Welcome to Christ’s Community Church Mother’s Day 2016. We’re so thankful for Moms! And I thank you all for being part of sharing in God’s Word today. If you brought your Bibles, let’s open them up and we’ll start in Matthew chapter 9. Today, we’re going to talk about how to deal with overly needy people; those who seem to be habitually in need. Now just last week, we discussed loving your neighbor as yourself in the context of true worship to God and so we understand that we, as Christ followers, we’re called by God to help those who are in need. And so, we should have a heart for the poor, for those who are burdened, who are outcasts of society, who are in need. And as we live our lives as worshipers of Jesus, we do that from the perspective of seeing every resource that we have available to us, as God’s resources given to us, and we as stewards of the gifts of God. But today, I want to talk about those we might call overly needy people. Moms, you might instantly think of that one that’s hanging on your leg, whining in your ear, and pushing all your buttons, but I want you to think beyond those. Maybe to that person on the phone, or the neighbor next-door; it’s the person that you try to help, yet it’s as if they’re incapable of helping themselves and they seem to find themselves consistently in need. This morning, you might have a name, you might picture their face… some of you know people like that… people that are just overly needy.
And so here’s the dilemma, as a follower of Christ, we want to have compassion for those who are in need, we want to help, and especially if they’re overly needy. We want to do what’s right, but we don’t want to train them to become dependent upon us. We want to do what’s right, but so many needy people can be ungrateful, leaving us feeling guilty as if we haven’t done enough. And so we want to do what we’re supposed to do, but we’re afraid that we may do too much or maybe not enough, and it’s easy to find ourselves in that place where we begin to feel used, abused, and depleted. So how do we find a good balance in all this?
Well, let’s begin looking at the example of Jesus in Matthew chapter 9. As we look at the life and ministry of Jesus we see that he had the same kind of struggle. In Matthew 9:36 the Bible says,
“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
When Jesus saw the crowds, “He had compassion.” That’s a very important phrase, because the word translated “compassion” comes from a Greek word that literally means from the intestines or bowels or we could say deep from within. It means a sympathy or inward affection. As a matter of fact, there’s no word in our language that shows a more intense, deeper compassion, or tender mercy for those who are in need. This is the most intense word possible in the Greek language to say that Jesus “was moved with compassion for them.” You see, Jesus cared for those in need more than anyone else who’s ever lived, but even though Jesus cared more than anyone else he didn’t grant every request. Jesus cared more than anyone who’s ever lived or ever will live and yet Jesus didn’t heal every disease. You can read when he would walk away from crowds full of sick people. Maybe he’d heal some but he wouldn’t heal everybody. He wouldn’t grant every request and so it’s hard to tell what to do for every needy person. But here’s what we’re going to do today, we’re going to leave room for the Holy Spirit to direct us depending upon the person and the situation that we’re dealing with. So as we try to help people, let’s be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and recognize that God has to direct us each and every time. So number 1, our goal in showing compassion for the needy is to help without enabling, because without even meaning to we can train them to become overly dependent upon us and we don’t want to do that.
We want to help them without enabling them and so in order to do that, to live without the struggle and the guilt of whether we’re doing enough, not enough, or maybe even creating a codependency. We want to learn with the help of God to offer what they need and not what they want. That’s important, because when a person is in that place of being overly needy, what they want may not actually be what they need. In the book of Acts we find a great example of this in chapter 3. There we read of a guy who was born crippled and so he’d learned to survive by begging for money at the temple gate until one day Peter came along. Now Peter didn’t give this guy what he asked for, he didn’t give him what he wanted, but instead Peter gave him what he needed. The Bible tells us in Acts 3:6-7,
“Peter said, "Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man's feet and ankles became strong.”
Now notice in verse 7 it says, “Taking him by the right hand,” and what did he do? Instead of giving him a handout Peter gave him a hand up. He didn’t give this guy what he wanted, but instead he gave him what he needed. And Peter was used by God through the power of the Holy Spirit to heal this guy who’d been lame from birth. So here’s my point, when a person is overly needy, they’ll often want something, and believe with everything in them that that’s what they need. And so when we find ourselves in that season of life, that situation of being needy, we often don’t have the perspective to know what we really need. But the truth of the matter is that God can give us the compassion, the power, and the insight to recognize that they really need something else. So we need to learn how to offer them what they need and not just what they want.
So first we need to learn to identify the real need. Now Moms you know this, because your kids may tell you that they need a cookie when the real need may be that it’s time for dinner. They may tell you that they need a new video game when the real need is that they need to find something more constructive to do. You know, maybe go outside and play, ride a bike, or even help cut the grass; you know, do something constructive. Others might say that they need help with their car payment, when their real need may be to learn how to budget, or maybe simply to purchase a $1500 car, instead of having a $400 a month car payment. They may want something, but they may need something else. And so we’re going to pray and ask God to reveal that to us so that we can learn to offer what they need and not just what they want.
A second thing is this. We need to pay attention to their actions and not just listen to their words. You see, when you’re trying to help somebody who’s overly needy, their actions and words may not line up. They may tell you, “I can’t find a job” but their actions may say, “I haven’t looked for a job” because you know that there are several places in town that are hiring. And so their actions may be saying that they’re too good for that kind of work. So we need to look at their actions and not just their words. When you’re trying to help, you want to pay attention to actions and not just words.
What’s another way we can help overly needy people? Number 2, when dealing with overly needy people you must love within margins. Again, we see that in the life and ministry of Jesus. The Bible tells us in Mark 1:35-36,
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”
You see, Jesus knew his limitations, he knew he had to get some time alone with his father to be refreshed. He knew he couldn’t just give, give, and give and remain strong. So he went off to pray by himself, he set boundaries, and loved within margins. Continuing in verse 36, the Bible says,
“Simon and his companions went out to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: ‘Everyone is looking for you!’”
