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Notes & Transcripts

Inscription: Writing God’s Words on Our Hearts & Minds

Part 36: Serve or Be Served?

Mark 10:35-45

October 17, 2010



·         Leftovers (p. 1), 081

Scripture reading: Mark 10:35-45 (erin)


·         Membership sermon in two weeks – refresh mission and see new vision).


A Christian boss?

Q   How many of you knew that I worked at McDonald’s?

Q   That I was a manager?

I had to be – I spent so much time razing other teens who worked there that I had to do something to show that I was different.

It turned out to be a lot harder than I thought – it wasn’t just telling people what to do and getting free food whenever I wanted. I wasn’t very good at working with the employees, and had some really good guys quit because of me...

After I left, what bothered me more than anything was that I didn’t know how to be a Christian manager. Put another way, I had no idea how to “serve, not be served.”

·         Funny thing was that years later, I was a better manager when I was a crew member.

Some of you know what I am talking about, you have some authority – a boss, an owner, have unofficial authority. You are not sure how to infuse your relationship with Jesus into that.

·         It is just too easy to think like the world, that “in charge” means “people serve me.”

You’re so selfish!

That’s the problem our boys James and John had:

Mark 10:35-37, 41  Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”  36 “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.  37 They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” ... When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John.

Gotta admire their pluck: I want to be #1 in the universe, but you’d settle for #2. We may be more subtle, but I don’t think we are any less self-serving.

·         You and I live in and participate in one of the most self-centered, self-serving societies known to man.

I read a lot, including history and I’ve also traveled a fair deal, and I’ve seen how bad we are compared to the world.

·         The good news is that thanks to American influences, the rest of the world is catching up.

EG: Mélodie and Costco.


At our prayer meeting on Monday, I was talking about this sermon and the conversation naturally shifted to talking about our culture’s entitlement mindset.

This is a term that has been brought into the mainstream by conservatives critiquing the welfare system. But it’s one thing to say that all those people on welfare feel entitled to government money, blah blah blah.

·         I know we all have stories about people expecting the government to take care of them and all that.

But I am far more interested in our entitlement mentality. Even if you have never taken a cent of public money, you still are part of the entitlement nation.

Q   What does entitlement mean?

·         The belief that I have the right to be served

We think it’s our God given right – life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and to be served.

Q   You don’t believe me, do you?

Let’s say you’re at your favorite restaurant and you want them to put cheese on your fries, that’s all nothing big. They say no, you ask why, they say because the cooks won’t do it.

You can feel this holy indignation rising up in you, “Don’t they know who I am?!? I am not just a customer, I am a Regular! I am a god among them! How dare they refuse my reasonable request!

Q   What does this say about me? That I am an American!

Go to Central America and start demanding your rights as a customer, and they will look at you like you have a third eye. There it is “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit!”

Q   What are some other ways that we assume we deserve to served?

·         Church: I’m entitled to be taken care of every Sunday and I’ll whine if I’m not (this is like “consumer vs. participant”).

·         At school: Demanding that they raise (not just teach) our kids and blame the school for our kids’ failure. “How dare you give my kid an “F”!

·         Marriage: We’ve bought the lie that it’s our right to be happy, for our husband to be romantic or our wife to always satisfy us sexually, and if they don’t we can look around.

We think that as a taxpayer, as a paying customer, as an American, as a husband or wife, we have the right to be served. Even if you do legally, to demand it violates Jesus’ words.

Q   If you were to take Jesus out for dinner, and they messed up the order, would you demand to see the manger and get a comp?

Am I saying that you can’t complain about poor service, address failures? No, but only if you can do it in a manner that is not demanding of rights and glorifies God.

·         Better to be wronged than drag God’s name through the mud.

Serve to be served?

But some of you are sitting here, and you know that does not describe you, you are not demanding. Your friends describe you as having a servant’s heart. It’s your turn!

·         One of the most subtle ways you can demand to be served is by serving others.

And subtle means dangerous – you can be convinced that you are being giving while you are being actually being demanding. We might fool ourselves, we might even fool others.

Q   Do you serve in order to be served?

Here is the test: Why do you serve? What are you hoping to get in return? And here’s the correction key on the back of the test (to see if you are being honest in your answer):

Q   How do you respond when your gift or service doesn’t get what you hoped for?

·         Story of volunteer throwing a fit because she wasn’t recognized – she wasn’t doing it for Jesus!

It’s not wrong to enjoy recognition or praise; that’s fine (if you say “it’s just Jesus,” I’ll punch you). It’s wrong to demand it.

Serve to control

What is even worse than serving for recognition, some of you serve to control others and to control the situation. You want things to work the way you want them to work:

·         That is either 1) Manipulation or 2) Enabling, and both of them are being served.

