Series: Put people in their place.
When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. (Matthew 26:20)
And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” (Matthew 26:21)
They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?” (Matthew 26:22)
Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. (Matthew 26:23)
The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” (Matthew 26:24)
Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?” Jesus answered, “You have said so.” (Matthew 26:25)
My title for the morning is a question. The question comes from the verses we just read: Who’s at your table?
I wonder if anybody in here knows the name of this young man.
His name is Abhi Mishra. And in June 2021, he became the worlds youngest chess grandmaster at age 12.
But that’s not the only record that he’s broken.
Abi was the youngest master in U.S. history at age 9, and the youngest International Master at age 10. And finally becoming a chess grandmaster at age 12.
By comparison, Bobby Fischer became the (at that time) youngest grandmaster at age 15.
And I don’t know, it just makes me happy picturing these burly Russian chess masters getting smoked by a 9 year old.
It’s said that chess grandmasters are able to think 15 moves ahead of the move they’re currently making.
But now, there’s a game playing AI (so artificial intelligence computer) named AlphaZero that learned how to play chess in 4 hours and can now consistently beat all the grandmasters. The reason is that it never makes positioning mistakes.
And that’s what chess is about. Positioning.
Everyone starts with the same pieces. The key to success is having the right pieces in the right places.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the people in my life, and having the people in my life be in the right places to enable me to be successful during my time on this planet.
The way that I’ve described this series to people is ‘Relational Positioning’ – Not just having the right people in your life, but having the right people in the right places.
Youth Pastor I was a youth pastor for about 10 years. And when I felt like this is what I wanted to talk about, I kept getting this feeling that maybe talking about this stuff is more for teenagers and less for adults. Every parent in this room knows that the people your child surrounds themself with will absolutely make or break their faith and their future.
But over the last number of years, as I’ve been pastoring adults, I have found that a lot of adults continue to underestimate the influence people are still having on you, even as an adult.
Most people are unaware of the implications of who they have in their life and who they allow to have influence over their life.
They are oblivious to the reality that their spiritual, emotional, professional and financial well-being is impacted by who is in their life.
I want to read you a couple verses from the book of proverbs.
Proverbs is a book of the Bible located in a section of the Bible called Wisdom literature.
It’s literature that God wants to use to make us wise, because it’s possible to live righteous and not live well.
And the book of Proverbs was not written to children. It applies to children and teenagers but when Solomon writes this book, he’s writing to you. No matter what stage of life you’re in.
Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm. (Proverbs 13:20)
Every time I read this it strikes me that it’s not just about being foolish, it’s about being a companion to fools.
That’s it not just about what YOU do, it’s about who you’re around when they do the things they do.
And here Solomon is saying we evolve into who we are around.
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)
You know, the word ‘sharp’ in the English language can be used both as a positive and a negative.
Being sharp can mean being smart ‘That kid is sharp’. Abi, the 12 year old grandmaster, that kid is sharp.
But being sharp can also mean being unmerciful and careless with our words.
That if someone is being ‘sharp’ with their words it means they’re being unmerciful and careless with their words.
And I think this verse applies both ways.
You can hang around sharp people (tap your head) and you become sharp. You become wise.
You can hang around people who are sharp and unmerciful, and you become sharp and unmerciful.
That’s why if I don’t like how you talk, I’m not gonna spend that much time with you. Because your words will become my words, and I can’t have that. And that’s not just some principle to teach your kids, that applies to you.
Now I’m gonna jump to what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15
Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Corinthians 15:33)
Now, here’s what’s scary about this. He starts off with ‘Do not be misled’ which means it’s possible to be unaware of the impact that a relationship is having on you.
Who Sent Them?
I wonder if anyone in the room would say that there are certain people in your life that you believe were sent from God.
I know I do. I know that I have people in my life, strategically put there by God as an expression of his grace and his favor.
Right? So God can send people into our life.
But did you know that in scripture we read that Satan can also send people?
Paul says when talking about certain individuals, he calls them ‘Messengers sent by satan.’
So we must not only consider who comes into our life, we must also ask ourselves, who sent them.
Were they sent by God for my advancement and development or were they sent by Satan as a distraction or obstacle for me?
God would not have invented relationships if they did not matter.
