Living a Life on Loan
“What’s a Person’s Value?”
We are in the second week of our series, Life on Loan. You really do have a life that is on loan from God. You see, when we come to faith in God, we understand the relationship that we can have with him, and we receive his forgiveness and his grace, then God gives us a new life. And that life is not ours-it’s God’s. It’s just on loan to us, and God really does care how we invest and spend that life. He cares about the choices we make, and the opportunities that we take or we don’t take. He cares about what we say and what we do. Everything that we do is of significance to God. God’s desire is that as we write the pages of our story somehow our story connects with God’s story and he rewrites those pages. His ultimate desire is to use our story to connect with someone else’s story, and that their story might be changed, also. The power of a changed life is immeasurable.
Don’t Tell the Story ; Live It
Being used to touch a life in a way you didn’t expect.
Someone from our church recently had an . . .
- encounter with a grumpy and rude employee at McDonald’s
- bad service and bad attitude
- choice while eating – to be offended or to wonder what might have made that person be that way
- going up afterwards to say – “You seem unhappy. Is there something I could do to help? Can I take you to lunch?
- employee floored – “I am too busy, but you have changed the whole way I am looking at this day.”
I want to ask you a couple questions. The first question is: How do you see the people around you? And maybe the more important question we should ask ourselves is: When people look back, what do they see? Do they see a person who is consumed with their own schedule and stuff, or do they see a person who reflects the character and the love and the compassion of Christ?
Erwin McManus in his book, Seizing Your Divine Moment—I love that title because every
moment we have really is a divine moment—says that God has given us this life and he hopes that we use it to affect other people’s stories. He says, “A life touched by God always ends in touching others.” If we value people like God does, you can’t help but show Christ to them.
The Democratic National Convention is coming to
Last week I read Isaiah 32:8 - which says this: “But the noble man makes noble plans, and by noble deeds he stands.” (NIV) What does it mean to be noble? Is it to be one of the beautiful people? It is to be powerful and influential? Is it to have a kingdom and a crown? What does it mean to be noble?
Isaiah describes nobility by contrasting it with foolishness. Look back a few verses into verse 5 of Isaiah 32 and here’s what Isaiah says:
Isaiah 32:5-8 - “No longer will the fool be called noble nor the scoundrel be highly respected. For the fool speaks folly, his mind is busy with evil: He practices ungodliness and spreads error concerning the Lord; the hungry he leaves empty and from the thirsty he withholds water. The scoundrel’s methods are wicked, he makes up evil schemes…But the noble man makes noble plans, and by noble deeds he stands.” (NIV)
Isaiah says that if you are noble, you are looking for ways to live outside of yourself for the benefit of another. You are looking to invest your moments and your resources and your opportunities—you realize that your life is on loan. You’re looking for God’s story to be written through your story. The person who isn’t noble is described as one who speaks folly and error; who is self-centered and self-gratifying, who withholds resources when he could share them—someone who is looking out just for himself.
It was interesting when Princess Diana passed away in that tragic accident a few years ago. Millions and millions of people adored her, and tuned in to all the events around her service. She was certainly someone who could carry the title “noble,” couldn’t she? She was a person of nobility. She had beauty and power and influence. She could speak a desire, and somebody would take care of it. She could utter a command, and it was done. Certainly Princess Diana, in every sense of the word by our standards today, would be called noble. She even had some involvement in charitable causes. I thought something was intriguing, maybe even a bit ironic, and maybe a time when God was saying, “Let me show you what real nobility is.” Just a few days after Princess Diana’s death was another death that caught the world’s attention—Mother Teresa’s. Now certainly by the world’s standards you couldn’t call Mother Teresa noble. She didn’t own anything, she didn’t command any kingdom, she didn’t have a crown, she certainly wasn’t beautiful, and she didn’t have wealth. But from God’s perspective, Mother Teresa was a noble person because she chose to invest her moments, to live her life for others, and to be intentional in the way she lived. A noble person makes noble plans, is intentional, and by their noble deeds they stand.
Would we be described as noble? Would it look to others as if somehow our story is making a difference in somebody else’s story? Is our life a life that is on loan from God? Or, are we self-centered, self-serving, self-gratifying, and looking simply to make life work for us?
Simon Says, Jesus Sees
His name was Skipper Huffman and hardly anyone liked him.
And it was easy not to like him. He didn’t fit in socially. He was kind of
grubby looking. He would say stupid things. He dressed funny. He really wasn’t
very bright and he certainly wasn’t athletic. So, we didn’t like him. Nobody
liked him. He would sit alone in the lunch room, and stand by himself out on
the playground. We were fifth graders and as
fifth graders are, most were mean to Skipper.
I struggled with Skipper. I would go over to his house to see if he wanted to play, but he didn’t like to do anything the rest of us did. I didn’t like to tease other kids. I don’t know why. For all the wrong stuff I did growing up, this was one thing I was sensitive to. So I tried to like Skipper. But it just didn’t work. So I basically avoided him. One time, I could see that two other boys were planning to beat him up when he got off the bus, so I got off at his bus stop instead of mine. I intervened and stopped them, but it didn’t really help us become friends. It was an awkward situation until I lost track of him in high school. We went to the same high school, but I don’t ever remember seeing him, because we had over 2,400 in our three grades. I suppose he found some group to hang out with. At my 20th reunion, five years ago, I looked to see if he was there. He wasn’t. No surprise. I don’t think he had any good memories to want to revisit.
