“Whoever is faithful with little is also faithful with much, and the one who is dishonest with little is also dishonest with much.”
Luke 16:10 (Common English Bible)
There are people who live daily in the grip of a vast inferiority complex. Always ready to do some great thing, contribute on a grand scale, and produce extraordinary changes or innovations they fail to value the small and ordinary. With an insufficient view of less imposing matters of life they settle into a pattern of mediocrity. Worse, failure to appreciate the importance of common occasions and tasks their lives tumble into defeat and despair. Their take on a life well lived is in variance to the view of God, “Whoever is faithful with little is also faithful with much.” God does not despise the common, ordinary, and small. On one particular occasion, Jesus celebrates the power of faith that is as small as a mustard seed.
Generally, the failure to value the common and small is located in the ignorance of the real significance of events, which we think we understand. Recently, a pastor received a note from someone in a former church who wrote of how their life was turned by some single word of compassion and hope given at a time of desperation and fear. The pastor struggled to remember the occasion, an incident that seemed so small and trivial as to scarcely warrant the pastor’s notice. On the other hand, many of us can recount high and stirring occasions, in which, at the time, appeared to have occupied a large stage in the unfolding drama of the day only now leaving no trace of importance in their memory.
One personal experience suggests that there may be more value and honor and reward in attending to the daily small and ordinary occasions than one great event. When my daughter, Rachael, was very young she spoke of a friend from school. Seated at the family dinner table, Rachael shared that Cathy’s father was taking her to Hawaii that summer for vacation. My wife and I glanced at one another, bracing for our daughter’s certain disappointment when we had to share that we simply could not afford a vacation as nice. But Rachael continued, “But I have a family that loves me and that is all I need.” That should have been enough for me but I probed deeper. “Doesn’t Cathy’s parents love her?” I asked. “Maybe. But Cathy’s dad works long hours. She never sees her dad. You help me everyday with my homework and read to me at bedtime. I prefer that.”
Jesus is asking that we reappraise the value of living honorably in the ordinary and small things of life. Not all of us will occupy a leading role in a Broadway play, serve on a prestigious board, or appear on the cover of a magazine for some extraordinary achievement. As a young disciple, Jesus tells us that we all begin “first the stalk, then the head, then the full head of grain.” (Mark 4:28) It is the very nature of growth that we have a humble beginning. The character of a disciple is developed by attention to the small things as growth occurs. The disciple that accepts – and loves – the duties of the common, daily walk with Christ shines brightly not because they purpose to shine, but because they are filled with the light of Christ. It is then that what may appear small and ordinary grows dignified and sacred in our sight.