When God created the human species, you and me, He created us to be relational.
All I need is you Lord. Great song. And I understand the point of the song.
But you have to understand that you need other people.
You were designed to live alongside and in community with other people.
Burned and Bruised But I think at times we can and we can be so bruised and burned by betrayal. That our attitude shifts into an attitude that says ‘I don’t need anyone else.’ And in doing so, you cut yourself off from one of (not the only one but one of) God’s primary ways of moving you forward.
I say this all the time, but the Christian life is not a solo-sport, it’s a team sport.
Tom Keller, a pastor I really like in New York says “a lone Christian is like a totaled car.” It’s still a car, but it has become completely unable to fulfill its purpose.
And if you are going to experience God’s best for your life, you are going to need the life skill of relationship management.
God sends people to help us carry out our calling.
Relationships are not just about company.
Relationships are about purpose and moving you into what God has for you.
So relationships are not just about the avoidance of pain. Relationships are about the pursuit of purpose.
So I’m saying you need to get the right people in the right places, not so that bad things won’t happen. You need to get the right people in the right places so that good things CAN happen.
You see the difference?
So you need God to help you with something called ‘Relational Intelligence’.
Relational intelligence is the ability to define and align your relationships.
I’m defining, not to judge, I’m defining to align. I’m defining so I know where to put you. So I know what to expect of you. Right?
I’m not gonna treat you the same way I treat my close friends if I know you’re a taker.
I’ve got some people in my life, (no one in this room obviously, never you) – but I know they’re a taker.
And I’m a pastor so that’s fine, it’s just that it’s a different position than a close friend.
With a friend, I’m expecting reciprocity. But if I know that’s not in you at this point in your life, and you’re a taker, that’s fine, and I’m not going to judge you.
I’m just not going to give you more than I can stand to lose.
So if it’s a Saturday and I’m with my daughter at the trampoline park pulling a hammy. Man, when’s the last time you jumped on a big trampoline. With every jump, I’m amazed by spine doesn’t snap in half.
Anyways, if it’s a Saturday and I’m at the trampoline park with my daughter, and you call my phone, don’t be surprised if I don’t take your call.
Like if your husband had a heart attack, text me and you know I’ll be there.
But if you stubbed your toe, or you got in a fight with your mom, I’m not gonna drop what I’m doing for your thing.
And the reason for that is not to be mean, it’s because I’m clear on what my priorities are.
Because relational intelligence requires intentionality.
Brother-in-Law So you got my brother-in-law AJ over here, he’s the closest thing I have to a blood brother. Now listen, he can call my phone anytime of the day, and I will cancel an appointment with just about anybody else on the planet if he needs me.
See, I don’t treat all the people in my life the same way.
And I’m not just talking about being a pastor, I’m talking about you and your life.
Because someone in here needs to hear this: If you’re not intentional, the people that mean the most to you will get the least from you.
A lot of times, what’s important and what’s urgent are the same thing, but a lot of times they’re not, and what’s urgent will take you from what’s most important.
So it’s important for me to define our relationship (not by telling you, just to keep it straight in my own head), so that I can align our relationship so my priorities don’t get out of whack. So I don’t become some pastor who’s always ‘tending to the flock’ and neglecting my own family.
So if I’m gonna spend my time mentoring someone, I need to make sure they’re a sponge and not a rock.
Are you ready for this? Just because you call someone something don’t make them that.
- Just because you call someone a mentor, doesn’t make them that.
- Just because you call someone your pastor, doesn’t make them that.
“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? (Luke 6:46)
I will meet with you if it’s fruitful. But if you’re a rock and everything I say bounces off of you, or if you’re just looking for someone to agree with you and affirm decisions you’ve already made, I’m not gonna meet with you every week.
Because whenever you invest your time, you’re investing an irreplaceable asset that you can never get back. You will never be as young as you are right now.
And so it’s not being judgmental, it’s being a good steward over something that God has called you to use wisely. Your time.
And in the same way, some of you are trying to be mentored by someone who isn’t all that concerned with whether or not you succeed.
That’s why it seems like they’re not all that interested in helping you, because they’re not. A mentor needs more than a big gift, they need big heart.
Some people end up being very unhappy in their relationships because they’re expecting all their relationships to be the same.
