When we hunger for great things, but despise small things, we actually end up missing those great things.
I began this thought in last week’s post, and I intend to wrap it up now.
One night in an ancient age called “the sixties,” my dad brought home two toy trucks. One was big, the other small. Since my brother was a couple of years younger than I, he was allowed to choose which one he wanted. He chose the small one. Then he changed his mind and wanted the big one…after the big one was officially mine. That didn’t go well. A brouhaha broke out, with my parents needing to referee.
Squabbles like this one seem to be the exclusive domain of kids. But not really. Kids grow up remembering the one lesson they learned earlier in life—bigger is better. Now it’s bigger cars. Bigger houses. Bigger televisions.
Later, when these grown up boys (or girls) decide to follow Jesus, guess what? That same childhood lesson continues to haunt them. Bigger is still better. Bigger ministries. Bigger churches. Bigger popularity.
I wouldn’t suggest this as a default view.
In God’s hand, a small thing can become more than a big thing. People gathered at the temple in long lines. They were tithing large amounts. Some poured in coins that cascaded into the box, making a thunderous tinkling sound. Whenever this happened, a few subdued “oohs” and “aahs” came from others in line.
Then it was a poor widow’s turn.
She threw in one cent.
Others felt embarrassed for her. They tried not to notice the pathetic, almost imperceptible “chink” of her offering hitting the bottom of the box. Meanwhile, the rest of the crowd missed the whole thing. It wasn’t hard to miss. What is one cent compared to the hoopla of the religious arena?
But Jesus saw it.
“And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:43-44).
One cent is so small it’s sure to vanish and be forgotten in the dim corridors of time. Such a thing doesn’t stand a chance. Like a grain of sand, It has to be swallowed up in the relentless tide of human history. Even the events of the next day would already eclipse it. In twenty-four hours, no one will remember.
He made sure this small event became part of His word and so for thousands of years now the story of this widow has shamed all the big showy things while modeling heart-level commitment.
When “everything” goes into the Lord’s hand, no matter how small it is, He counts it as “more.”
That thing you did for Christ? Nobody knows what it cost you in terms of anxiety, or hurt, or discomfort. Bystanders only noticed the size of it. But Jesus looks through external appearances and says, “I know that was everything to you. That makes it more to me than all the big things surrounding it.”
In God’s hand, a small thing can become the very thing God is doing. A persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and the believers were scattered throughout the region. It’s the kind of scattering where you suddenly leave your job, abandon your home, pack a quick bag, saddle the kids on the donkey, and leave in the middle of the night, because somebody’s coming for you.
“Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word” (Acts 8:4). These harassed believers were both remarkable and admirable, because wherever they ran, they still remembered the gospel. We don’t know all the names or all the things said other than the record of Philip’s preaching in Samaria. The rest were simple folks on the fly.
Their kids didn’t want to leave friends, so now they’re crying. And the plans keep changing. Try this city, try that town. We heard there was a job opening. No? Would you happen to know anybody who needs a good stonecutter?
Funds are drying up. Can that distant cousin put us up for a weekend…or was he just being nice when he said visit any time? If not, are there any cheap hotels in the area?
In the midst of their chaos, they preached. We don’t know their names or the exact wording of their messages. But they were briefly mentioned in the Book of Acts, which is a record of God’s work in this world.
Put yourself in the shoes of those ancient Christians. While on the lam with your family, you meet a stranger at the gas station. The subject of Jesus comes up. A door opens for the gospel. But because of the way you feel, you’d like to pull it closed. Your gospel opportunity has caught you off-balance. In fact, you’ve begun to feel a little mad at God lately for allowing all these headaches to develop.
Your gospel at that moment is about as big as a lima bean. But you go ahead and share the good news. It doesn’t sound nearly as good as when you’ve had long devotionals, drunk plenty of coffee, and just gotten back from vacation. You don’t quote many verses. The two you mention you mess up.
You forget all the clever one-liners you’ve heard other Christians use. And the whole thing is short. Really short. No anecdotes. No stats. No altar calls or invitations to church. You tell the fellow that God loved him, and that Jesus died for His sins and rose from the dead. Even that sounds a bit discombobulated.
When you finally pull away from the gas station, you almost feel embarrassed by the encounter. How…small.
Yet it counts. Every bit of it. That eighty-two seconds was exactly what God was doing in this world—planting the seed of His word.
We like doing things for Christ, including small things, not because we’re trying to earn our salvation or Jesus’ love. We’ve already gotten those for free—by grace. Our motivation is the fact that we love Him and want to have plenty to celebrate with Him when He returns.
Even the small things in Christ are meant to be enjoyed forever. It’s like family reunions where the same stories are told again and again every year, because they’re so funny, or so touching.
Apparently God is this way because His word contains so many moments captured for endless retelling. Of course this is not to say we’ll never do externally great things for Christ. Some of us will. The rest of us may find our service mostly like granules of spice, piling up over the years.
And then at some point of great accumulation, we will find ourselves longing and asking the Lord to return soon, because we know it’s going to be so good:
“Make haste, my beloved, and be like a gazelle or a young stag
on the mountains of spices.”