Of course, Jesus knew that everyone was looking for him, but he also knew that he needed time alone to be all that God wanted him to be. He knew the limitations of his flesh. And so if we’re not healthy we can’t help other people so we need to love within margins. Now there are several ways that you can do this.
The first is this, when dealing with overly needy people, you need to set “time restrictions”. For example, you may say something like: “Hey, I’d love to talk to you about that. I have an appointment in thirty minutes, but can we talk until then.” Then you’ll also need to set “realistic expectations” of the resources that you have available. You see, overly needy people can easily drain you of all your resources and so you need to tell people up front what they can expect so that they don’t become dependent on you. For example you might say, “You can stay here a month, but that’s it.” Or maybe: “I can give you a hundred dollars a month for the next three months, but no more.” And so the reason that you love within margins is not because you don’t care, but because you do and you want to help other people including your own. You might call loving within margins “Tough Love” and it’s really about protecting you and your loved ones by establishing boundaries. And also to make certain that you are helping and not enabling others. Sometimes they just need to face the consequences of the choices that they’ve made. And it’s those consequences that are a natural part of God’s system and sometimes as difficult as that can be, we must love them enough to let them reap what they’ve sown.
The Bible tells us this in Galatians 6:7-8, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” In other words there are natural consequences to your behavior. And verse 8 says, “The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” Every one of us reaps the consequences of our actions and one of the most loving things that we can do is not to interrupt God’s natural consequences for wrong decisions. For mothers and fathers this can be very difficult because we’re dealing with somebody we love so much.
But there’s a great illustration in Luke chapter 15, in what’s called the parable of the prodigal son. There were actually 2 sons in this story and verse 12 tells us that the youngest son said to his father,
“Give me my share of the estate.' So he divided his property between them. "Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need… but no one gave him anything. "When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!”
Notice that his father was wise enough to let his son go, he loved within margins, and when his son hit rock bottom, when he faced the consequences of his poor choices, the Bible says “he came to his senses.” The consequences led him to making the right decision, he returned to his father who was waiting for him, and so rescuing someone is not always helping. Sometimes one of the most loving things that we can do is to step back and say, “I don’t want to see you hurt, but if you choose to do that, then you’re going to have to go down that road on your own.” And so number 3, is allowing consequences.
Now if you’ve been there, if you’ve rescued someone in the past, as soon as you don’t help them, guess what? They’re going to say, “You don’t love me, because if you did you would’ve helped me.” Or “You’re a fine example of a Christian to just leave me like this.” And honestly that’s hard, but you need to make a very bold decision to love them by not helping them this time. Tough love is sometimes the best kind of love and you just need to allow the consequences.
You know, today we see so many young couples who want the financial and material blessings of God. They’re in their 20s, their parents are in their 50s, and they want to live like mom and dad. Many think they deserve to live like mom and dad, but they don’t want to work for it, they don’t want to put in the time, and they truly believe they’re entitled to it. So instead of working, saving, and managing their money wisely like God’s word says, they go out and get into serious debt trying to accumulate all of these blessings before the right time. Now they’re on the verge of bankruptcy and at some point you’re going to have to say, “I love you. I’m praying for you. But you’re going to have to learn this one the hard way.” And that may mean watching them struggle with their debt for the next 20 years because they got ahead of God.
Maybe it’s someone who doesn’t like their job and so they panic and instead of waiting on God to provide a new job, they quit and many months later there still unemployed, still wondering why they can’t pay the bills, still coming to you with their hand out… but you’ve got to let them reap what they’ve sown, you’ve got to allow the consequences, because they forced the situation, they panicked, and got ahead of God. So whether you’re a mom, a dad, or a friend, you may have to say, “I care about you enough that I’m not going to enable you anymore. I love you enough that you’re going to need to recognize that there are consequences to your decisions.”
So when having compassion for the needy we must recognize that rescuing isn’t always helping. What my parents did for me when I graduated from high school was one of the most painful things they ever did. But I caused a lot of damage, made a lot of poor choices, and caused a lot of pain in our family. And so basically my parents drew the line and said no more, they loved me within margins, they gave me an ultimatum, and said if you’re not going to live by our rules you’re not going to live in our house. But of course, I continued in my sinful ways until I was forced to leave and honestly it was fun for a while, but eventually it caught up to me. And when I came to my senses and called on the name of Jesus, the risen Christ touched me and changed me, and that’s why some people have to do it the hard way. Sometimes we just need to allow the consequences of our poor choices to bear fruit and when we have nowhere else to turn Jesus is waiting for us.
I remember my mom telling me that it was the hardest thing she ever had to do, to watch me go down a path of destruction, but she knew there wasn’t any other way. And so my parents stepped back, they prayed for me, and allowed me to experience the consequences of my behavior. I can testify that sometimes the things that we want are not what we really need and so rescuing a loved one is not always helping. Sometimes it is and other times it isn’t, but you have to be sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit.
This morning, there may be somebody that you love that’s needy and hurting right now. It could be your parents, your children, your brother or sister or a friend. And you want to help, but you don’t know what to do. Well, if you don’t remember anything else remember this: Jesus Christ is the Savior and not you. You need to do what God calls you to do and when God doesn’t call you to do any more you don’t need to feel guilty. If you think that you’re the necessary ingredient for somebody else’s salvation then you’re not trusting the right one for salvation. Jesus Christ is the Savior and at the end of the day when someone’s in need and has nowhere to turn, when they turn to Jesus, he’s the One who’ll meet their needs. Let’s pray…
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
May 08, 2016