Study Guide: Lessons from the Laid-Back Messiah on “Stuff”

Sunday March 14, 2004 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

Though often overlooked, Jesus took breaks, he slept, and he had fun! With our culture continuously pushing us to accumulate “stuff,” it's difficult to find the time to relax. However, if we follow Christ's example, we learn that as humans we have limits that we must learn to live within.

Extended Summary:

Greg’s sermon was entitled: “Lessons from the laid back Messiah on ‘stuff.’” Before he got into his three points, the preamble was an illustration by contrast that our culture is basically crazy in terms of its pace, intensity, and disrespect of God’s desire that we should rest and value relationships that we have. One passage that illustrated the difference was when Jesus stopped teaching and healing and even miracles in order to take a break. Jesus knew his limit. Mark 6:30-32 was read with this in mind. The wedding at Cana where Jesus encouraged the celebration was another example. It is striking to know that the one who came to save the world took the time to go to a wedding! But not only that, he joined the party and provided the next round of drinks! How could Jesus make decisions like this? He knew what he was doing here. He knew what he was supposed to do. His life had purpose, vision, clarity. Because of these things, he was able to make decisions that served that purpose and kept his life in line with the Kingdom.

There are at least three things we can learn from this:

1. Life is not found in striving for “stuff.” Greg pointed out that the very notion of “striving for” can indicate that there is stress and anxiety involved, especially when that which we strive for is some material object or another. It will eventually fade away and only more things to strive for will appear. But when we make God’s will for our lives our own personal mission, we can press on toward that goal knowing that we are doing something of eternal value. This is where life is found. We really do need to ask ourselves, what is it we are striving for? Is it worthy of investing a human life for it?

2. Trust God to supply “stuff.” If we seek first the Kingdom, we are told that “all these tings will be added unto you.” We cannot put God first unless we are trusting God for everything else as well. This is why the Lord’s prayer reads the way it does. A part of the fall is our decision to trust ourselves to meet our own needs. We get our daily bread for ourselves and fail to truly acknowledge our need of God in the process. Of course, this does not mean we sit around and wait for God to send us things. We are to work if we want to eat and it is through the work that God provides for us that we often find our needs being met. Greg gave an example of how God provided for him even when he left Bethel, but it was not easy. It meant he had to give up some stuff in the long run.

3. The Kingdom is about Everything! As Evangelicals, we often think that Kingdom work is pretty much summed up in telling people about Jesus (hence the name: “Evangelical”). And when we feel that we have reached an area, we send people overseas to tell people about Jesus over there too. Of course, this is a good thing, but there are more ways to be faithful to God than simply talking about Jesus. Greg listed MANY things that we often neglect: ascribing worth to people, helping others, befriending the lonely, clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, freeing the oppressed, watching someone’s kids, combating injustice, these are NOT less about the Kingdom than telling people about Christ. In fact, Jesus did these sorts of things far more often than challenging people’s moral situations or questioning their faith! Changing water into wine is about the Kingdom too; we need to rest, we need to re-create ourselves with God’s help, that is what the Sabbath is for! Down time and taking breaks is important to the Kingdom of God as well. We cannot turn our involvement with the Kingdom on and off. Jesus never did this. The Kingdom was served in everything he did, including his recreation and relaxation. This is what it means to give God our whole lives!

Reflection Questions:

  1. Discuss these three related questions with your group: Are you enslaved to our cultural addiction to stuff? Do you own stuff, or does stuff own you? When thinking of the most important stuff you have, how hard would it be to give it away?
  2. Are you trusting God to provide the stuff that you need? Or do you consider yourself to be able to do it pretty well on your own?
  3. Are you “living the Kingdom” in your down time and relationships as well as the time you are intentional about “doing ministry”?