(The following is a transcript of Steve Carter’s message “Love Doesn’t Keep Score,” part III of Game Changers. The video is also available to you here.)
So we are in week three of this series called “Game Changers.” Week one, I taught you, straight from God’s Word, about how we could fight anxiety. We could fight for rest in an anxious world. And I told you we’re like air-traffic controllers. We allow what lands in our mind and in our heart. And then, last week, we talked about how our bodies are a temple. The Spirit of God wants to reside in us. And how do we treat our bodies really matters.
And this week, well, I’ve got a little bit of a prop. And I have to tell you that when I was in high school, I had three jobs. My first job was at a restaurant called Pastabilities. You got to choose your noodle... and choose your sauce. Because it was endless pastabilities. So cheesy. But I love it. And then I worked at a golf course where I picked up range balls. But my favorite job was the day that someone allowed me, for a season, to work the scoreboard.
Now, I’m gonna be honest with you. This message is gonna go twenty-five minutes starting now. And every one of you said, “Yes!” We’re in the third quarter because it’s week three of Game Changers. And we’re on the 42-yard line because it’s the 42nd year of Willow.
Now, here’s what I want you to know. I remember, when I got this chance to have this piece of machinery, I got to control the scoreboard. So when the home team would score, I got to add the points. And the entire stands, they looked up at the scoreboard, they’re like, “We scored a touchdown!”
And then, when the visitors scored, I got to add they got a field goal. Oh no, I just made it 63. Nope. There we go. Yes. They scored a field goal. And everyone’s like, “Oh my goodness! Yes!” You know. And so, all of a sudden, every time they score, I would add a point here, a point here, a point there, a point there. And something hit me as I got older.
I realized... I keep score. I have this internal scoreboard in my heart. It happens when I even just get on my phone and go to Instagram or Facebook. And I’m looking. And, all of a sudden, I see that two people are out on a date. And they’ve got this massive picture that they’ve posted of this incredible dessert. Chocolate cake. And then they just write, “Delicious!”
And you’re like, “Oh, good for you. You get a date. You’ve got in-laws close by to watch your kid. Good for you.” Internal scoreboard.
Or I’ll see people post a picture. And it’ll have, on the picture, the bluest water I have ever seen. And you see this picture. And you’re like, “Great. You’re on a family vacation. Good for you.” And then, on the bottom of it, it just says, “Best. Vacation. Ever.”
And you’re like, “Ugh. Make me bitter. Make me bitter.”
You keep scrolling down and, all of a sudden, you see someone—maybe you have a friend or maybe you even did this. You decided to upgrade your phone. Because the iPhone X came out. And so now you’ve just posted a picture of your phone so everybody else on their phone can see what you have. And you just write, “iPhone X!!!!!!” iPhone X.
And you’re like, “Good for you. Good for you.”
But we keep score, don’t we?
What about in your marriages? Do you ever play this game? Well, if you would’ve picked up those clothes on the floor that I’ve asked you to pick up... then I would’ve gone to the store and picked up the things that you asked me to pick up. Scoreboard.
Or maybe you do this with your friends. You get a phone call from a friend. And they say, “Hey, would you please help me out?”
And you’re like, “For sure. What do you need?”
“I need a ride to O’Hare tomorrow.”
“Sure. What time?”
“Okay. Sure. I would love to help out.”
Three weeks later, you have to go out of town. You know who you can call. You helped them. You call them and say, “Hey, I, gotta return the favor. Uh, can you take me to O’Hare?”
“What time do you leave?”
They’re like, “Ugh, I’m so sorry. I can’t.”
And you’re like, “Really? You can’t do it? Alright. I can’t wait for the day when you need me again. So I can deny you.”
We keep score, don’t we? We do this with our kids. We do this with our in-laws. We do this with our spouses. We do this with our friends. We do this with our coworkers. And, friends, all of a sudden, you have a home team, but something happens when you keep score—you make them... the enemy.
