Let’s Get Involved
(With thanks to Jerrie Barber)
In Matthew 25, we find the parable of the talents. Three men were given money to invest while their master was traveling abroad. The first two servants were diligent and traded their funds in order to gain more funds for their master. The third servant, however, did not want to get involved, so he went and buried his money. After a long time, the master returned to settle accounts with the three servants. The first two servants were complimented, congratulated, and promoted. The third servant was condemned, corrected, and chastised for his total lack of involvement. The master was not pleased at all with this lazy and unprofitable man. Then Jesus gave an important principle in verse 29: “For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have in abundance, but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.” We want to look at several examples of this principle. We want to see how those who failed to get involved often received negative consequences while those who did get involved saw positive consequences.
Let’s begin with the negative. The first example is that of 12 men in Numbers 13. These are the 12 spies that Moses sent to look over the Promised Land and bring back some produce from it. They came back reporting that indeed it was a good land flowing with milk and honey and the fruits it bore were tremendous, but the people were strong, the men were giants, and the cities were fortified! “We are like grasshoppers against them!” The Israelites became stirred up and wanted to select new leaders. But Joshua and Caleb encouraged the people to go up and to possess the land for their enemy’s protection was really weak, and God would be with them! But the Jews heeded the words of the other spies. No, they would not get involved, they would not make any attacks to take the land; they would kill their leaders and go back to Egypt! We might think, “How crazy of these Jews—who had seen the 10 plagues against Egypt, who had seen Pharaoh’s armies drown in the Red Sea, who had seen God’s care for them in the wilderness—to even think this way!” But before we are too harsh on them, do we often do the same thing? The Lord has a city for us to take for Christ, but will we get involved? Will we make any effort at all? Or will we just keep looking backward and clinging to “the good old days”? They did not attack, so what was taken away, what was the negative consequence of their fearfulness? Listen to the sad words that God pronounced in Numbers 14:29-30: “The carcasses of you who have complained against Me shall fall in this wilderness, all of you who were numbered … from 20 years old and above. Except for Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun, you shall by no means enter the land which I swore I would make you dwell in!” God had given them the opportunity, and He would have given them the ability to conquer, but their fearfulness caused the Jews not to get involved? Will our fearfulness keep us from getting involved?
The next example is Nabal over in 1 Sam. 25. Nabal was a very rich man, and it was time to shear his 3000 sheep. This was a festive time when a feast was prepared. David and his men had provided protection for Nabal's shepherds. So David told his men to ask Nabal to share a little food from the festival with them. Nabal answered David's men harshly in verse 10-11: “Who is David and who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants nowadays who break away each from his master. Shall I then take my bread and my water and my meat that I have killed for my shearers and give it to men when I do not know where they are come from?” We could paraphrase: “This David is not getting anything from me. I'm not going to get involved. I will not take advantage of my opportunity and my ability to help these strangers.” David's men report back, and David felt so insulted that he was ready to take up arms against Nabal. At this point Abigail, Nabal’s wife, intervenes, provides food for David and his men, and persuades David to spare Nabal's life. Abigail returns after her intervention to find Nabal drunk from this great feast. She waits until he is sober the next morning to explain what she had done. What consequence occurred for Nabal's harshness? Listen to verse 37: “When his wife had told him these things, his heart died within him, and he became like stone. Then it happened after 10 days, that the Lord struck Nabal, and he died.” Nabal's selfishness soon led to his paralysis and death. Would our excuses to become involved be as lame as those that Nabal gave? “Why should I share my time, my talents, and my energy on somebody I hardly know?” Could our selfishness hinder us from becoming involved too?
The next example comes from the New Testament in Matthew 23. The group is called the scribes and the Pharisees. Here is Jesus' description of them in verses 3-5: “Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen by men.” These men talk a good game, but they fail to follow through and rarely get involved. They only involve themselves if it can make them popular. Like the priest and the Levite in another parable of Jesus, they prefer “to pass by on the other side” and not lift a finger to help anyone. What are the consequences of their failure to be involved? Notice Jesus’ words in verses 31-33: “Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt. Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?” They are chastised and condemned by Jesus Himself; this is some of the most forceful language that you’ll find anywhere in the New Testament! “They say and do not do.” May such an assessment never be given about this congregation: “Oh yeah, that’s the church that always talks about everything, but they’re never involved in doing anything constructive!” The scribes and Pharisees’ motives of just pleasing men hindered their real involvement, and for this, Jesus condemns them! Could our motives towards popularity hinder our involvement and bring about our condemnation as well?
