Be Rich Part 2: Serving
On Sunday 14th May at our morning service, we continued our series 'Be Rich' with the topic 'Serving'. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.
To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.
To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here.
This is the second part of our series “Be Rich” – Serving.
A few weeks ago at work I got asked to do something that isn’t part of my normal job. It was making some changes to some website mock ups that someone who had recently left the company had started.
It wasn’t something that I really knew how to do, but I had a vague idea of how to do what was needed and I was prepared to give it a go and work it out. I sent the tweaked designs that I had come up with to my boss and the sales manager involved and after a couple more changes we sent them off to the customer involved. Later that day I got an email which said this: “Excellent job Matt. One gold star.”
Being recognised for something that we have done always feels great and it is very often something that we want. We do something for someone and then sit back and wait for the recognition or praise to come in.
Sometimes though we end up with a “Look at me” type of recognition, we go looking for it, letting people know what we have done. We actively seek recognition that we crave. We do this because in us as humans there is this in built desire for recognition.
This feeling can become a bad thing in us though. We can become self-centred, egotistical and evil.
This whole desire for recognition comes from the desire to be great. There is this desire of greatness within us all and this isn’t just a new thing.
Even Jesus’ disciples had this innate desire to be recognised and wanted to be great. The subject came up more than once during their time with Jesus.
We read about a couple of these occasions in Mark’s account of Jesus’ life in the New Testament part of the Bible. Just prior to this part Jesus and his disciples had been travelling through Galilee. We start reading at chapter 9 and verse 33. You can read this by clicking here.
The first thing that struck me about this is that the Disciples must have been trying to have this argument out of earshot of Jesus, without involving him. Jesus has to ask them what they were arguing about, which suggests to me that he knew, but they didn’t know he knew.
The second thing I noticed is that the disciples didn’t want to admit to Jesus what they had been arguing about. They “kept quiet” about it.
The third thing is something that isn’t mentioned in the passage. Jesus doesn’t directly tell them off for having that argument. He doesn’t turn around and say that they should be talking about who is the greatest, but you could probably hear the disapproving tone in Jesus voice in what he does tell them (v35).
What he tells them flip the whole argument that they were having on its head. In this one sentence Jesus not only rebukes the disciples for arguing about who amongst them is the greatest, but reverses the whole concept. The first must be last and a servant! Or to put it as the Message translation of the Bible does: “So you want first place? Then take the last place. Be the servant of all.”
That is a very powerful counter cultural statement. Jesus picks up on this in the next chapter of Mark’s account of Jesus life.
Just prior to this next section we are going to read Jesus had been out and about with the disciples again and had again predicted his own death and resurrection. Jesus had also been approached by James and John. (James and John were brothers who were two of Jesus disciples.) They had asked Jesus if they could sit one at Jesus right hand and one at Jesus left hand in heaven. This annoyed the other disciples so Jesus had to sort it out. You can read this by clicking here.
In these four sentences Jesus completely redefines what greatness is in the context of the Kingdom of God. The normal model of who were considered great is those with power and authority over other people. Instead Jesus flips the whole concept of greatness up-side-down. It is the servants who are great. If you want to be great you have to become a slave – the lowest level in society.
Then Jesus delivers what must have felt like a shocking statement to his disciples in verse 45. He didn’t come to be served, but he came to serve. This is such a profound statement.
And it is not being a king that serves that Jesus says that he came to be, but something even greater. He says that he has come “to give his life as a ransom for many”. This is one of those points that Jesus is predicting his own death. This statement is the complete opposite of what the disciples would have expected. They were expecting the Messiah to be this great conquering king that would overthrow the Romans. Instead Jesus redefines what greatness is. He takes it from being something that is unobtainable to a vast majority of people to something that EVERYONE can achieve.
So there is nothing wrong with wanting to be great. Jesus didn’t condemn the disciples for discussing who was the greatest. Instead he redefined the criteria for being great. The new criteria is so much different to what people would expect, it is not about what you know, who your parents are or how much money you have. Jesus is creating a new norm of greatness, one that everyone can aspire to.
About two months before he was murdered Martin Luther King preached a sermon on serving. Towards the end of this talk he said this:
“And this morning, the thing that I like about it: by giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don't have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don't have to know Einstein's theory of relativity to serve. You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love. And you can be that servant.”
So we don’t need knowledge to serve. What we do outside of the kingdom, that is outside of the church, doesn’t have to define what we do for the kingdom.
There are two types of serving. The first is practical discipline serving, this is what I would call “the clearing away the chairs type of serving”. There are opportunities for this type of service on a Sunday morning, as Peter mentioned in his article in Insight you don’t need any special skills to be part of the welcome team, just the ability to smile and shake hands. Almost anyone can help wash up. Sometimes it is these small jobs that make a big difference.
If you can’t do a Sunday morning, then there are opportunities throughout the week. Things like Messy Church, Premix Toddlers, Storehouse, they all rely on people who are just physically able to help them do what they do. (Even if it’s only for an hour or so!) Anyone can do this type of serving. Generally you just need to be willing and physically able.
The second is serving within your spiritual gifts. These are the specific areas that God has equipped you to serve in. These are the specific gifts that enable people to be able to stand up and deliver a talk on a Sunday morning. These are the gifts that enable Eileen to do all that she does behind the scenes. If you want to know more about this then we are hoping to run a Spiritual Gifts course a bit later this year, or speak to Simon or Steph about it.
But what if you wouldn’t call yourself a Christian this is also a great definition of greatness for you as well. It is a definition of greatness that can be an aspiration to anyone. But how can you serve. Well there are things that you can do within EBC if you aren’t ready for the “religious” bits yet. Storehouse is a good example, and there are others such as Messy Church and Refresh. If you want to get involved then I would suggest that you have a chat with Simon who would be more than willing to help you find an area of EBC that you can serve in.
What I don’t want you to do is go away thinking that you should be serving out of a sense of guilt, but out of a sense of giving and a desire to be great. Do something out of a sense of duty is the wrong form of giving. It should be as a response to what Jesus has freely done for us. How he has served us in the most generous and sacrificial way by dying for us. Giving your time out of a sense of love and grace that we get from Jesus will not only benefit those you are helping, but you will find that you will probably get more out of it that you expect.
We must also remember the command that Jesus gave his disciples just before he was betrayed and then executed. He told them this. “My command is this: love each other as I have loved you”. Taken with what we have read surely we should love each other by serving each other.
This talk was tagged with the title “Serving” in this Be Rich series we are doing at the moment. Equally I think it could have been called Greatness as the two are equal. You can choose to be great and the path that Jesus laid out to greatness is serving.
Serving is the path to greatness.
Questions and Reflections (for you to think about on your own or to discuss in your Life Group)
1. How do you feel when you get praised for something that you do.?
2. What about when you expect praise or recognition and don’t get it?
3. Would you define yourself as a great person by normal definition that people would use?
4. What do you think of the definition of greatness that Jesus gives us?
5. Are you involved in serving others, either at EBC or with other groups in the community?
6. If you aren’t have you considered what you could do to serve?
7. How would you like to be remembered? As a great person because you served?