Faithfulness in the small things matters:
How I talk to the kids I tutor.
How I study and work in college.
How I encourage my friends.
It matters for all of us, in every aspect of life. When we are faithful with even the smallest, simplest things, we prepare our hearts and hands for whatever God has laid out in the future.
It’s so true! The small stuff impacts the future in huge ways. Consider how even the slightest decisions, interactions, and words impact who you are as a whole. Picture a day where you speak kindly, make sacrifices for others’ good, and work hard at what you do. Even as splattered with sin and imperfection as that day would be, imagine the difference the good stuff would make on your tendencies and mind!
The verse above is taken from a parable Jesus told to illustrate the importance of faithfulness in small things. In the story, a man is hired to take care of his master’s money. When he is eventually accused of wasting the money, he hurriedly avoids his master’s wrath by enacting a shrewd, although dishonest, plan. If only he had been faithful in the first place! (Luke 16:1-15)
When I read this story, I think of all the things God has given me to faithfully care for: my friends, money, free time, classes, the people I see at work. . . I’m sure you can easily think of your own list: a list that speaks volumes about where your life is, who’s in it, and what God has given you.
I also think of how these things require faithfulness in the small stuff, to ever add up to something significant. For example, college requires many nights of studying, endless typing on a laptop, and hours sitting in class: but it all adds up to a degree. Friendships require taking the time to hang out, the care to have intentional conversations, and the sacrifice to help each other: but it all adds up to companionship and joy. Even my blog has required faithfulness in the small stuff. I’ve written here for more than two years: from weeks when barely thirty people saw the post to weeks where I’m amazed at how many people found my little website!
The point is, God calls us to be faithful to everything he’s given us: even when the tasks feel insignificant. Even when other people look like they’re having way more fun or way more impact. Even when progress is puny or invisible to the human eye.
We each have a duty to care for and use what God has given us. And oh, what a proud Father he is, grinning as he watches us seize opportunities, ask him for guidance, and pour our passions and energy into assignments from his very hands.
So, I want to fulfil his purposes with joy. Not with a frantic impulse to do more or be more, and not with any type of underlying grudge or competition against others. Rather, I want to do it with joy and gratitude for every breath and every movement of my muscles and every beat of my heart that allows me to be alive for the thing.
How about you?
How much can you learn from a kid’s song? Take for example, Zacchaeus: the wee little man who climbed a tree to see Jesus. Let's walk through the story together, then talk about a few life-applications.
Zacchaeus seeks Jesus
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. Luke 19:1-4
Putting the kid’s song aside, Zacchaeus has a lot to teach us. Even though he lived a life of cheating and stolen wealth as a tax collector, he sought Jesus well. Probably, he climbed the tree out of curiosity. But maybe there was a yearning in his soul too, a sense that this Teacher was better than any of his own wealth and power.
Jesus pursues Zacchaeus
When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. Luke 19:5-6
Jesus saw this sinner, awkwardly perched in a tree, and knew at once everything about him. Yes, he saw his background, his reputation, and all the wrong he had done. But what mattered more was that even through all the yuck, he saw a lost man seeking him.
So he called to Zacchaeus, inviting him down. If I was Zacchaeus, I’d have been shocked. It would be like pushing your way to the front of a concert to get a glimpse of a celebrity, only to have him call you by name in front of everyone and invite himself to your house. It would be exciting, but also outrageous.
A joyful change
I love Zacchaeus’s reaction, though. He responded to the invitation with gladness, jumping down from the tree and welcoming Jesus.
All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:6-10
This encounter with Jesus caused Zacchaeus to turn his lifestyle around promptly. Jesus recognized this as a true change of heart and declared that salvation had come to him. It’s Jesus’ mission, after all, to save those who are lost: not those who are self-righteous.
Remember to rejoice
In the busyness and sometimes drudgery of a week, I forget to be glad. Zacchaeus’s attitude opened my eyes to that. I want to seek Jesus excitedly. I want to find evidences of God’s heart and will for me. I want to promptly follow his lead and his character. There is much joy in life, especially a life lived in surrender to him. We can more easily find beauty when we’re not living to please and promote ourselves. So, I want to be glad!
Real life change
I also want to follow Zacchaeus’s example of sacrifice. Before he met Jesus, his lifestyle of padded pockets, a fancy house, and buying anything he wanted to was probably quite fun. But the minute he encountered Jesus, the color faded from these illusions. He saw that knowing Jesus was more valuable than any sin or comfort he had on earth.
His response directly contrasts with the ‘rich young ruler’s’ in the preceding chapter of Luke, who saw Jesus and yet with a sad heart chose his possessions over him. (Here’s a link to that story). In the end, Zacchaeus found joy and freedom from his sin and possessions, while the rich young ruler remained chained to his earthly loves.
How about you?
So I want to ask, what could Jesus be inviting you to give up? Is there anything in your life that is holding you back from knowing or experiencing him fully? It could be sin, a skewed mindset, something you fixate on too much, an unhealthy relationship, or any number of things.
Personally, one thing Jesus has been asking me to give up is control. I like to have my days and my future and even my meals planned out. I want to know what’s coming up next. But my love of control can become quite ugly when it causes me to prioritize myself over others, obsess over the future, or ignore God’s plan. And like I said, control is just one thing he’s been showing me lately. It’s not a one-time thing. We’ve gotta get good at recognizing chains and gladly casting them off, because they are persistent and many.
Please understand, though, that Jesus is not shaking his finger at you with furrowed brows. Rather, he is reaching out to you, calling you by name: inviting you into the intense joy that is found in throwing aside chains (both the pretty ones and the ugly ones) and running to your Father.
