Small Group Tools
Contemporary Comments 2018
Texts: Mark 16:15; 1 Peter 3:8, 9; 1 Corinthians 9:14; Romans 3:19-24
Call it innovative or call it creepy, but Boston Dynamics recently put the power of collaborative problem solving on display in a new video. The 45-second video shows two SpotMini robots working together to achieve a common goal: open an office door and go through it. SpotMini is a 25-pound four-legged robot (looking eerily similar to your family’s pet dog), capable of picking up and handling objects using an arm attachment and perception sensors. In the video, the first SpotMini approaches the door and appears to scan it before calling in a buddy. As the second robot comes into view, the first one retreats and watches his its “armed” counterpart move into position, scan the door, and then proceed to open it with the mechanical arm. It even holds the door open with a front leg while it repositions the arm.
This office scene is both terrifying and fascinating. Robotic ability is now combined with artificial intelligence. It’s a little like the scene in Jurassic Park where the velociraptors figure out how to open doors. Doors, after all, are supposed to be safety barriers against such nightmare-provoking creatures. Cooperative robot teams could, however, prove handy in a number of real life scenarios, such as search and rescue missions after natural disasters. The ability to keep weight and size down by utilizing a scout-type robot with advanced optics and pairing it with specific-use case partners for drilling through debris, lifting rubble out of the way, or shuttling food and water to victims. This could keep rescue workers out of danger in the immediate aftermath of an earthquake. It’s the concept of artificial intelligence creations working together for a common goal that is a bit unsettling. Author Bryan Clark humorously concludes, “For now though, it’s important to understand that it’s their world, and we’re just living in it. I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords.”1
The potential of collaboration is phenomenal. Imagine the possible power of our alliance with God. This week’s lesson explores the impact of tithing—a readily available opportunity for each of us to partner with God. We all have some type of an income (provided, ultimately, by God). Each of us has the option to return God’s portion, and when God adds His blessing to our faithfulness miraculous things can happen.
Wednesday’s lesson considers a fair question: “Think what would happen if people were to send their tithe to wherever they wanted.” It’s a bit like if SpotMini #1 asked his buddy to open the door to the office break room, and SpotMini #2 proceeded to open the restroom door. Sure, it can be a useful response in the right situation, but it’s not exactly a functional collaboration. The partnership that God has outlined is this: our faithful action plus His divine blueprint equals a powerful impact that can change our world for the better.
~ For Reflection
Connecting: Conduct a two-person balloon contest. Some of you hold your hands behind your backs and try to blow up a balloon that someone else (wearing disposable gloves) holds for you. Your facilitator will say “go” and declare the winner. Share your thoughts on the importance of teamwork to accomplish a goal.
Sharing: Read 1 Peter 3:8-9. How does tithing help us be a blessing?
1. As we bless others through our giving, we become more blessed, and we are able to bless others even more.
2. It creates a sense of harmony and unity as we all contribute an equal sacrifice to bless others.
3. Even if we disagree with the use of our tithe, we can trust God to ultimately bring about a blessing to others because of our faithfulness.
4. It creates a sense of humility in those who give and those who receive the tithes.
5. Tithe, coming from cheerful givers, is a true expression of love.
Applying: Suppose you received a text message from a friend in another church saying that he or she is withholding tithe because of something upsetting the pastor did. How would you respond to this message?
Valuing: Quietly reflect on your own personal motives for tithing (or not tithing, if you don’t). Do you tithe to bless God and others? Pray for God to give you a stronger sense of partnership in sharing the gospel.
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