You create distance. You create separation. And, all of a sudden, what once was you and this person together in a relationship now becomes us versus them. And I’m watching this happen throughout our culture. I’m watching this happen within the church. And I’m saying to myself, “What would it look like if a church... could clearly take the words of Scripture deep, deep within their heart?” I think it would be an absolute game changer. Paul says in 1 Corinthians chapter 13 verse 5: “Love does not keep score.” It does not keep score. There is no scoreboard in God’s economy.
But my question for you today is simply this: Do you keep score?
And who do you keep score with? Is it a sibling? Is it a spouse? Is it a friend? And why are you keeping score with that person? See, love does not keep score. But fear keeps score. Shame keeps score. People who are passive aggressive keep score. Worry keeps score. Anger keeps score. But, friends, love... never... keeps... score.
And what I wanna do is I wanna walk you through thirteen chapters. And I’ve got 19 minutes and 52 seconds. I’m watching the clock.
Now, here’s the deal, in these thirteen chapters, we meet a character of Scripture who had every reason and every right to keep score. But he chose love. He chose a different way. And if he, with everything he went through, chose love... I think we can, too.
This character is named Joseph. We meet him when he’s seventeen years old. And he is the pride and the joy of his father. His father loves him so much... and all of the other sons... that this father has... they can’t stand Joseph. Because they see the way their father loves Joseph. Joseph receives this ornate robe from his father. This bright, shining, power-filled robe. And every time his brothers saw it, the Scriptures say they hated him. They couldn’t stand him.
And Joseph just took a gift that he received from his father.
One night, Joseph even had a dream. And he had this vision. And he decided to share that with his brothers. And this was the vision: “One day, brothers, all of you are gonna be bowing down to me.” Which they did not like.
Now, maybe true, not the best EQ to share. Especially when you’ve got this ornate robe that you’re wearing that they don’t have.
And so, the father kept Joseph close to him. And, one day, the father said, “Hey, Joseph, go check up on your brothers. Make sure they’re actually doing work.” And so Joseph puts on the robe and he walks out there. And the brothers saw the robe from afar, a distance off, and they began to... devise a plan. To hurt and to harm Joseph.
One of them said, “Let’s kill him. Let’s just end his life. I can’t stand him. This little dreamer. I wish he would be so... gone. Let’s just end his life.”
And they’re like, all the brothers are like, “No, you can’t kill him.”
Then, one of them said, “Look at, over here, there’s a cistern.” This old well that had been abandoned. There’s no water in it. “When he comes here, let’s just throw him in there.”
And so they throw him in there. And he’s just laying there, at the bottom of a cistern.
One of the brothers who had this plan to maybe go rescue him, he ends up running off to do some errands. And while he’s away, some merchants... are traveling by. And some of the brothers go, “Wait, wait, wait. We don’t have to kill him. But we can make some money. Let’s sell Joseph to these merchant travelers.”
And for twenty shekels of silver, they sell their brother.
And these merchants take Joseph down to Egypt. They sell him, and he finds himself being purchased by the second most-powerful person in all of Egypt. His name is Potiphar. And the Scriptures are really, really clear—that God is with Joseph. Just like God is with us. God was with Joseph. And Joseph was aware of it.
And so, whatever Joseph touched, there was favor. And he rose to prominence and power within Potiphar’s household. Where, one day, he was assigned to be in charge of all of Potiphar’s household and affairs. And, one day, he finds himself being wrongly accused. And Potiphar has no choice—even though Joseph is innocent!—has no choice but to throw Joseph in prison.
The Scriptures are clear, though. God was with him. God was with Joseph. Just like God is with you, God was with Joseph. And he found himself rising in prominence, even in prison.
Well, two people that he meets while he’s in prison used to work for the pharaoh. But they had done something wrong. And the pharaoh was the king of Egypt—the most powerful person in the land. And so... he sees these two. And they’re just downcast. And Joseph walks up to them and goes, “Guys, what’s going on?”
And both of them share that they had a dream. But they don’t understand what it means.
And Joseph says, “I, I, I can... help you.” And he listens to their dreams. And God gives him insight on how to interpret those dreams. And he tells one of them, “You know what? You are gonna be reinstated in your position. The pharaoh, in a couple days, is gonna call you, and you’re gonna be reinstated to your role. And, when that happens, please, whatever you do, don’t forget about me.”
