Give or Take

The theme of our recent message series to kick off the new year is also our focus for the year as a whole, and I guess, from now on. “Going deeper” is really the focus for all followers of Christ, all the time. It is a call to deeper devotion, deeper maturity and ultimately, a deeper relationship with Christ. That is what Christian discipleship is all about, and that is how the process of sanctification works. We grow into conformity to Christ-likeness a little more every day.

And one of the first indicators that we are taking on the character of Jesus is that we will adopt His attitudes which will be reflected in our actions. In the second chapter of his letter to the church at Philippi, the apostle Paul wrote that our “attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus,” and then he went on to describe the humility and servant-mindedness in which He lived (and died). “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit,” he wrote, “but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (2:3-4)

This was reflected in what Jesus Himself said of the attitude and motivation behind His ministry. “The Son of Man did not come to be served,” He said, “but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)

The theme of our recent message series to kick off the new year is also our focus for the year as a whole, and I guess, from now on. “Going deeper” is really the focus for all followers of Christ, all the time. It is a call to deeper devotion, deeper maturity and ultimately, a deeper relationship with Christ. That is what Christian discipleship is all about, and that is how the process of sanctification works. We grow into conformity to Christ-likeness a little more every day.

In other words, if we are going to go deeper, if we are going to be like Jesus, it will show in our humble mindset and outward focus to serve instead of being served, and to give instead of taking. 

Our natural bent in our flesh is toward being takers instead of givers. We are self-focused and self-centered and want to take care of ourselves first. But as we discussed in last Sunday’s message, one of the fundamental aspects of our call to follow Christ is understanding that “it’s not about you.” That is a major paradigm shift of our entire focus, and plays itself out as we submit to the will of God, and as we relate to others, whom we “regard as more important than ourselves.”

To be like Jesus is to be a giver. The first verse many of us ever memorized was John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son…” And then Jesus came and “gave His life as a ransom for many.” He was the gift who keeps on giving. And if we truly follow Him, we are more concerned with giving than taking.

So how do we live out that Christ-like attitude and be a giver instead of a taker? For one, you seek to serve instead of being served. That could be as simple as helping out a neighbor or friend in need, giving a night to serve the homeless at the Firehouse shelter, picking up after yourself or others after a Sunday worship service, or volunteering to serve one Sunday a month in our children’s or preschool ministry. (We have several needs for teachers and leaders that Mrs. Shellyn would love to talk to you about.)

Of course, being a giver also means being a…giver. That is, giving of your time, and talent, and resources that the Lord has provided you. That includes the practice of giving back to the Lord, and to others who have needs, instead of spending your resources all on yourself or hoarding it away. Jesus spoke often about “laying up for yourselves treasures in heaven” instead of on earth, and He was specifically talking about money. And let us be sure, it is not that heaven needs our money to pay the rent, but that we need to release our money to God as part of trusting Him as our provider. It is another way we become more like Jesus, and live as giver more than a taker. Really, that’s what tithing is all about; trusting God enough with the resources He has blessed us with, to give back to Him.

Here’s the exciting part. When we selfishly try to just take care of ourselves and our own needs, we are never satisfied. But when we seek to give ourselves away, we find our lives by losing them, just as Jesus taught. Because, as He also taught, “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35) And we are more blessed when we give, than when we take.

So in this year of going deeper, my prayer is that you will have the heart of a giver instead of a taker. Just like Jesus.

I am praying for you, and I look forward to seeing you Sunday.

–Pastor Ken