Friday, December 14, 2018

Why We Should Sweat the Small Stuff

Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, 
and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. 
~Jesus (Luke 16:10)

This is a startling statement made by Jesus to those who think we shouldn't sweat the small stuff. What he makes very clear in this statement is that integrity matters in the details, in the mundane, in the hidden. How we conduct ourselves in trivial matters is an accurate predictor of how we will conduct ourselves in large things.

The great basketball coach John Wooden said, "The true test of a man's character is what he does when no one is watching.”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon put it this way in 1876: "I think you may judge a man’s character by the persons whose affection he seeks. If you find a man seeking only the affection of those who are great, depend upon it he is ambitious and self-seeking; but when you observe that a man seeks the affection of those who can do nothing for him, but for whom he must do everything, you know that he is not seeking himself, but that pure benevolence sways his heart."

Other memorable quotes about character include:

"A man’s character is most evident by how he treats those who are not in a position either to retaliate or reciprocate." ~Paul Eldridge, novelist, 1948

“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” ~Malcolm S. Forbes, publisher, 1972

Because of the times in which these quotes were written, the generic term "man" is used, but of course, this doesn't let women off the hook. Jesus' words, in the NIV translation, state clearly that this measure of character and integrity applies to human beings across the board, regardless of gender, age, or any other difference.

Wise King Solomon reminds us that character also is reflected in how we treat animals:  "The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel." (Proverbs 12:10)

Further teaching from Jesus also talks directly to not flaunting good deeds: "Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." (Matthew 6:1-4)

This seems to contradict what Jesus said just a few moments before in Matthew 5:16: "...let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."  However, if we look at the immediate context, this is a concluding statement in an analogy of how his disciples are to be like salt and light, influencing others and improving situations by their consistent character and righteous behaviour.

Here's the entire paragraph: “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:14-16)

In the Matthew 6 statement, Jesus criticized those who were doing things for personal honor. In the Matthew 5 statement, Jesus indicates the purpose of good works is so God will be glorified. Why? Because everything good comes from Him (James 1:17), and anyone who claims to follow Him should reflect the character of Jesus, and of the Holy Spirit who lives in all true believers. God does not give us His Spirit so that we personally gain from it, but so that His glory is made plainly evident to all those who witness our lives.

It's not about me.

How I conduct myself, whether I am seen or unseen, in small things or large, should always be a reflection of the One whom I follow. Every task, no matter how (seemingly) insignificant, is an opportunity to do good and live right. What I do and how I respond becomes a habit, and habits become patterns that will determine how I conduct myself in weightier matters.

Prayer: Lord, I want to be faithful in the little things. I trust in Your strength to help me persevere and do what is right in even the most boring of circumstances, when I'm tempted to cut corners. Thank You for empowering me by Your Spirit to live in such a way, every day, every moment, that if anyone were to witness my actions at any time, they would say, "Glory to God! That person lives like Jesus."

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