Summary: Families that serve together are strong together.

8 Words to Change Your Family: Serving

Nehemiah 4:13; Matthew 20:16-28

Rev. Brian Bill


A mother was preparing pancakes for her sons, Kevin, 5, and Ryan, 3. The boys began to argue over who would get the first one. Not wanting to miss a teachable moment, the mom said: “If Jesus were sitting here, He would say, ‘Let my brother have the first pancake. I can wait.’” Kevin turned to his younger brother and said, “OK. Ryan, you be Jesus.”

In their book called, “Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes in You and Your Kids,” Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller write this: “High hopes and idealistic goals are a part of every young family. New moms and dads look at their little bundles of joy and envision a family where cooperation reigns over self-centeredness, closeness overcomes competitiveness, and a joy-filled family is the inevitable result. An interesting transition takes place in many parents, however, as their family grows and matures. These same parents give up their positive vision in exchange for basic survival skills. They just want to get through the day…Why is it then that eager, hopeful parents turn into frustrated, disillusioned parents in just a few years?” (Page 3).

As we getting ready to wrap up our series next week called, “Eight Words to Change Your Family,” our focus today is on the essential quality of serving because families that serve together are strong together. So far we’ve looked at the words: vision, love, forgiveness, truth, church, and commitment. Next Sunday we’ll hone in on the word honor.

Selfishness can run rampant in our homes or servanthood can flourish in our homes. I like what Steve Farrar has said: “We’re all selfish…God sometimes chooses to deal with our selfishness by giving us someone to care for who is infinitely more selfish than we are. Babies are not only the cutest creatures on the face of the earth; they are by far the most selfish. The way God deals with my own selfishness is to give me someone to serve who has zero interest in serving me…Not too many people in the world could out-selfish me one-on-one. But every time we’ve had a baby, I’ve met my match. Each of my kids resembled me. I don’t mean they looked like me, I mean they were as selfish as me. That meant that somebody in the family was going to have to grow up. Guess who was nominated?”

Are you ready to grow up? The solution to selfishness in our families is to learn how to be a servant. I like this definition: “Seeking to overcome self-centeredness by looking for ways to help and care for others.”

Being part of a family carries with it serving responsibilities and serving opportunities. And the lessons we learn in our families is preparation for our mission in the world. As we’ll discover in our text today, our default setting is selfishness, not other-centeredness. In order to improve our serve we must seek the Savior and follow the model of the Master.

Strength through Serving

Please turn in your Bible to Matthew 20. We’ll see that our families are a lot like those first followers of Jesus. And so we must…

1. Monitor our motives. We notice in verses 20-21 that our motives can get all mixed up. The mother of James and John came to Jesus with her sons, “and kneeling down, asked a favor of Him.” The mom’s name was Salome, who was likely the aunt of Jesus. In Mark’s version, James and John are eager to have their mom go to bat for them. Perhaps they knew that they’d have a better chance with Jesus if she made the request for them.

The phrase “kneeling down” is an act of homage or reverence. Some translations use the word “worship.” Salome is following a very common protocol. She begins with a general request and then is ready with her answer when Jesus asks, “What is it you want?” She responds by saying, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”

It’s really easy for our motives to get all messed up. James and John were interested in glory, position and rank. They wanted to be the closest to Jesus and they wanted to be higher than anyone else. And their mother desired the best for them, which isn’t bad in itself. It’s easy for us as parents to become so set on the success of our kids that we run right over others. It’s helpful to remember that our kids learn most through the losses in life. Their character is built through stress not success.

When faced with this mother’s mixed up motives, Jesus asks a question to get to the heart of her heart: “What is it you want?” Answering questions like this can be very helpful to us as well: “What is it that I want?” “Why am I doing this?” “Who am I serving?” “Who do I want to impress?” “What is this teaching my kids?”

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