Before he left the Temple for the last time, Jesus observed an impoverished widow depositing “two mites” into the treasury. In contrast to many that day, she had “cast in all that she had,” which, in his estimate, was worth far more than what the others had contributed. Apparently, Jesus assigns values to actions rather differently than we do.
“Mite” refers to the leptos, the smallest copper coin in circulation in Judea, and in modern terms, one worth only a few cents. Two lepta would have been insufficient to purchase a loaf of bread. Her tiny contribution to the Temple’s expenses was insignificant in monetary and real-world terms. Yet she is the one who received praise from the Lord of all the earth, and not the rich, the devout Pharisees, or the Temple authorities.
This story epitomizes the scriptural principle that God accomplishes great things from small beginnings. And it typifies Christ’s method of evaluating things in unexpected and even contrary ways.
We each desire to serve Jesus and do meaningful things for his kingdom, and some of us even dream of doing great things for the gospel. And all this is highly commendable. But do we understand how he evaluates what we do? If I can organize great revival meetings where thousands of men, women and children are saved and healed, and perform super “signs and wonders” and plant megachurches across the land, well and good. But in Christ’s estimation, how does that stack up when compared to the Christian with limited resources who uses what he or she does have to feed the hungry?
And what about the millions of Christians who lack the opportunity or resources or abilities to achieve such grand things for the kingdom? How will any of them achieve “greatness” in God’s kingdom? Will anyone including their neighbors even notice them?
Jesus compared the kingdom of God to the seed planted by a farmer. How it grows into a productive crop the farmer does not know, nor can he observe the process, yet at harvest time it produces an abundance of grain that he then “reaps.” Likewise, we cannot know what might come eventually from a small act of kindness. How do we know that the poor man we help with a gift of food or with whom we share the gospel will not become an evangelist or teacher that God will use to bring many souls into His kingdom? When your brother or sister is in need, without hesitating, give him what is in your right hand do not let your lefthand worry about it or induce you to have second thoughts.
Jesus also compared his kingdom to the “grain of the mustard seed,” a seed that measures less than one millimeter in diameter, yet one that grows into a shrub often measuring five meters in height. Large results often come from inauspicious beginnings.
When his disciples were jockeying for position in his future kingdom, Jesus explained exactly what “greatness” means and how one achieves it. “Whoever would become great among you will be your servant, and whoever would be first among you will be your slave. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Do you want to do great things for God? Then serve the need of your brother, your sister, or the needy person who crosses your path.
We should remember his parable about the separation of the sheep from the goats at the Great Judgment Throne. The “sheep” include men and women who fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, clothed and housed the “stranger,” and visited the sick and those languishing in prison. They will be welcomed into his glory because “when they did it to one of these the least of my brethren,” they did it to Jesus. But to those men and women who refused to help the “least of his brethren,” he will say, “Depart from me, you accursed, into the everlasting fires prepared for the Devil and his angels.” Ouch!
So, what does all this mean? I can best illustrate from an incident in my own life. One day I stopped at a fast-food restaurant for lunch. Just outside the entrance, a young man approached me. I was startled. I was so consumed with my own thoughts that I had not noticed his presence until he spoke to me. He looked desperate and asked if I could spare a few dollars so he could get something to eat. My first reaction was typical. Would this young man not simply use the money to buy drugs or alcohol?
My hesitation was only momentary, but before I could recover my thoughts the young man had already departed, and as I recall, with what I can only describe as a look of deep hurt on his face. Grieved at my hesitation and hardness of heart, a minute or two later I attempted to find him so I could give him what he needed, however, by that time he had already left the area and I could not find him. I had failed to feed “one of these, the least of my brethren.”
Over the years, I have committed more than my fair share of sins, and I have certainly failed the Lord more than once. But of all my sins, that one bothers me the most to this very day. On that day, I failed and failed miserably to live up to the example and teachings of Jesus, and I was anything but “great’ in his kingdom. I behaved like a “goat.” Worse was the deep hurt that I caused the young man. And that failure has continued to trouble me like no other, not only for my sin against the man but also for the damage I did to the kingdom of God.
In short, do not fear or hesitate to do the small tasks that God puts into your hands, especially those that serve the needs of others. Do not concern yourself with how “small” or insignificant your deed is. God does not evaluate our actions according to human standards and values.
Moreover, we really do not understand just how much God can do with a very small beginning, and very likely we will never know in this life just what He has done with our small acts of kindness.
And actions that are taken for the benefit of others regardless of any benefit we might derive epitomize Christ’s instructions to take up the cross daily and follow him wherever he leads. After all, at the end of the say, are we not all “unprofitable servants”?