So what’s my point? My point is that we have to be deliberate with what our relationships are, and where they go.
Jesus is the Model
Jesus is an incredibly clear picture of this. He’s the model. He’s the example of relational intelligence.
Jesus’s life teaches us this:
Everyone is to be loved biblically, valued equally, but treated differently.
That means I’m gonna love you without conditions, my commitment to your good and your well-being is not dependent on you treating me right. That no matter what our relationship is, I will do right by you because I love you.
That means that it doesn’t matter your age, your gender, your socio-economic status, your educational level, your religion – none of that makes you more or less valuable in the eyes of God.
Because treating everybody right does not mean you treat everybody the same.
Jesus had 12 Disciples
And he treated those 12 disciples differently than he treated everybody else.
And even within the 12, he treated 3 of them different than the other 9. He treated all of them right. But he didn’t treat all of them the same. There were 3 of them that scholars call the inner circle. Peter, James and John.
So there were certain places Jesus took the 3 that he didn’t take the 12.
- When Jesus went to the Mount of Transfiguration, he didn’t take the 12, he took the 3.
- When he went to the Garden of Gethsemane, he didn’t take the 12, he took the 3.
- When he was at his height, he took Peter, James and John
- When he was at his lowest, he took Peter, James and John.
Because people that are in your inner circle are people that can handle you when you’re at your best, and they can also handle you when you are at your worst.
And he didn’t explain himself. You don’t have to give an explanation for why certain people don’t meet the criteria to have access to certain parts of your life. Sometimes ‘I’m sorry I can’t make it’ is enough.
2 Samuel 19
Can I give you an example? Turn with me to 2 Samuel 19. In the Bible, there’s a man named David who was spiritually passionate, but he didn’t live with relational intelligence. When you look at the failures of David’s life, it was all relationships. Think about it.
All of that relationships.
In 2 Samuel 19, one of David’s military advisors, his friend, comes and has a hard conversation with David. We’ll talk about that next week. Because friends can have hard conversations with you.
They’ve earned enough relational equity with you that you trust them enough to have the hard conversations because they’ve proven they have your best interests at heart. Right?
See some people try to spend what they haven’t earned with you. It’s like “We don’t have enough history for you to talk to me like that. I don’t know your mother.” Okay.
Then Joab went into the house to the king and said, “Today you have humiliated all your men, who have just saved your life and the lives of your sons and daughters and the lives of your wives and concubines. (2 Samuel 19:5)
You love those who hate you and hate those who love you. (2 Samuel 19:6a)
Here’s what’s happening: David had a group of men that are literally fighting and risking their life to save his. Because his son Absalom was trying to kill him. And David so wants people who have his same blood to act like family, even though they not gonna. And he’s so concerned about his blood relatives NOT treating him like family that he’s missing out on the people who don’t have His blood that are treating him like family.
His friend confronts him and says ”The people that love you the most, you treat them the worst”. And he says You’re wasting all your time thinking about people who have already come to a conclusion about you. You can’t change your sons mind about you, and you’re ignoring the people who love you the most. That wasn’t intentional on David’s part, but that can happen without intentionality.
And I think all of us at some point or another are guilty of that. Taking people for granted Not intentional. But wasting all your time and energy on people who don’t love you, who haven’t sacrificed for you, and aren’t there for you. Does that make sense?
So this is an area that we all have room to improve in. I know I do. And Jesus leads by example on how to do this effectively.
Jesus at the Table
So Jesus is sitting at this table. Sometimes people think Jesus is always doing something spiritual. Like he’s always praying.
But here, they’re all at the dinner table. Jesus is reclining at the table, he’s chilling. And while they were eating, just everybody’s eating, out of the blue, this is so gangster, they’re eating “Well this is some good food, you all like this? – “One of you is gonna betray me” No warning. Somebody at this table. So the disciple start asking “Okay, is it me? Is it me? Is it me?”
Jesus says “the one whose hand is in the bowl with me right now.” Judas. It’s like Jesus is saying “Judas, I just want you to know that I know.
How did Jesus know? Well, I believe it’s because Jesus could see with his spiritual eyes, but I also believe he knew because he could see with is natural eyes. He saw signs. He didn’t judge, but he didn’t ignore.
