Saturday, October 15, 2005

It's the little things

It’s the little things

Many sports have some aspect that reflects on the importance of “small” details. There is a lot of focus in the game of golf on the drive from the tee but there is a saying that the game is won or lost in chipping and putting. Similarly, it’s a lot of fun to watch a big hitter in baseball knock one over the fence for a home run but most games are won with singles and doubles. Both of these observations reflect the importance of focus on the details of each game.

Jesus tells his disciples:
Mat 10:42 And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.
Consider how “small” offering a cup of cold water seems to be but Jesus calls this out as something critical to securing our reward. The relative size or importance of events and actions is something we do naturally in an attempt to prioritize our daily lives recognizing that we struggle to get everything done. However, we should be cautious in how we widely we apply this concept to other areas of our lives, especially our faith.

We sometimes apply the idea of the relative size of things to various types of sin. We’ll look at one sin and say to ourselves that it’s no big deal, it’s only a “little” sin. But we should be mindful that it is sin itself that separates us from God, not the size that we may assign to the sin. For example, recalling the scene in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were told to eat of anything except of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Conventional wisdom of our day would look at this and comment that eating of the tree is no big deal but we know that when they ate of the tree it resulted in the most dire of consequences: expulsion from the Garden, separation from God, and physical and spiritual death. As the saying goes, looks can be deceiving.

Extending this thought, we may fool ourselves into accepting a sin because of the good intentions involved. But the way is strewn with the good intentions of others. Consider the story of Uzzah and the transportation of the Ark. In 2 Sam 6:1-7 we have recorded for us that the Ark was shaken while being transported and Uzzah reached out to steady it. Uzzah had good intentions to keep the Ark from being knocked over but he also violated one of God’s commandments that no man can touch the Ark. In verse 7, it says that God’s anger was kindled against Uzzah for his error and He struck him dead. Good intentions can never make up for doing something that is wrong no matter how big or small we might think it is.

We must be mindful that a Christian life is one that requires balance. We cannot become overly attentive to small details that we lose the importance and meaning of being a Christian. Jesus rebuked the Jews in Matt 23:23-24 for being so attentive to tithing the trivial spices in their house that they forgot about what was important: judgment, mercy, and faith. He tells them that they effectively swallowed a camel by straining at such small detail. They were not balanced in their lives.

A passage of similar meaning to that of Matt 10:42 is found in Matt 25:32-46. Here Jesus uses a figure of a King separating the sheep and the goats. The pronouncement upon those on his right was commendation for doing some relatively small things for him: feeding, providing drink, shelter, clothing, visiting in sickness and in prison. Those on the right respond with the question of when did they see him in these various conditions? The king’s response was that as often as they did it to the least of my brothers, you have done it to me. The he turns to those on his left pronouncing condemnation on them telling them of all the small things they failed to do to him. They respond asking when did they see him like that? And again, he tells them in failing to do it to the least of them; they failed to do it for him.

We need to be mindful of opportunity as it comes our way regardless of size or merit. That requires that we are aware and prepared to meet the opportunity with a response worthy as if we were serving our Lord. We must ensure we’re not too busy and begin prioritizing the good we do based on the relative judgment of the size of the matter. The good news is that we can all do small things for our Lord and secure our reward in Heaven. What can you do?

---Stephen Ledford