The next example is found in Luke 16:19-31. There we find a rich man who dresses and eats well everyday. There was also a poor man named Lazarus whose wounds were dressed by the dogs and who gladly would have accepted just the crumbs from the rich man’s table. The rich man ignored Lazarus. He had the opportunity and the ability to help, but he left the poor beggar to fend for himself each day. Can’t you just hear that rich man talking to himself: “Yes, I should probably help old Lazarus, but we just aren’t on the same social level. And who wants to touch a man all covered with sores! And what if my buddies were to see me stooping to help such scum; how embarrassing that would be!” What was the consequence of his lack of involvement? Both men die; the rich man finds himself suffering terribly while Lazarus has been carried to Abraham by the angels. The rich man doesn’t ignore Lazarus now; in fact, he asks Abraham if he could send Lazarus with just a little water to alleviate his pain! Abraham responds by saying there was a great gulf that was fixed between those in paradise and those in torment, and there was no way that anyone could cross from one side to the other. You see, the rich man’s status prohibited his involvement, and he ended up being tormented. Could our status prohibit our involvement and cause us to be tormented as well?
The last example is Pilate. Pilate was the Roman governor over Judea. He was described by a historian of the time period as harsh, spiteful, and brutal. The Jews had appealed to the emperor several times in order to force Pilate to change his offensive ways. When Jesus shows up before Pilate, we see that he follows Roman justice, and he soon realizes that Jesus is no ordinary criminal. He also is aware that the Jews aren’t giving him straight answers, and his wife gives him a warning too. Pilate thinks he has a solution when he offers to free either Barabbas or Jesus before the Jewish crowd (Matthew 27:15-26). He is surprised when the crowd says to free Barabbas and to crucify Jesus! He tries reasoning with them further, but then he sees that a tumult is about to begin. So then he takes a basin of water and washes his hands and declares his innocence with regards to Jesus’ blood. No, he did not want to get more involved for the Jewish leaders might report him again to the emperor. So he saw his best option as satisfying the crowd and keeping peace. So what were the consequences of Pilate’s failure to free Jesus? We discover that later in his life Pilate is again reported to the emperor by a Roman superior for antagonizing some Samaritans. The emperor Tiberius died as Pilate was traveling to go before him. Tradition has it that Pilate then committed suicide. The man who tried to keep peace really had no peace. Maybe we desire peace at all costs: “We don’t want to rock the boat or to upset anybody, so we just won’t get involved.” Could such a lack of involvement cause our effectiveness, our influence, and our leadership to be “killed” in a metaphorical sense? “For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have in abundance, but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.”
Now let’s go to the positive. The first example is Abraham. God told Abraham to leave his country and his family and to go to a land that He would show him. “Where am I going, Lord?” “Just leave that to Me, and you’ll see.” So at age 75 without any GPS, Abraham sets out! God tells Abraham that a nation would come from his descendents. “Sounds great, God, when will it happen?” “Abraham, be very patient. When you’re about 106 and Sarah is 96, you’ll be joining the local PTA!” Both Abraham and Sarah tried to speed things up with a substitute, and then they laughed again when God revealed the date of their own son’s birth! Perhaps about 5 years later, God calls Abraham again for the seventh time: “Abraham, take your only son Isaac and offer him as a burnt offering!” “Father, look, the fire and wood, but where’s the lamb?” “Son, God will provide.” And truly, God did provide when he saw Abraham’s faithful obedience. Yes, Abraham and God had traveled together for a long time. Abraham knew that God would do what was right and keep His word. And how was Abraham rewarded? God kept his promise to Abraham that all nations would be blessed through his lineage. Of course, Jesus came into the world as the fulfillment of that promise! Abraham trusted God and got involved, and all the world is still reaping the benefit. When you get involved, you never know who you might touch; it might be those of future generations as well as those of other nationalities (my grandfathers had no ideas that their faithfulness would eventually touch the lives of some Italian people)!
Next let’s consider Elijah in 1 Kings 18-2 Kings 2. Elijah stood alone as he challenged King Ahab and the prophets of Baal to a showdown on Mt. Carmel. A sacrifice would be made, and the God that responded to that offering by sending fire from heaven would be the true God. The prophets of Baal cried for hours and slashed themselves, but there was no response. Then Elijah called upon Jehovah, and the sacrifice, altar, and water all around was consumed by fire! The people proclaimed Jehovah as God and killed the prophets of Baal, and Elijah discovers that he is really not alone in obedience to God for 7000 are still faithful. Elijah calls upon God for rain, Elijah condemns Ahab for the murder of Naboth, and Elijah confronts King Ahaziah for his unfaithfulness to God. Elijah’s confidence in God caused him to get involved. So what was his reward? He never saw death; God transported him to heaven in a chariot of fire! If we put our confidence in God and become involved, God will bring us safely home as well when we must cross Jordan!