So Jesus says “Whatever you’re going to do do it quickly.” Meaning, “I know that you have already made up your mind about who you’re gonna be. And I recognize that my goodness will not change your character.”
No matter how much I wash your feet. You’ve already decided.
And some of us keep thinking “I’m so good to them, maybe someday they’ll be good to me.” Their goodness is not based on your character. Their goodness is based on their character.
Jesus is smart. He’s a lot of other things, but he’s also smart.
And he’s thinking, “Yeah, you’re gonna be the one that betrays me because earlier, when we were together, and we were at this house and this woman had an alabaster box with expensive ointment. And she broke it and poured it on my feet and started washing my feet with her hair. Everybody was amazed at her act of worship, but you were over there sitting in the corner sucking your teeth talking about “We could have taken that and sold it and given it to the poor”. And Jesus is like, _“I didn’t judge that. But I didn’t ignore that. And now I’ve been with you long enough to see what has always been in you. So I’m hurt but not surprised. Because I saw this in you.”
Took the 3
“And you were probably upset with me Judas when I took Peter, James and John to the Mount of Transfiguration, and I didn’t take you. And you didn’t know it, but I saw that in you Judas. And you were upset when I took them to the Garden of Gethsemane and I didn’t take you. But I saw that in you, Judas.”
“So whatever you’re gonna do, do it quickly”
Notice Jesus doesn’t remove him from the table. But he addresses what needs to be addressed and Judas left on his own.
Jesus loved them all biblically, he valued them all equally, but he didn’t treat them all the same.
So you just know how to position. You see that?
- Government So if you’re in charge of the government, you don’t put someone who’s trigger-happy in charge of the nukes. You know what I mean? I’m not thinking of anyone in particular, I’m just saying.
- Daycare If you’re in charge of a daycare and someone applies for a job and their background check shows they’ve been convicted of a sexual crime, you don’t hire them.
It’s not judging, it’s positioning.
And I can’t tell you how much damage control us pastors have to do simply because people are careless with their relational positioning.
- Just because he’s a good friend doesn’t mean he’ll be a good husband. You know what I mean?
- Just because he’s a good friend doesn’t mean he’s a good mentor. He’s even stupider than you are.
And if you’re aware of that, you can have all kinds of different relationships with all kinds of different people because you understand how to position people in your life to make your relationship successful.
Because you’re not trying to treat everyone the same and you’re not expecting everyone to treat me the same.
Back to the Scene
And I’ve thought about this scene with Jesus and his 12 disciples a lot.
And you know, Judas wasn’t the only imperfect personality Jesus had to manage.
When you’re in relationships, you’re in relationships with imperfect people.
So there has to be a non-judgmental awareness. I’m not judging you, but I am aware so that I know where to put you.
Who else was at that table?
Who’s Thomas? He’s the supportive skeptic. The doubter, right?
Thomas doubted Jesus’s resurrection. If you’re not be familiar with the story, Thomas said, “Unless I see the holes in his hands, in his feet, in his side, I don’t believe it.”
Thomas is that friend who is a supportive skeptic. They’re supportive and skeptical at the same time. You tell them “You know, I’m thinking about starting a business.” “For real? Well, girl you can do it, I think, I don’t know, I’m praying for you. Go ahead. I wouldn’t do it but you go ahead.”
You don’t judge them. You just know that’s not your first call when you’re dreaming. When you’re struggling with a dream, you don’t call somebody who’s gonna help you struggle.
Jesus had it too.
James and John
They were the needy friends. One time they went up to Jesus and said “Jesus listen. Now when you get to your throne I know there’s 12 of us, there’s not gonna be that many chairs up there. So we were thinking maybe you could put one of us on your right hand and one of us on the left. Don’t tell Peter because you know how he gets with his swords and people’s ears and stuff like that. I don’t want no drama. I’m not trying to be messy. But listen, listen, we just want to sit on your right hand and on your left.”
They were the needy disciples. They wanted to feel like they had a relationship with Jesus that was unique from the other 12. It wasn’t enough for them to be in the 12, they wanted to be different from the 12. It wasn’t even enough for them to be part of the 3. They were already in the inner circle, but when people are needy, enough is never enough.
