Welcome

Tales With a Twist: It’s The Little Things That Count

Luke 16:1-13
I don’t know why it is, but for some time now Americans have cultivated a fascination for the big. Somehow, we have come to believe that bigger is always better. A symptom of this devotion is the little town, obviously out of the running in the population sweepstakes, where they placed a sign on the outskirts of town which read: “The biggest small town in America.”

Mind you, I’m not suggesting for a moment that size is unimportant. There are times when large size makes possible greater accomplishments. But I believe that we misunderstand the value of size when we say that size is the only value. Therefore, today I would like to focus on the importance of little things, because much of the world and the life that we know is made up of little things. “Little things mean a lot”, according to the song, and they certainly do.

Dr. Billy Graham tells of an experience when he was a young evangelist. He traveled to a small town to preach a revival. He had written a letter to his wife, Ruth, and he wanted to mail it. So he stopped a young boy on the street and asked him for directions to the post office. The boy gave him the directions. Then Dr. Graham said to the boy: “By the way, son, I am preaching at the Baptist church tonight, and if you will come and hear me, I will tell you how to get to heaven.” The little boy replied: “I don’t think I’ll be there. You don’t even know your way to the post office!”

Great story. You see, it’s important for us to be aware of the big things in life, but we also need to be aware of the little things as well. Do you remember how, during the Civil War, a courier on horseback was given an urgent message and told to take it to the general who was engaged in a decisive battle, but the courier never made it because his horse “threw a shoe”? Later someone penned the famous lines:

For want of a nail, a shoe was lost
For want of a shoe, a horse was lost
For want of a horse, a rider was lost.
For want of a rider, a message was lost.
For want of a message, a battle was lost.
For want of a battle, a war was lost.

It’s the little things that count. Little things can make a big difference.

Recently, in Great Britain, there was a public debate about the usefulness of preaching, about whether it had outlived its purpose. The brouhaha was started when someone wrote the following letter to the editor of a popular British magazine:

“Dear Sir: It seems ministers feel their sermons are very important and they spend a great deal of time preparing them. I have been attending church quite regularly for the past 30 years, and I have probably heard more than a thousand sermons. To my consternation, I discovered that I cannot remember a single one of them. I wonder if a minister’s time might be more profitably spent on something else?”

After several weeks of stormy editorial responses, the following letter seemed to put the matter to rest:

“Dear Sir: I have been married for 30 years. During that time I have eaten 32,850 meals. Suddenly, I have discovered that I cannot remember the menu from any one of those meals. Yet, I have received nourishment from every single one of them, and I have the distinct impression that without them I would have starved to death long ago.”

So the big things in life have an impact on us, to be sure, yet when you stop to think about it, the little things carry an even greater impact. Jesus understood that. He stressed the importance of the little things by suggesting that if we are faithful in little things, we will be faithful in much; if we are dishonest in little things, we will be dishonest in much. In fact, that’s the point of Jesus’ parable about the dishonest manager.

Now I suspect that this parable was based on an actual incident which had come to Jesus’ attention, and so He took the story and drew from it a spiritual message. In the parable, a wealthy man hired a manager to oversee his business enterprises. Later, it became apparent that the manager was incompetent and so the wealthy man notified him to get the books in order because he was being fired. Now the manager had become accustomed to his pleasant standard of living, so he came up with a way to secure his future. He called in all those who owed money to his employer and he reduced the amount of their debt. That put them in his debt and he knew that they would take care of him after he was fired. It was, even though dishonest, an ingenious plan. In fact, even his employer praised him for his shrewdness.

Need I tell you that scholars have been so baffled by this parable and its apparent praise for the dishonest business manager, that they have even tried to deny that Jesus ever told the tale. They fail to grasp that Jesus simply took a true-to-life incident, which many of his listeners may have known about, and then twisted a negative story into a powerful positive message for Christian living. And what is that message? The little things count. If we are faithful in little things, we will be faithful in big things. If we are dishonest in little things, we’ll be dishonest in big things as well. As I pondered that message, two thoughts came to mind…

First, little things make a big difference to Jesus.

Jesus always placed great emphasis on little things. Just look at His parables. Every one of His stories dealt with some big spiritual issue, but have you noticed that in the telling of the story, He always focused on the little things of life—like the hairs on a person’s head or birds of the air or flowers of the field or seeds or weeds or lost coins or dinner parties. He noticed the little things; like the slightest touching of His garment by a woman who had been ill for years, like the tax collector perched on the branch of a tree, like the children who were trying to scramble up into his lap, like the widow dropping her little coins into the offering plate. It’s the little things that count for Jesus.

Much of our Bible seems to suggest that God takes great delight in rewarding people who are willing to do the little things. Like the woman who was willing to wash the tired, dusty feet of Jesus with her expensive oil and dry them with her hair…like the four fellows who were willing to do anything, including cutting a hole in the roof to get their paralyzed friend to Jesus…like the only one of the ten lepers whom Jesus had healed who came back to say “thank you”…like the woman at the well who fetched Him a drink and then found her life forever changed…like the ones who, when Jesus was dying and dying of thirst on the cross gave him something to drink. Isn’t it amazing how much of the great Gospel message is built around seemingly insignificant little things?

