Luke 16:11, 12 Jesus went on to make these comments:
If you’re honest in small things,
you’ll be honest in big things;
If you’re a crook in small things,
you’ll be a crook in big things.
If you’re not honest in small jobs,
who will put you in charge of the store? (The Message Bible)
If you like nostalgia or you are easing into your seniorhood you may remember a song titled Little Things Mean A Lot (www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=35&v=2C7SzKv2uLU). It was a hit for Kitty Kellen in 1953. I don’t think she was inspired by the story in Luke 16 but both make a similar point. Life in general, and particularly in relationships, are composed mostly of little things, day to day activities and attitudes. Done repetitively over the years, these are the things that determine to a large extent who we really are and what our lives are all about. Sure, there are the big moments in life that get much of the stories and attention, but they are mostly few and far between, while how we handle the time in-between that makes a big difference. Do the little things mean a lot to God? Jesus indicates that it does. What little things, particularly in the context of relationships, would God wish you focused more faithfully?
Colossians 1:24, 25a Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. I have become its servant….
Paul will sometimes begin a letter stating that he is a servant of Christ Jesus (See Romans 1:1 and Philippians 1:1). Above he uses a different word to express the same idea, being a servant, but here he is the servant of the church. Being a servant is one of the hallmarks of Jesus’ teaching and the example of his life. In Philippians 2:7 Paul writes that Jesus “made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” In the Christian worldview being a servant is a good thing. But who (or is it whom) are you going to serve? The old joke is about the person who declares “I love humanity, it’s people I can’t stand.” Paul here says that he is the servant of the church. Of course, he doesn’t mean a building or even an organization. He means people, like the ones he is writing to, who are getting it wrong is certain ways and who have issues they need to confront and character flaws upon which need to improve. Service, and its counterpart love, are not just ideals to be commended. They are difficult and painful because they deal with real human beings with real faults and failures. This is where service is found, working for the good who cannot or will not reciprocate but whom God loves none the less. We serve because God loves. Even when it hurts (read again what Paul says above about suffering). This week, whom are you called to serve?
Luke 10:3, 4 “On your way! But be careful—this is hazardous work. You’re like lambs in a wolf pack. “Travel light. Comb and toothbrush and no extra luggage. “Don’t loiter and make small talk with everyone you meet along the way.
How has your summer been? I hope relaxing and renewing! I still have some vacation ahead of me. But it is August and I am seeing back to school commercials and football games advertised on TV. Recreation is for just that, re-creation, and then what? In the above passage Jesus is sending out 72 of his followers in pairs to prepare his way for his visits to various towns. The above instructions are challenging and perhaps frightening. Are you prepared for what God might be doing in your life, your family, your neighborhood, your congregation, your world in the coming months? Have you considered what your role may be in the days ahead? While you still have some down time to consider such things, take it! This week, how will you prepare to be a follower of Christ this fall?
Luke 9:61, 62 Then another said, “I’m ready to follow you, Master, but first excuse me while I get things straightened out at home.” Jesus said, “No procrastination. No backward looks. You can’t put God’s kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day.” (The Message Bible)
I’ve been meaning to write one of these Afterthoughts about procrastination but I just keep putting it off. Most of us battle with our wills. We know what we ought to do whether that is pray, read the Bible or simply eat right and exercise. We can make a plan in our minds and just as easily set that plan aside. It is hard to get started and then it is hard to keep going. In the end we generally choose what we truly want, but what we truly want may be comfort or someone else to blame or pity. If we take the call of Christ seriously in terms of “taking up your cross daily” as Jesus said earlier (Luke 9:23) it is tremendously humbling. It will entail facing our failures to fulfill our commitments to God, asking for forgiveness, and starting all over again. Most of us don’t like that. So we keep putting it off. But is there really any way around it? This week, what do you need to begin, or begin again, in your promise to follow Jesus?
Ephesians 4:15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.
There are those who are more than happy to give you the truth, or at least their version of the truth which is often really just their opinion. There are those who will speak lovingly which may merely mean sentimentally or, worse, manipulatively flatteringly. To put together truth and love in a sincere fashion where the truth is God’s truth and the love is God’s love is not so easy for us humans. And yet this is exactly what Paul says is the way communities of faith grow. The truth can be a harsh reality- we are not what we ought to be as individuals or as larger groups. There is a lot of pain and abuse around and inside us all the time. But there is also the truth of love, God’s love, that can be experienced and shared. This week, what is the truth you need to speak in love?
Acts 6:1 During this time, as the disciples were increasing in numbers by leaps and bounds, hard feelings developed among the Greek-speaking believers—“Hellenists”—toward the Hebrew-speaking believers because their widows were being discriminated against in the daily food lines. So the Twelve called a meeting of the disciples. (The Message Bible)
If you have been around children much you have no doubt heard the complaint “So and so got more than I did. It’s not fair!” In the passage above, the young community of believers in the resurrected and, now ascended, Jesus were trying to meet the needs of the needy. Of course, one group felt the other group was getting better treatment. I wonder if any of the leaders suggested they just shut down the food distribution and let them all fend for themselves. That might have been my initial reaction. If anyone felt that way, it is not recorded. Instead the leaders work together to find a win-win solution where everyone is at least partially satisfied. I’m a pretty naive person by nature and tend to underestimate how hard it is for folks to work through problems together. Too often people of faith have had just as much difficulty with this as anyone else. The Twelve above called a meeting. When you see disagreements and division may God want you to initiate conversation? That can be a real act of faith requiring a lot of prayer. How can you help bring people together for God’s good this week?
1 Thessalonians 4:1 As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more.
Ever hear the maxim “The good is the enemy of the great”? I googled it and found on goodreads.com/quotes that it is attributed to James C. Collins, an author of books about successful companies. The website quoted him thus: “Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great. We don’t have great schools, principally because we have good schools. We don’t have great government, principally because we have good government. Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life.” Would Paul have agreed with this as he “urged” the Thessalonians above, that while they were in fact living obediently, “to do this more and more.” Can you be content in the love of God and still motivated to work daily on being better, more obedient, “to live a holy life”? The Christian life is something we aspire to while at the very same time it is a gift given to us without our deserving of it. We live in that tension, that paradox. How are you being instructed “to live in order to please God”? How could you “do this more and more?”