They represent good friends that are just draining. They’re just always wanting more. They’re bugged that you didn’t invite them to the dinner, they’re bugged that you didn’t call them.
Jesus had it too.
Look at this:
When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” (John 1:47)
He’s your blunt buddy. Not that kind of blunt. He’s the friend that’s truthful but not tactful. It’s the friend that says anything in front of anyone.
It’s like “Listen, I love you, but you can’t say stuff like that.”
Jesus had it too.
Peter represents the hot head of the friend group. Peter says: “Jesus, I just want you to know I’m with you for life, for life. For Life. BFFs forever.”
Next day, “You know Jesus?” “I don’t know him.”, “You know Jesus” “I told you I don’t know him”, “You know Jesus.” “Don’t ask me again. I told you I don’t know him.”
One moment he’s like super spiritual and performing exorcisms, then the next moment he’s pulling out a sword and cutting people ears off. He’s the friend that’s hard to live with but you can’t live without.
He is the friend that says “They said what about you?! Oh I’m gonna drive to their house and give them a piece of my mind!!!” And you’re like “No no no no no, just don’t embarrass me.”
Jesus has it too.
Judas is at that table. Judas is the blind betrayer. He betrays and he’s blind to it. Do you follow me? So he hurts you and then he feels like the victim.
He hurt you, he feels like the victim. He’s mad, you should be mad. He’s mad at you. You’re like “You betrayed me, and I’M wrong?”
He’s the one that can see everybody else but themself.
All of them at the table.
And Jesus had to manage all of those relationships differently. He treated all of them right, but he didn’t treat them all the same. So you’ve got to know where to put them. You see that? You understand what I’m saying?
So you got to know who to put where. Who to take where.
And this is something people have to get right.
Because if you don’t:
- You’ll give your heart to people who are not mature enough to handle it well.
- You’ll waste time investing in people who you think are sponges but are actually rocks.
- You’ll neglect real friends hanging out with associates.
I’m gonna show you the difference in this series.
God wants us to know that he’s not just a need-meeter. He’s a need assessor.
What’s that mean? He knows what you need, even if you don’t.
And this is what’s crazy about relational intelligence. Most people don’t know they need to improve it. Because they think as long as they not in pain, everything’s fine. But relational intelligence in just about managing pain is about pursuing purpose.
God wants to increase our awareness. And there are three things that need to happen.
God needs to help us:
#1 Open Our Eyes
Jesus didn’t judge what he saw, but he didn’t ignore it. And if our eyes are open, we’ll see patterns and issues that can arise from having the right person in the wrong place.
#2 Open our Heart
Because the Holy Spirit will reveal to us things that are hidden. Sometimes the Holy Spirit will tell you “Don’t tell them that. Don’t share that with them. That’s too soon. Don’t do that.” And when we ignore that, it can cost us.
#3 Open our Ears
The Bible says the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.
And no one is perfect. Even people who love you well, need some work. And every relationship needs grace.
But scripture says that the heart is deceitful. God knows our heart, we don’t always know it.
So if you listen carefully, sometimes you can hear something they say and notice “That’s my best friend, but I need to keep an eye on that. They’re being jealous.” If your ears are open, you can hear that. You can notice “You know, every time we’re talking about me, we stop talking about me, we start we start talking about them.”
And I don’t mean that they’re a bad person. I don’t mean that they’re evil.
And you don’t judge their jealousy, you just love them enough to stop triggering it. You say to yourself “You know, I realized that when I talk about what I believe God is doing in me, it triggers something in them. So even though I love them with all my heart, they can’t handle that part of me yet. So I’m not gonna let them be a dream killer to me. I’m gonna share my dream with someone who can handle it.”
And it’s not just about having good friends, it’s about being one.
Because being a good friend is part of your purpose. I’m gonna talk to you about that next week.
Relational intelligence is the ability to define and align your relationships. That means that everyone is to be loved biblically, valued equally, but treated differently. So I treat everybody right, but I don’t treat everybody the same. It’s not about judgement, it’s about positioning my relationships in a way that enables me to reach my destiny and accomplish my purpose. So I ask God to open my eyes so I may see what needs to be seen, to open my heart that I may sense what needs to be sensed, and to open my ears that I may hear what needs to be heard.