As Christians, we often fail to see how little things can reveal the depth of our faith. Someone can have a grasp of the ultimate meaning of life, and yet have no clue as to how to live life everyday. Someone can understand that religion is about love, and yet be unable to get along with their neighbor. Someone can affirm that our faith calls us to be accepting of all God’s children, and yet that same person may have difficulty relating to a person of another race. Someone may declare that the essence of religion is morality, and yet that same person may not see the connection between honesty on the golf course and honesty in everyday living. Someone may feel that God calls us to a sense of compassion, yet that same person will “pass by on the other side” just to avoid someone else in difficulty. You see, it’s one thing to have the big picture of the faith—it’s something else to live it everyday. It’s one thing to pursue the big things that don’t really matter and miss out on the little things that really count.

“Pistol Pete” Maravich was, without question, one of the greatest basketball players of all time. Many of his basketball records still stand. He spent most of his life pursuing his dream of reaching the top of his sport. He was a big success, but he was empty and unsettled inside. Then one day he took one of those little steps that turn out to make a big difference. Here’s how he described it shortly before his death in his book, Here’s To A Dream :

“I told God and everyone else, ‘I don’t need you. I’m going to play basketball, get a world’s championship ring and make a million dollars.’ The basketball court was my refuge. But when I retired, I couldn’t face present reality. I kept trying to live in the past and I used alcohol and other escapes to do so. Although I was miserable, I still fancied myself the star I once was, basking in my former glory. Then in 1982, I accepted Jesus Christ, whom I had kept safely between the pages of the Sunday School leaflets I had received as a child. It wasn’t a big thing, but it changed my life dramatically. Now I wouldn’t trade my life in Him for a thousand NBA Championships, a thousand Hall of Fame rings, or one hundred billion dollars.”

That’s what Jesus is trying to teach us all. Giving ourselves to Him, serving Him in life, may not seem like such a big thing, but it’s a little thing which can make a big difference.

Another thought. If little things can make a big difference to Jesus, then little things can make a big difference for us.

How does that play out in your life? What is it, for example, that you notice about other people? Their wealth? The houses they live in? The car they drive? Is it just the big things, or do you see the little things?

I heard about a fellow who needed a psychiatrist and he wanted to get first-class help. So he picked out a psychiatrist with the most prestigious address and the fanciest office. When he entered the beautifully decorated reception room, there was no receptionist. Just two doors, one marked “Men” and the other marked “Women”. He went through the door marked “Men” and found himself in another room with two doors—one marked “Extrovert”, the other marked “Introvert”. He walked through the door marked “Introvert”, and that led to two more doors—one marked “Those making more than $100,000 a year”, the other marked “Those making less than $100,000 a year”. He walked through the door marked “Those making less than $100,000 a year” and found himself back out on the sidewalk!

In this materialistic society, it’s easy to evaluate people on the big things like financial standing, worldly success, social acceptance—but God is concerned about the little things like what’s going on in a person’s heart.

Stephen Covey tells of riding a New York subway one Sunday morning. Most of the people were reading the morning paper or looking out the window. It was quiet and peaceful. Suddenly a man and his children got on the subway. The children were loud and obnoxious. The father slumped down into his seat and closed his eyes. The children were jumping and yelling and scrambling over the seats. It was very disturbing. Covey wondered how anyone could be so insensitive. Finally, Covey said to the father: “Sir, your children are disturbing a lot of people. Couldn’t you control them a little more?” The man lifted his gaze and said: “Oh, you’re right. I guess I should do something about it. We’ve just come from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don’t know what to think, and I guess they don’t know how to handle it either.” Covey wrote: “Can you imagine what I felt at that moment? Everything changed in that instant.”

“In that instant…” Little things like an instant can mean a lot. And unless we are tuned to the little things, the little moments, we may miss that which is incredibly important.

So…

Sometimes we feel pretty little and insignificant ourselves. We wonder who really cares about us, for after all we are pretty small when compared to the whole wide universe. Yet, we must never forget that we mean the world to God. Charles Jefferson reminds us of that with a little parable of his own. Listen:

“I saw a violet one day deep in the woods. It was blooming all alone. ‘How did you ever come here, said I, my dear little flower? Where did you get your beauty and your perfume?’ And the violet replied: ‘I got them from the sun. The sun gave them to me.’ I said, ‘Do you really think that the sun cares for a frail little thing like you? Do you realize how big the sun is? Has anybody ever told you how many thousands of miles in diameter the sun is? Is it not absurd that a sun so majestic and colossal would ever waste time on so tiny a blossom as you?’ And the violet replied, ‘I know the sun is great, but the sun comes every day, and throws lightbeams down through the trees to me. The sun gave me my color, and presented me my perfume, and created my beauty. The sun is the strength of my life. I know I am small, but I belong to the sun. I am the child of the sun.'”

This is our story, dear friends. We know we are small, but we belong to the Son. We are the children of the Son. The only difference you see, is that we spell Son with an “o”…

Share This