I want to change this prompt to “things we should NOT say no to…”. I feel like too many people have jumped onboard the “just say no” train. (I prefer trains instead of wagons, excuuuuuse me). Nowadays (as opposed to the dark ages when I was apparently born) we shoot off the word “no” faster than a speeding bullet. We give various reasons for doing this. “I’m learning to love myself”. “I need to put myself first for a change”. “I’m trying to manage my time more”. As REASONS these are all valid. You have the right to take time off and nurture yourself so you can better nurture others. You have the right to be disciplined with your time and honor your commitments. It’s when we start making these reasons into RULES that things go wrong.
As Christians we’re called to love and give beyond our comfort. In fact, we’re called to do this for our enemies, not just our friends. What happens when we can’t even sacrifice comfort for family or friends? How much more will we be unable to do so for our enemies?
Luke 16:10-11 talks about being faithful in the small things so that God will entrust you with greater responsibilities. These verses ask the question: “if you can’t even handle worldly wealth how will God entrust you with true riches?”
“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven?” – Luke 16:10-11 (NLT)
“True riches” are spiritual blessings. And you get those blessings by God’s grace, generosity and also by obeying Christ’s commands – loving God and loving others. Serving others. Thinking beyond our own comfort, our own schedules, and I think it needs to be said…but sometimes, thinking beyond our ministry. Let’s admit it…there are times when we put our ministry above serving others. We are unwilling to disrupt our schedules to do the basic things – like being there for a friend. I’ve given these excuses before…”I don’t want to disrupt my schedule”. “I know it’s important to you but I’ve made prior commitments”. Sometimes, as I said, these excuses are totally valid. It does not please God for us to shirk all our responsibilities and not honor our commitments. It also must be said that not everything that’s important to others will trump prior commitments/ministry/etc. I’m merely saying that we shouldn’t get so used to saying no and being inflexible that we forget what service and love is really about.
Service isn’t a numbers game. A bible study for 10 people is not more important than helping out 1 friend who is going through a rough time. In fact, Jesus stresses the importance of the 1 over the many. Luke 15 specifically gives 3 parables that describe this:
The Parable of the Lost Sheep
“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” – Luke 15:4-7, NIV
The Parable of the Lost Coin
“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” – Luke 15: 8-10, NIV
The next parable is the parable of the prodigal son, and that’s a pretty famous one so I won’t get into that. The point is…it’s not about numbers. It’s about people. And going back to “being faithful in little things”…we shouldn’t wait to sacrifice comfort for what we define as a “great need” (death in the family? major illness?). We need to start with the little things and not despise small beginnings. Maybe it’s as simple as having tea (I don’t do coffee) with a friend instead of watching your favorite program. Maybe skipping bible study to be there for someone who might be going through a really rough time. It’s being Jesus to people instead of just talking Jesus AT people.
So let me say no to this instead – let me say no to putting myself above others. Serving myself more than I serve others. And God grant me the grace and strength to love and serve and give beyond my means, my comforts, and my human limits.
“Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13: 34-35 (NIV)