The guy says, “For sure, I won’t. If it comes true, I won’t forget about you.”
Two days later, it comes true. He gets reinstated to his role. And while this man is in his role, what happens? He forgets about Joseph. And Joseph’s in prison.
If that was me! ...I would’ve been like, “Seriously? You forgot about me?” I would be keeping score, going, “Every day that you have forgotten about me, I helped you, I told you... what?” And everything Joseph had experienced, he had every right and reason... to keep score. But he chose, continuously and consistently, not to.
Well, one day, pharaoh... pharaoh has this dream. And it rattles him. He doesn’t know what it means. And so this person who used to be in prison, who was reinstated to the role, goes, “Hey, there’s a guy. I can’t believe I forgot about him. He’s been in prison. He, he knows how to interpret dreams. He interpreted a dream I had. You should go find him.”
And so, all of a sudden, Joseph is summoned to pharaoh’s house. And pharaoh shares this dream. Actually, two dreams that he has. One dream he shares doesn’t understand. The next dream he shares, doesn’t understand.
And Joseph goes, “I think God has given me insight.” He says, “Your first dream is this. Egypt is going to experience seven years of fruitful abundance. It’s gonna be more than you’ve ever seen, ever known. But after those seven years, Egypt is gonna experience seven years of severe famine. And what you must do is this: in the sheer abundance, create storehouses and barns. And begin to stockpile grain away. Because you, the Egyptians, and the rest of the world... are going to need it. And all of the world is going to travel to you, to Egypt, to actually get food.”
And pharaoh’s like, “This is incredible. Who, who will be able to pull off this kind of leadership... exercise? Who’s gonna actually install this?”
And Joseph goes, “I can do it.”
So pharaoh takes him out of prison. And he becomes the second most-powerful person in all of Egypt. And, for seven years, the Egyptians are filled with abundance. But in the second year of the famine, Joseph is thirty-nine years old. It’s twenty-two years since he was thrown into a cistern by his brothers. Two years into the famine, people are needing to now come to Egypt. And who comes to Egypt? His brothers.
And, one day, Joseph sees his brothers coming to get grain. And if I was Joseph, I would be like, “Scoreboard! You’re done now. You thought I had power back then? I’m the second most-powerful person in all of Egypt. Which is the superpower of the day. Scoreboard! Your life is over.”
But that’s not what Joseph does. Joseph calls and begins to have a meeting. And he sits with them, and he hears, and he learns about his younger brother, and he learns about his father. And he simply begins to start up this relationship with them. And I imagine, all the while, there is this tension. “I could play the scoreboard game.” But he consistently chooses not to.
And in the end of Genesis chapter 50, we learn that Joseph’s father dies. And in the Middle Eastern culture, when the father dies... the father was kind of like the patriarch—held the family together. And the brothers believe that because the father was alive, Joseph wasn’t gonna harm them. Cause he didn’t want to hurt his father. But now that the father was out of the equation, the brothers were scared. They were afraid that, even Joseph who had shown kindness in the previous years, now, without the father here, he was gonna revert to the scorekeeping game.
But look what Joseph does. He hears about this. And in Genesis chapter 50, verse 19, he says these words:
But Joseph said to them [his brothers], “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
At this moment, those brothers were scared out of their mind. They knew there was no way that they could repay their brother for what they had done. And Joseph, in my opinion, in these two verses, shows us the outline, if we wanna be the people who do not keep score, if we wanna be the people who throw away the scoreboard, if we wanna be the people who declare, today, that scorekeeping stops, Joseph shows us how.
First and foremost, he prioritizes love. If you want scorekeeping to stop, you must prioritize your love. The brothers were there. And he told them, “Do not be afraid. Do not let fear be anywhere in this equation.” And people who play the scorekeeping game, they make others walk on egg shells. Fear is what they say. Fear is how they act. Shame is what they give. Manipulation is what they do. Everything is about them.
But when you prioritize your love to give away because love does not keep score... you allow the people around you to not be afraid.
