to give an answer that says, “I GIVE OVER GET because of Jesus.”

In the coming weeks, we will get very practical as we apply this to every area of our life. Your connection with God and connection with others will enable you to choose to GIVE OVER GET when you would rather opt-out. In a repeat of a similar challenge from last week, develop a deeper connection this week.