Mr and Mrs: Give what you want and get what you need

Introduction:

Marriage is often seen as a 50/50 proposition. “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” or “in marriage each partner should be willing to come half the way to compromise and make things work” or “If I do something for you, you should be willing to do something for me.”  While those statements sound logical, it is not how the Bible views the subject of relationships. 

Throughout the Bible we’re told to “go the extra mile,” “serve one another,” “die to self,” and “submit to one another” … We are to “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3) There is no 50/50 equation or quid pro quo involved. When we keep score in our relationships, everyone loses. So how can we expect to receive what we need, when we feel like we’re the only one giving? 

Something To Talk About:

We reap what we sow, more than we sow, and later than we sow. To that end we talked about four principles:

  1. We harvest by the type of seed we plant:  What are we contributing to the relationship? In relationships we have expectations and equal and sometimes opposite reactions when those expectations are not met. For any relationship to succeed, self-sacrifice must replace selfishness. We are self-centered; and so our self-centered tendency, carried into marriage, creates two self-centered people trying to negotiate enough give and take out of this deal so that they can co-exist. But that is not God’s plan for marriage. God’s plan is to plant the seeds of serving, loving and mercy. The Bible says give and you will be given. Give what you want from the other person and then you get what you wanted. If you want respect, give respect. If you want to be thanked, thank someone. If you want to be forgiven, forgive someone. In Jesus’ teachings, Jesus humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Jesus said give without expecting a return – sometimes we think we are giving when we are really controlling – God rewards motives, so have the right one  – sometimes we need to give whether we feel like it or not.
  2. We reap more than we sow: When I give-when I love and serve and I give, what is given to me? Look again at Luke 6:38 says: ”Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” According to instructions in the Old Testament, farmers in Israel were to leave the grain in the corners of their fields for the poor. The poor people wanted as much grain in their baskets as possible in order to feed their family. They would press it down to create more room, shake it to remove any air and then pour more grain into the basket until it began to spill over the sides. It is one thing to receive a basket of free grain. It is a far better thing to receive a good-measure, pressed-down, shaken-together, and using every inch of space in the basket of free grain. The basic idea is that generosity breeds generosity. If we are critical of others, then it’s likely we will receive criticism.  But if we treat others graciously, generously, and compassionately, we will reap the same things. Jesus used these terms because He wanted to communicate that whatever you sow, you’re going to get a lot more of the same in return.
  3. It takes time to reap what you sow:  We want instant gratification or return on our investment in relationships. I want people in my life to give back when I give to them. Some people are frustrated because what they are sowing does not appear to be producing an immediate crop. So they continue down their course or stop trying because they mistakenly believe that they will never have a harvest. But unlike the crops of the field, which get harvested at approximately the same time each year, there is no regular timetable for the harvest of life. Some crops we reap quickly; others take a long time. But do not be deceived—their season will come. And by going the second mile now and giving more than is required, we will reap rich dividends in our relationships and in life later.
  4. The quality of the harvests depends on the quality of the soil: The parable of the sower is found in, Luke 8:4-15. “As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.” (Luke 8:15). The Bible compares our hearts to either good or bad ground (soil), in which the seed of God’s word will be planted (sowed). First of all, this parable is talking about when the gospel is preached to the unsaved, and how the word of God will bring forth fruit in some lives and not in others, but it also has a lesson for us as Christians. I believe we are responsible for the condition of our own hearts, or “ground” in which the word of God is planted. The quality of the harvests will depend on the quality of the soil.   

Questions:

  1. Jesus is saying is that you’ll get back what you give out. How is this counterintuitive and counter-instinctual in our culture today? What are some examples from your life where you have received from God and others more than you gave away?
  2. Message summary: We reap what we sow, more than we sow, and later than we sow. Agree or disagree and why.
  3. Read 2 Corinthians 9:6. What are some things that stand in the way of believing that generous sowing will result in generous reaping? What in this message will help you counter those ideas or experiences? 
  4. Sometimes sowing will produce it’s best fruit in a future “season.” The enemy of waiting for future fruit is weariness. How do we effectively deal with waiting?
  5. How do you have good soil and an open heart to receive God’s word, instead of it falling on rocks, growing and being parched by the sun and withering? How do you decide in your heart what you should give?
  6. Without sounding preachy, what are some ways to show that the giving, loving and serving we do in relationships always comes back to Jesus?

Take One Thing Home with You:

There is a passage in the Old testament that sheds some light on “give and it will given to you.” That passage is Deuteronomy 15: 7-9: “But if there are any poor Israelites in your towns when you arrive in the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tightfisted toward them. Instead, be generous and lend them whatever they need. Do not be mean-spirited and refuse someone a loan because the year for canceling debts is close at hand. If you refuse to make the loan and the needy person cries out to the Lord, you will be considered guilty of sin.”

The Israelites were warned not to even think about the possibility they won’t be paid back if a fellow Israelite comes to them in need. Most of us are in relationships, but do we give without expecting to receive something back? There are many ways to be generous in relationships. And there are many opportunities to give without expecting a quid pro quo response. Giving to a relationship may require us to reconsider our self-image, examine our complicity, and question our motives. But if we could become ungrudging in our giving, we will open a new door for God to return to us “a good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over.”