The next example is Nehemiah. When Nehemiah heard that Jerusalem's walls were still in ruins, he wept, mourned, fasted, and prayed. After getting help from King Artxerxes and returning to Jerusalem, he did some survey work on his own and then challenged the inhabitants of Jerusalem to rebuild the city's walls. Of course, the Jews' enemies didn't take this construction project lying down, so they threatened to attack the Jews. Nehemiah wisely had half the people working while the other half was standing guard in case of attack. Then some internal problems arose that Nehemiah worked to solve. Then the enemies tried to entice Nehemiah to negotiate and leave the project, but Nehemiah just told them “O no!” when they asked him to meet them on the plain of Ono. So what was Nehemiah rewarded for his involvement based on his concern for Jerusalem's welfare? He not only saw the walls rebuilt in a record 52 days, but also was able later to see the Jews restored as they reinstituted the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles, openly confessed their sins, and set aside funds for the upkeep of the worship in the temple! Chapter 12:43 says that God gave the people great joy, and the Jews' great joy was heard afar off! Is there any rebuilding and restoration that needs to take place in our congregation? Will you become involved like Nehemiah? Will you work to solve both external and internal problems so that you too can see great things and greatly rejoice in God's goodness?
The next example is Brother Ananias in Acts 9. The Lord told Ananias to go to Straight Street in Damascus and to find Judas' house. Saul of Tarsus was inside praying, and he was seeing a vision of a man who would restore his sight. But what was Ananias' response? “Lord, I've heard about his fellow; he's a mean dude. He's done a lot of damage to the saints in Jerusalem, and he now has authorization to capture all the Christians in this city! Are you really sure, Lord, that you want me to go preach to this hothead?” And the Lord said, “Yes, I'm sure! Go preach to him!” What went through Ananias mind as he started making his way to Judas' house? How many times did he think of turning back and of stopping his mission? Did his heart begin beating faster as he stood outside Judas' house? Did he take a deep breath before knocking on that door? Whatever were his reactions, Ananias kept on going and found Saul. He healed him, preached to him, encouraged him, and baptized him! After Paul's conversion, we never hear of Ananias again in the New Testament. Obedience to God's word stimulated Ananias' involvement. And what was his reward? Surely, Paul's successes as a Christian were Ananias' joys as well. Paul's great influence might never have been felt across the Roman Empire and in Western Civilization had Ananias refused to become involved. Will our obedience to God stimulate our involvement to doing God's will? Even if God's will is risky or difficult, will we keep going? Will we rejoice in the success of others as they serve our Lord with their talents and skills? Will we take advantage of the opportunities and abilities that God has given to us?
The last positive example is our Lord Jesus. Hebrews 12:1-2 encourages us to run with endurance the race that is set before us looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is now sat down at the place of highest honor—at the right hand of God's heavenly throne! Mankind needed a Savior, and Jesus volunteered for the mission. He gave up His Godly form and took on the flesh of humanity. “I'll do it; I'll become involved.” He greatly humbled Himself and suffered all the evil that this world had to offer! While he walked this earth, He had no address. “I'll walk the path to Jerusalem; I'll take the hit of God's wrath for everyone's salvation!” He endured the cross with its pain, its temptation, and its shame. “I'll rise again, I'll rejoice in returning to the Father, in seeing the church established, and in sharing eternity with those who are faithful.” What was Jesus' reward for His involvement? “Therefore God has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every other name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow ... and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11)! Will we become involved so that we too can be exalted in the Judgment Day? “For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have in abundance, but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.”
Let's get practical with three ways that you can get involved. First of all, we passed out sheets earlier this morning for you to fill out so that our leadership can learn how you want to become involved in this congregation. Please let us know the areas in which you would like to serve and please feel free to add something that's new which you might like to try if we don't have it indicated on the sheet. Let's get involved! Secondly, a suggestion was made in our recent men's meeting on evangelism—whenever we are involved in a random act of kindness, why not follow that up by offering those served an invitation to attend our worship services by giving them a little card? So, we have printed up 1000 of these cards. We'd like for each member today to take 5, and when you do some act of kindness for someone else who is not a Christian, please leave a card with them to invite them to worship with us. Of course, as soon we all get these 1000 out to others, then we can consider getting another 1000 printed! Let's get involved! Thirdly, we have printed up another card which invites others to have Bible studies with us. Can you think of one good friend who needs to learn more about Jesus and His great promises? Why not take a card and put it in their hand? Of course, they may not respond positively, but at least you can be pleased that you tried! Let's get involved! The apostle Paul tells us that the church will grow when every part of the body becomes involved: “According to the effectual working by which every part does its share, causes growth for the body in the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:16)! “For to everyone who has, more will be given, but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.” Let's get involved!