Manipulation is serving other so they are obligated to serve you back: I will babysit your kids so you have to babysit mine. I will help you on your house so that you will help on mine.

·         Marriage is one of the most common places for this.

There is nothing wrong with having a cooperative, the problem is when we want credit for serving too. 

Enabling is where you serve the other person by allowing them to wallow in their sin, their laziness, irresponsibility, their substance abuse, their anger, etc.

·         But that is not serving them, you don’t do it for their sake, you do it for yours – serving means stopping the dependency.

And what are you getting in return? Avoiding conflict, being the martyr, creating obligation, maintaining the status quo.

Let me state it very clearly – serving in order to be served is not the serving Jesus meant. It counts as a big fat zero in the whole “the first shall be last.” It is no better than egomaniac who demands that everyone serve him. 

God should serve me!

I’ve talked about entitlement and about “being a servant” to be served. But this is small change compared to the most obnoxious way we demonstrate that we think we deserve to be served.

I want us to look at a familiar passage and see how corrupted our entitlement viewpoint is:

Philippians 2:5-8   5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:  6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,  7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross!

Do you catch what this is saying – God is a servant. He is the Maker the universe – a universe so vast we can’t comprehend it.

·         I’ve been showing the stars to my girls

This galaxy has around 300 billion stars, and the universe has as many as 500 billion galaxies – the creator who hold all of this in his hands, stoops down to serve us.

That fact should shock us, it should be a scandal that the Bible dare say that. It should have us on our knees in tears of gratitude and amazement.

·         But it doesn’t. Look at your response as I read that – it is probably similar to mine, “That’s cool.” 

Q   Examine your response – why doesn’t it shock us?

Because deep down, we think it’s perfectly reasonable that God serve us and we expect we it.

Wrong – wrong answer. We do not deserve it. Creator of universe vs. us, we don’t deserve it. God doesn’t serve us because we in any way, shape or from deserve it.

We don’t deserve it, but we need it

Here is a paradigm you need to have – God serves us not because we deserve it, but because we need it, we are so weak that we can’t take care of ourselves. 

When it comes to being served, don’t think of a rich man with a lot servants, think of an accident victim, surrounded by doctors and nurses working desperately to save him.

·         Now add to that that the patient is actually a drunk driver who just killed a young family – now we are getting close.

Again: We are desperately undeserving of being served, but we desperately need to be served. This is the Gospel – Jesus did what we cannot do for ourselves.

·         We were dead in our sin (Eph. 2:1), unable to save ourselves.

Am I making you depressed? Good! Our world says, “You need to feel better about yourself,” the Bible says, “You need to feel worse...but better about God and his love for you.”

·         You and I are not a good people: My hearts is brimming with sin, selfishness, pride, anger, lust, rebellion...

But we are loved:

Romans 5:8   8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

And you are valuable. A thing is worth what it cost to buy, it’s worth it means to someone. The watch in “Pulp Fiction” was worth something to Butch not because of what he could sell it for, but because of where it had been.

·         Jesus bought you with his very life, and that makes you very, very valuable.

As Christ served you...

Now listen to the rest of the passage:

NIV Mark 10:42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

The key word here is “for.” We serve in response to how God served us. Throughout the Bible, it is very clear: We don’t serve to get, we don’t serve to feel better about ourselves, we don’t serve to pay God back – we serve from gratitude.

·         It’s like an inner-city kid with no future being selected for a school that changes his life, and then creates an endowment.

God has been so good to us, has blessed us so richly, it is all we can to do to respond by giving back out of gratitude.

·         “Sixpence none the richer”

Serving = Greatness

And here is the kicker, what Jesus was trying to get through their think skulls – when we genuinely serve (not to be served) we become greater, better, we move up the ranks.

When Jesus says the “whoever wants to be the greatest, must be the servant,” he wasn’t giving a pep talk to get us to feel better about being served, he is demonstrating reality.

I am going to mess with your heads a little, just as Jesus was messing with theirs. Our view of the entire nature of things is upside down.

·         EG: Glasses that make you see upside down.

We see reality through this lens: Serve à Be served (when I mow the lawn...)

The reality is really is: Be served à Serve

·         God is not a servant because he lowers himself to it, but serving is in genuine fact the highest place.

Here’s what I mean: We always talk about serving God, but in reality we can’t serve God – we can serve his children, we can bring him glory, but we can’t serve God in any real sense:

Acts 17:25-26   25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. 

Do you get it? The greater you are, the less you need to be served by others. God is the greatest and doesn’t need to be served by anyone.

Q   Are you starting to see without the lens?

Q   Here’s another way to put it: Who needs to be served more than anyone else?

A baby. Which means that if you are always wanting to be served by never serve others, pour yourself into them the way God poured into you, you are just a big, fat baby!

Caveat – still “be served”

Before I talk about how to serve, I need to clarify – this doesn’t mean we should never be served.