Self-reflection exhausts me. I’m always noticing things I need to change to become more Christ-like. Being a perfectionist doesn’t help the problem, either.
Can you identify with that? We’re always working to be better at our jobs, more loving to our friends, more productive, more God-honoring. And even after a day of striving, we sit down in the quiet of the evening and realize that we’ve fallen short so many times. This striving has brought me to tears recently.
We are so critical of ourselves.
So, I want to bring some much-needed life and grace to this scene. God has spoken to my heart in this area recently. He definitely knew I needed it. Here’s a verse he showed me:
The prospect of the righteous is joy. Proverbs 10:28a
We, the righteous
God calls us righteous. That’s the opposite of the view I’ve seen so often expressed in Christian books, talks, and even casual conversations. We call ourselves totally depraved, and fixate endlessly on the graveness of our sin, but seldom venture beyond that point. Do we remember that we have a Savior who has transformed literally everything?!
He not only gave us future entry into heaven but copied his righteousness onto our souls: right here on the earth, right now. We have his perfection pressed onto our images. What a gift!
Remember to look ahead
This verse also reminds me to look ahead. While self-criticism is an unhappy re-living of the past, our hope as Christians is found in our future. Our prospect is a joyful entry into heaven, the completion of every good work our Lord has begun in us, and the very presence of God!
...being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. -Philippians 1:6
These are two realities. Rock-solid. True no matter how we feel. So even when we mess up, our loving Father doesn’t look down on us with anger or impatience. He instead sees us as his children: bought with a price, and generously given grace. He knows the work still to be done on us, yet he also sees what we will be when we are with him in heaven.
C.S. Lewis has an interesting perspective on this:
Children and fools, we are told, should never look at half-done work; and we are not yet, I trust, even half-done. You and I wouldn’t, at all stages, think it wise to tell a pupil exactly what we thought of his quality. It is much more important that he should know what to do next. -C.S. Lewis
Just focus on the next step. What wisdom! God will ask us to change certain things, and we will always be working to become more like him. Yet in the meantime, while we’re trying to follow his lead and live with his heart, he has endless grace for our mistakes, struggles, and imperfections. Don’t become disheartened, friend. The prospect of the righteous is joy.
A few days ago, I was reading and journaling about humility. I was really going to town: highlighting, reading, scribbling notes. I envisioned myself going throughout my day in humble serenity, serving others and choosing lowly places for God’s glory.
But then. . . God gave me some practice opportunities. Ah, yes. Don’t you just hate it when you pray about a certain virtue, and God actually makes you practice it? Like when I pray for patience, and my entire day goes wrong. Or I pray for a strong love for others, and everyone seems particularly unlovable. Well, here I was again: practicing.
The day really wasn’t bad. It’s just that I let certain things get to me. A kid at my job was disappointed I was there instead of a different tutor. A meeting left me feeling like I wasn’t doing enough compared to my peers. Then in coming days, I was asked to do a task I really, really didn’t want to do—so I basically threw a twenty-year-old-tantrum.
And weaving all these ‘tragedies’ together was the fact that I felt unrecognized for my efforts.
I definitely failed the practice trials. While that saddens me, I’m glad God is showing me yet another way I can become more like him. His word is unfailing, and at times speaks directly to the ugliest places in our hearts. If we’re willing to change, we will be glad to see those places budding new life.
Here’s the passage that inspired these thoughts:
One Sabbath, Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee. . .When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 14:1, 7-11, emphasis added
The Pharisees loved being recognized for their high standing in society. No matter where they went, they expected to receive honor and preference. So naturally when they came to this meal, they snatched up the best seats. Jesus was so straightforward to say that they were in error. What if someone worthier than the Pharisees came?
Concerning this, Matthew Henry wrote: "It ought to check our high thoughts of ourselves to think how many there are that are more honourable than we.”
While we probably don’t strut about our lives loudly demanding respect, pride shows itself in many other ways. I’ve made a list below. Consider if you’ve ever displayed the following:
Ok, yikes. I was able to make such an extensive list because I was pulling examples from my own life. We can see that pride is not always easy to catch or change, because it’s made a home in our most learned, impulsive actions and thoughts.
And Jesus sees it far more clearly than we do.
“Even in the common actions of life, Christ’s eye is upon us, and he marks what we do, not only in our religious assemblies, but at our tables, and makes remarks upon it.”
-Matthew Henry Commentary
The good news is, the offer still stands. “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Matt 23:12)
What would it look like for us to live a life of humbling ourselves? Of choosing lowly places, and honestly being okay with it? For one, I think I’d have a lot more peace. I would also be a much more joyful and fruitful servant. I’d be more focused on others than myself!
Imagine choosing a bad seat at church so someone else can see better. Quietly doing small tasks others don’t want to do. Choosing a far-away parking spot so others can park closer. Serving out of the joy of service, not the hope of being thanked. Living not to feed our ego, or with a chip on our shoulder when we’re unrecognized, but out of pure love.
I’ll be the first to say that living this way is hard. Obviously. But it’s something worth striving towards. Maybe within a week of trying you’ll see four victories and fifteen failures, but at least you’re trying. At least you’re aware of it. Imagine what God can do with a willing, submissive spirit over just a few years! Let’s choose lowly places. Let’s live in such a humble way that the world takes notice.
Hello! I'm Anna, a college student living in the Midwest. I'm a strong believer in uncontrollable laughter, powerful words, and a morning cup of coffee. I pray these posts will encourage you to live a full life with and for God: unhindered. Follow me on social media for post updates!