Second way... for scorekeeping to stop. You must have a perspective of gratitude. Look at what Joseph simply asks. He says, “Do not be afraid,” to his brothers. And then he goes, “Am I not in the place of God?” He frames it. And he basically tells his brothers, “God has placed me here. God has given me influence. God has given me power. God has given me an opportunity.” And the same is true for you, friends. You are in the place of God. And whenever you lose perspective of the blessings that God has given to you—your family... your friends... your job... your spiritual gift... the opportunity to make an income... your home. And, sure, it might look different than other people’s, but you have breath. You have life. “Am I not in the place of God?” Is not God with me and God for me? And when you have a perspective of gratitude, you can’t play the scorekeeping game.
When you prioritize your love, and when you have a perspective of gratitude... man, something begins to change inside you. But then, number three. Joseph does something. You gonna make scorekeeping stop, you must... see the potential for grace. What Joseph was able to do is he named to his brothers, “What you did you intended to harm me. You betrayed me. You neglected me. You threw me in a cistern. You sold me into slavery. You did all of these things. But let me tell you. I’m not gonna let that be the finale of the story. I see this harm that you intended. I also see that there’s something greater. And that is grace.”
And in this moment, he saw the potential for grace in what God was doing in and through him. And, friends, the same is true for you. There will be people who say things. There will be people who... try to harm you. There will be people who actually do evil. There will be people who neglect. There will be people who do all of these things. And, yet, we cannot let that be the end of the story.
And, in many ways, how we showcase grace is going to look wildly different. But it is a moment for grace... to show up. And Joseph recognized this. Cause he wanted to prioritize his love. He had a perspective of gratitude—God’s put me here. He saw the potential for grace.
And number four: scorekeeping stops when you see the purpose to save. Rescue. Redeem. Restore. Make whole. Make new. When you see what God wants to do in and through you—His purpose is to rescue. To heal. To not make us us versus them. But to bring reconciliation.
Jesus, towards the end of His life, he taught his disciples how to pray. And you know what He said? “I want you to fight for unity. Don’t get into the scoreboard business. Don’t get into the us versus them. See your purpose to save a relationship. To rescue. To redeem. To be... one.”
But I think about this. It’s still so hard for many of us. I mean, we kind of know this, but, deep down, the scoreboard just gets lodged inside our heart. And we just keep score. And, friends, I can’t tell you enough. That passage of Scripture—1 Corinthians chapter 13 verse 5: “Love does not keep score.”
Can I ask you again? Do you keep score?
And if you understand the gospel, the good news, the story in which this whole book points to... it’s towards a God who, when you flip through the pages in 1 John, says that God is love. God’s whole action is to prioritize His love towards us. And that’s what the good news is. He had this sense, this perspective of gratitude, for His kids, for His creation. And He saw, even in a broken, fallen, destructive world, He saw a potential for an outbreak of grace. And He sent His Son with the sheer purpose to save, to rescue, to redeem, to heal, to make new. And what did the gospel represent?
It represented, once and for all, on the cross, when Jesus gave His life—for every one of us in this room or watching online—when Jesus took that final breath, it said this: “Evil will not have the last word. Fear will not have the last word. And the scoreboard! And the scorekeeping system! ...is gone! Is gone.”
Now, you can study this. A lot of other religions... and our Senior Pastor, Bill, has taught us this. It’s all about what you do, right? How you live. What you do. If you do enough, you get enough points. And if, at the end of your life, you’re at 63 and the rest of your life the others are at 3, then you’re like, good, right? It’s all about what you do.
The gospel? No, no, no, no. The gospel is about what has been done for you. What God has done... for you. Which literally means this. That the entire scorekeeping game, the whole thought of a scoreboard... is gone. It’s over. It’s finished. It’s as if, on the cross, God decided, “I’m gonna remove the scoreboard forever.”
And if God’s removed it... then we ought to, too.
If God does not keep score, because His Son gave His life for us, then, in our relationships with our spouse, in our relationships with our friends, in our relationships with our family, coworkers... we... must... stop... keeping... score. Because that’s what fear does. And we are people of love. We are people of grace. We are people of good news. Amen?