Small is the Way to Large

We tend to admire, to follow, those who are large and in charge. Newspapers and multiple websites contain stories of world leaders and their actions which have a large impact on our small lives. Social media is dominated by gigantic companies and their algorithms directing what we see on our miniscule platforms.

It’s easy to forget that to be large and in charge, most people must begin small and humble.

The Bible teaches that message implicitly in the Old Testament and explicitly in the New Testament. Joseph was sold to the Egyptians where he served Potiphar, was thrown into prison, and it was years before he rose to being the second in command in Egypt. God’s people spent years living small lives as slaves in Egypt before God liberated them for their large life with Him in the Promised Land. Moses lived large in Pharaoh’s palace, but then spent forty small humble years in the desert before receiving the calling that God had planned for him. David was brought in from tending sheep to be anointed to be king by Samuel, and then he ran from Saul for years before taking the throne of Israel. 

Jesus explicitly taught the same message that these Old Testament stories implicitly communicated. 

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Mark 10:14

“…whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.”  Mark 10:43-44

John the Baptist said that he must decrease so that Jesus could increase. Paul said that he was strongest when he was weak. Peter said we are to humble ourselves so that God can raise us up in due time. Jesus himself took the role of a humble servant, very small in the eyes of the world of his day. 

I could go on.

Small is the way to large. Service is the way to, and the way of, leadership. Death is the way to life. This is the way of God. This is the way of the kingdom of God. God advances his kingdom with a group of followers who are committed to him, but who are, or were, nobodies in the kingdoms of the world. It is counter intuitive.

Do you believe that? Intellectually, I believe it, but in my daily life it can easily by replaced by the culturally prominent desire to climb to the top. The New Testament teaches repeatedly that all we have to do is love God with all our hearts, souls, and minds, love our neighbors, and pray for our enemies. To do that, we must lay down our own ambitions, trust God, and serve others. It’s not easy. God sometimes puts us in humbling situations, and then we understand.

Here is an important principle for us: achieving smallness or humility, a correct understanding of our limited perspective and influence, and learning the importance of delayed gratification are the first steps toward a large life. The good news is that as Jesus’s followers we are all somebodies, and we are living the life that God has called us to live. It doesn’t always make sense, but I trust God and he says that’s the way his kingdom works.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Matthew 6:33

Photo by Jon Flobrant on Unsplash

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