·         It’s just as unhealthy to refuse to be served as to refuse to serve.

Remember that in the story of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples, Peter tried to stop Jesus and got rebuked for it.

·         We like being served on our own terms, but not when it’s out of our control.

The beauty of the body of Christ is we mutually serve each other. We’re weak, we need help, and God has designed it that way. I think that in heaven we will be still serving each other.

·         Dinner in heaven and hell.

One of the most meaningful times in my life was watching how my community helped me when I realized it was for me to leave my last church, when they helped me with my résumé.

·         U2: “We get to carry each other.”

There might be time when we are being carried, and there are other times we are carrying others. Most of the time we are doing both.

·         Healthy relationship are not independent, nor codependent, but inter-dependent.

Serve or be served

So how do we serve? How to we become a servant and a slave to all? It begins with a principle and a prayer.

The principle is that in almost every situation, you seek to serve, even while being served. Even in the dentist chair, you can serve by being kind, by being interested in the hygienist.

·         The exception is in times of tragedy.

The prayer is “Jesus help me seek to serve, not be served.” When you walk into a party, when you walk into a restaurant, as you drive up to your house, as you come to church... “help me seek to serve, not to be served.”

To get you started, here are some ways this plays out in everyday life:

1. Conversations (don’t read)

Q   Have you ever thought about how much your conversations are an opportunity to serve or be served?

I have been reading a great book called “Everyone Communicates, Few Connect.” While it’s written to a secular audience, the foundational principle is “serve not be served.”

Most people love to talk about themselves. It’s like the comic I read about a first date, and the caption is the guy saying, “Enough about me, let’s talk about cars.”

All of this is double true for me. Being a teacher requires the arrogance to think that you have something that people want to hear. That’s a good thing to a point, but it is my temptation to turn every conversation into “The Josh Kelley Show.”

·         Serving doesn’t mean dispensing lots of advice and airing my valuable opinion (go figure!)

This is one of the things I really appreciate about Pastor Cecil – he’s a natural at connecting and using conversations to serve.

2. Giving of yourself

Here’s a common scenario: You just got home from work, or your spouse has just gotten home and you get a break from the kids, or it is the weekend and you are exhausted.

Q   Do you grab the paper, jump on the computer, or turn on the TV, or do you help those around you?

·         This is a chance to serve, instead of being served.

Sundays are exhausting days for me, so when I get home I just want to veg out. I like doing that, I feel like I deserve it.

The problem is that I instituted reviews for all of the Elders, because I am passionate about us growing, learning, and changing. And a couple of weeks ago I had mine, and one of the things they said is don’t help out at home enough.

·         I kinda knew that, but excused it – it sucks to find out that others know and don’t excuse it!

Giving of yourself emotional or physically is hard; it takes effort. I made God a deal – as long as he provides the energy, I will strive to keep giving.

·         This means that Marilyn finally got the shower re-grouted after nine months!

I am not saying you can never take time for yourself – in “Few Connect” Maxwell talks about how important it is to recharge so you can give. But I know that I have pockets of time spent not serving because I don’t feel like, not because I need rest.

Q   Are you the same way? Do you have chunks of time where you think you have the right to be served rather than serve?

3. Potluck

Q   Here’s another one – at the Sunday potlucks, do you position yourself during prayer so you can go first?

Q   Is your mindset, “I need to go first to get the good stuff,” or go last to make sure others get the good stuff?

Q   Do you take reasonable portions of the popular stuff? Do you teach your kids to do the same?

I have been watching and taking notes, and I swear, if we run out of the pizza one more time before I get some, we are going to have a talk!

4. Leadership

One more: How do we lead and serve at the same time?

McDonald’s taught me how to use fear, how to use guilt, how the carrot in front of the horse. But it didn’t teach me how to serve the people I lead.

·         We all hate to see Christians who are lousy customers, but far worse lousy bosses who are Christians.

I can’t give specifics, because it would incriminate folks that some of you know, but I’ve seen lousy Christian bosses do great damage to the kingdom. I am thinking of three in particular:

I know of people who think Christianity is a joke, who refuse to go to church, and who think all Christians are hypocrites, because one of these three.

·         If I ever hear about anything like that about you, you better believe we’ll be having a chat – in love

I can’t give you the hours of training you need to be a Christian boss, owner, manager, or supervisor. I can’t boil it down to five key steps, but I can give one simple principle:

·         Jesus taught that leading is serving, not being served – serving both those above you and those below you.

But in terms of how to do that: You must, must read, learn, discuss, and repent for your failures.

Servants around the church

I want to close by saying this is a church full of servants. This church would not exist if it weren’t for those of you who serve your hearts out to bring glory to God and care for you.

[Go through room.]

Q & A

Call to worship

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