Devotional: “Learn to Share” (Mark 9:38-41)

August 2nd, 2013 | Posted in Blog | No Comments
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The disciples have not learned yesterday’s lesson. Still overrun by a desire for status and recognition, they turn to jealousy, rivalry, and sectarianism. When one of them spots a rival disciple casting out a demon in Jesus’ name, he quickly turns tattle-tale.


The immaturity of the moment is palpable. First, remember that the disciples have just had a rather publicly unsuccessful bout with exorcism (cf. Mark 9:14-29). So John seems to be saying, “Make him stop doing what we’re unable to do.” It smacks of jealousy. Second, and much more frightening, is the way John describes the issue: “We told him to stop because he was not following us” (verse 38). The overweening pride and unadulterated audacity of this claim! Who cares if this man isn’t following John! or Peter! or any of the other disciples! John’s pride has got the better of him. He should have said, “He wasn’t following you,” but then . . . that might not be true.


After all, Jesus says, “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us” (verses 39-40). The man is casting out demons in Jesus’ name, we should remember, and his success proves the genuineness of his commitment (read about the sons of Sceva in Acts 19:13-16 to see what happens to those who aren’t genuinely committed to Christ when trying to cast out demons in his name). He cannot possibly be an enemy of Christ.


Jesus here proclaims a certain broad-minded inclusiveness that the church has often forgotten. We like to exclude others from our “inner ring” to remind ourselves how much more important, smarter, better, richer, etc. we are than others. Church is not usually an exception unfortunately. It is interesting to note that infighting, quarrels, rivalries, and factions usually develop when a church stops reaching out. Once we become more concerned about our belonging to the group, rather than helping others to belong as well, we turn into the worst of our schoolyard selves. “You can’t play with us. You don’t belong to this group. Go find someone else.”


This is not the attitude of Christ. Do you want to be great? Then learn to share. Share the good news of Christ indiscriminately. Share the community of Christ with all who will come. And maybe even share a cup of cold water in the name of Jesus with someone in need (verse 41).


Questions for Reflection and Application

  1. Can you recall a time when you displayed an attitude similar to John’s in this story? How did you try to exclude someone? Why do you think you did it—that is, what particular brand of selfishness motivated your behavior? Has this been a recurring sin in your life? Is it a sin you have ever brought into the church? Do you need to repent of this sin and confess it to someone else? If so, do it.
  2. In what ways has the church—local or universal—tended towards exclusivity instead of a biblical inclusivity? (Make sure you distinguish between inclusiveness and relativism. After all, Jesus does say elsewhere, “Whoever is not with me is against me”!) How can you help us become more lovingly inclusive?
  3. Are there people with whom you need to share more? Does this include the lost? How will you share the gospel with them? Does this include the many suffering under systemic poverty globally? How will you bring them a “cup of cold water” in the name of Jesus?