Matthew 20:20-28 (Part 1)- Are We Using God To Get What We Want?

Posted: February 17, 2016 in 40-Gospel of Matthew


Matthew 20:20-28 (Part 1)

Jesus Teaches About Serving Others


We have all met them before. We have all experienced so-called friends such as this before. These are the people that are users. I am not talking about drug addicts but those who use us to get what they want. It’s like the teenage boy that has a drop-dead gorgeous older sister. Some guys will make friends with the little brother so that they can get close to the beautiful sister. Lottery winners all over can tell you of friends who come out of the woodwork just to get cash out the winner not because of a real desire to rekindle a relationship with the lottery winner. These are the users I am talking about. Those who use other people to get what they want. That’s the first impression that I get from reading this passage. It is one of many impressions that I get from this passage. We will spend a few days here in this important passage.


In the scene, James’ and John’s mother was trying to use Jesus to get what she wants. Let’s read through the whole passage:


20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.


21 “What is it you want?” he asked.


She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”

22 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”


“We can,” they answered.


23 Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.”


24 When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. 25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”



Have you ever noticed that we are sometimes just like James’ and John’s mother? We want Jesus for what He can do for us rather than making Him Lord and Savior over our lives. There are several ways that we treat Jesus in this way. One way is that we expect blessings for good behavior. Another is that we invest in Jesus with the expectation that He will yield some type of return on investment for us. The last one that we will discuss, though there are many other ways, is that we pray to Jesus as if we are in control and not Him.


We often here people exclaim that they do not understand why God is withholding blessing from them even though they are trying to be good. You know the refrain. I am being as good as I can but God will not make my life any better. We want God to reward us like candy treats for a kid or a doggy snack for a dog who has done a trick. We seek something from God because we have done the checklist things. We play religious games but there is no life change. We want to do the right things but not give our life fully over to his control. A lot of times in life, we falsely give our life to the Lord because of a jam that we are in and we hear a good sermon and get all emotional and think we have made a commitment to the Lord but really what we are doing is promising to behave better. We want the shelter of Jesus’ good vibes but we do not truly accept Him into our hearts. We want the benefits of the Jesus relationship but none of the life change. We want to be rewarded for good behavior. We want Jesus to get us out the messes that we have made in our lives. And, we get mad at him because He is not magically cleaning up the mess we have made of our own lives. When we approach a relationship with Christ in this way, a false salvation, we fall away quickly when Jesus doesn’t magically make our life immediately better. Jesus did not get us in the jams we made for ourselves but we expect Him to get us out of them. Some of the sins that we commit in life have long-term implications. Just like it took me seven years to put on these extra thirty pounds and I expect them to fall off in one year just because I have committed to exercise and have better food habits. In salvation we do not get immediately better lives. The two do not go hand in hand. What we do learn in salvation is that our circumstances do not matter, it is having that abiding relationship with Jesus through the ever present help of the Holy Spirit is what matters to us. We find joy in Jesus even when things around us may be going to crap or are already crap and not improving. Improvement in your circumstances should not be our criteria for a relationship with Jesus.


Many too believe that if I give of my time, talent and resources, God will reward us with financial blessings. We think that if we do all the right things, Jesus will hand us the lottery check. Some of us want to invest in Jesus just so we can get a payback in blessings in financial ways. It’s an investment payback scenario. If I invest this much in Jesus, He will pay me back this much and I will be happy. When tithing does not produce the tangible financial blessing that we have scheduled out in our minds we fall away. Others perceive our alignment with God’s will through the financial position that we have. If I have wealth, it is because God sees what I am doing and is blessing me. If I have poverty, I must not be doing the right things. The prosperity gospel it is called. God never promised us financial blessings if we tithe. He promised us blessing. The blessing is in the giving. The blessing is in the obedience. That’s where the blessing comes from. We learn to put God first in our finances and quit trying to play the American Dream game is the blessing. We learn to be content with what we have is the blessing. It is not some investment return scenario. It saddens me when the prosperity gospel gains traction with people and it has over the years. Look at Jim Bakker years ago. Look at Joel Osteen now. If you live your life just right, God will give you prosperity. If you send your money to my ministry, it’s good investment strategy. God will bless you! Let us break the connection. Let us love God so much that we are obedient to Him in our finances not because we expect monetary return on our investment but because we want the eternal blessings that come from obedience to the Lord.


Another way we use God for what we can get out of Him is in our prayer life. We pray for God to give us this and give us that. We pray for what we want. We treat God like a vending machine. How many of our prayers start with I, me, or my. We pray for our desired outcomes. We rarely have a discussion with the Lord. We demand things from Him. We will even promise to do better if God answers our prayers. You know this kind of prayer. I know this kind of prayer. We all do it. Some of us it is the only kind of prayer we offer up. Some of us get selfish sometimes and offer these prayers up. I know, I know that we are to be bold in our prayer life. I know that we are to pray with expectation. I know that we are to believe and pray to a God who can do the impossible. Yes, I believe in these concepts. However, what I am saying is that we have to have the right perspective. Our prayers should be praise to God for who He is. Our prayers should be submission to His mightiness. Our prayers should be glorifying to Him. We must come to God with submissive hearts to His greatness and place ourselves in the proper place – beneath His greatness. He is not our vending machine. He is the one we come to with great respect and honor and ask meekly and humbly for His action in our lives. We humbly ask Him for guidance in His way. We ask Him to show us what needs to be done. We ask his favor like a subject to a king. We must make Him on top and us below Him. Let us treat God with the honor and respect that He deserves and not treat Him like the vending machine that we treat Him as sometimes.


Users. Those who use others to get what they want. Do we use God in this way? Let us examine our relationship with God and see if we are in this relationship with Him just to get what we want or whether we are in this relationship because we are so in love with our Maker that we honor Him, we respect Him, we humbly seek Him and His favor, we obey Him because we love and respect Him. Are you using God? Am I using God? Let us pray about this today and meditate on it today. Amen and Amen.


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