In Luke 7:36 here’s what’s going on: Jesus is gaining in popularity and has some notoriety. It might even be that in his day that he would have been called one of the beautiful people at this time because the crowds were gathering around him. He was a person of influence, so the other influential people wanted to spend some time with Jesus. One of the Pharisees, one of the leaders of the day, one of the ones who had his act together, one of the ones who would have been known, who you would have heard his name and recognized it—Simon, Simon the Pharisee—invites Jesus to his home for dinner. Here’s what happens:
Luke 7:36-38 – “One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so Jesus went to his home and sat down to eat. When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.”
It was very customary in that day that when you entered someone’s home that the host’s servants, or the host himself, would wash your feet because you had been walking on dusty roads in sandals. It was an act of hospitality. It was a gracious act. It was an act of respect and regard. But Simon the Pharisee didn’t do that. He had plenty of servants, and they didn’t do that. Instead, this woman who somewhere along the line had encountered Jesus, and had some connection with him, had grown to have some regard for him, shows up and not only does she wash his feet, she does it with her tears and brings expensive perfume. Then she wipes his feet off with her hair, not with a towel. It was a complete sign of humility and devotion, and honor.
Then here’s what Simon does. Luke 7:39 - “When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!’”
Here he is, Simon, sitting there at the table, watching this go on. And he says to himself, he thinks, “If this were the Messiah, if this were the son of God, if this were the one who was really God’s Son, he would know who this was and he would have booted her out in the street. He would have yelled at her, he would have embarrassed her, and he would have nothing to do with her. If this guy were really who he claims to be, then Jesus wouldn’t have let her do this.” Now here’s the scary thing that happens in this passage: Jesus responds to his thoughts. Luke 7:40 – “Then Jesus answered his thoughts.” Now picture this: This morning I just wander around here and pick one of you and then tell everybody what you are thinking. That might be a scary thing to do, wouldn’t it? Kind of like that Mel Gibson movie – What Women Want – where he can hear their thoughts. That ability would protect a lot of guys like me from saying really stupid things. But Jesus reads Simon’s thoughts.
So here’s what Jesus does: He tells a little story.
Luke 7:41-43 – “Then Jesus told him this story: ‘A man loaned money to two people—500 pieces of silver to one and 50 pieces to the other. But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?’ Simon answered, ‘I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.’ ‘That’s right,’ Jesus said.”
Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, Luke 7:44 - “Do you see this woman?” This was not some kind of eye test. It wasn’t one of those deals where, “Hey Simon, can you see the big E on the wall?” This was, “Simon, do you see this woman? Do you see her?” Or, “Simon, do you just see the stuff? Do you see the things about her that are different from you? Do you see how she doesn’t fit your circle? Do you see, Simon, how you don’t actually even see her as a person?
I sort of get Simon, don’t you? Because the truth is, every one of us in the room has a tendency to view other people in terms of their weakness, and we view ourselves in terms of our strengths. And even more I I get Simon because there are times that I don’t see people. I don’t see them because I don’t like some of the things in their life. Sometimes I don’t see them because they’re not like me. Or, I don’t see them because they don’t fit the mold that I want them to fit, and sometimes I just don’t see them. “Simon, do you see this woman, or are you so judgmental that you can’t see her, or are you so self-righteous that you won’t see her? Simon, are you so stuck on who you are that you’ve missed out on who she is? Simon, are you judging her by all the stuff in her life that isn’t so good, all those things that aren’t like you? Simon, is that how you see her because that’s how the world has marked her? And a lot of us have been marked by the stuff in our lives. Can you see this woman? Why won’t you see her? Why can’t you see her?”
I’ve thought about Skipper Huffman several times over the years. I wish I had done more. On the other side of fifth grade I recognize now that there was probably some stuff going in Skipper’s life, and that’s why he was like he was. In fact, I know he had a difficult and abusive father. His parents divorced when we were in junior high. And I just want to say to him, “I’m sorry. I just didn’t see you. I’m sorry, because all I saw was your stuff.” I’m sorry I was more occupied than I should have been about my own world and comfort zone.
“Simon, do you see what I see?” Jesus says. “Do you just see the stuff about her that you don’t like, that isn’t like you, that may even be repulsive to you? Or do you see what I see—a little girl who used to run and laugh and maybe she got hurt, or a teenager who had a lot of possibility but also was a bit confused and made some poor choices? Simon, do you see a young adult who just got lost on the way? Do you see someone, Simon, who has so much potential, who is so valued, who has such a big heart but she has let her heart be shrunk because maybe it’s been hurt too many times? Simon, do you see this person of value and worth, valuable and useful? Simon, do you see this woman?”
I wonder what would happen this week if you and I were to see the people around us, if we weren’t so interested in looking for the right person as we were about being the right person? If you and I could really see the people—maybe the ones in our home where there’s stuff about them we just don’t like, or maybe the people at work where there’s things that we just aren’t going to connect with them on, or maybe it’s that stranger on the street who looks different than we do, and acts different than we do. Maybe it’s the employee at McDonald’s who has had a bad day and seems to be taking it out on the customers. We may not like their behaviors but do we see what God sees in that person? Here is a Biblical truth: You and I, we will never, ever, never lock eyes with anybody that isn’t valued by God just as we are valued by him, no matter what that stuff looks like. What would happen, I wonder, if just our small little group here this week would just for a few days actually “see” people, see the people around us that, truthfully, I often just haven’t seen. I didn’t see them because I saw them as useless or valueless. I wonder what would happen if this week we saw people the way God saw them. That would be noble!
I want you to pick one relationship – one person – this week you would like to see differently. Pick someone you would like to see as God sees and relate to in a way to intersect with their story – make a difference in their life. Then next week, during the worship service, we will have a time that those who would like to share about what God did through you can share that experience.