“He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.”
As I was listening to a sermon last Sunday, the verse above from the Gospel of Luke came to mind. The sermon was about hallowing God–you know, making His name holy, setting Him highest in our lives, living so that others glorify HIS name and not ours. (2 Peter 2:11-12) This verse came to mind as I considered how we hallow God in our lives, and so I thought, “He who is faithful in hallowing God in the little things is also faithful in hallowing God in the big things; and he who is NOT faithful in hallowing God in the little things is just as unfaithful in hallowing God in the large things.” Worse yet, it occurred to me that even when someone appears to the hallowing God in the large things–i.e. the things we see most obviously in their lives–they may not be hallowing God in the small and private parts of their lives. This verse is about integrity, and when applied to how we are to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength (Luke 10:27), we can see that we are talking about integrity of faith and love, integrity of hallowing God’s name.
He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?
What good does it do us to honor God in some ways but dishonor Him in others? We say we love our neighbors as ourselves, and we act in our communities to do unto others as we would have them do unto us, and yet we do not honor the Word of God and live by His commandments. We do just things–or what we think are just things, according to our human sense of justice. And we love mercy–especially for ourselves and somewhat for others, particularly when it involves our own sense of justice. But our walk with God is not humble in the least. We bicker and gossip, we deny friendships, or we ignore those who don’t meet our own criteria of “need.” We rejoice in our own truth, but we allow untruth to be perpetuated in our media and in our schools. We thump our Bibles on Sundays and then allow them to gather dust the rest of the week. We follow this human teacher or that, and we conveniently deny that parts of the Bible still apply to our lives. We are faithful on Sundays, and we are faithful any time that someone else is watching, but we are not faithful when we are alone. We slip and slide into pride and what we like to think is “private” immorality, and then we justify it to ourselves by saying we are covered by God’s grace. That, my friends, is NOT integrity, not in the least.
Look back at what Jesus said. He said “who is FAITHFUL in what is least” and contrasted that with “who is UNJUST in what is least.” Not “unfaithful” but “unjust.” Jesus was contrasting trustworthiness–Greek πιστός (“pistos”)–with treachery–άδικος (“adikos”).
34 “Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35 “‘for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;
36 “‘I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.'”
Many see these verses from the Gospel of Matthew as the way we ought to show that we are faithful in all things, and so we give to the poor, we pray for the oppressed, we offer our homes to the foreigner and the homeless. Those are the public things, the obvious ones. But what about our friends and our family?
•When they are hungry for forgiveness, do we show it to them?
•When they are thirsty for the Word of God, do we give it to them?
•When they are estranged from us, do we ask them to come back into our homes?
•When they are naked before their God, afraid to approach the throne of grace, do we clothe them with Christ’s righteousness by sharing the gospel with them?
•When they are sick from toil and worry, do we just take it for granted that they know we care, or do we offer them God’s grace through our own constant presence?
•When they are imprisoned by sin or oppression, do we bring them the mercy and grace of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Those seem like easy questions on the surface, because we know how we love our closest friends. But what about our families? Is there a rift between father and son, or mother and daughter, or siblings far away? Jesus said He would trust us with much if we proved ourselves worthy of trust in the little things.
23 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you,
24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
If we would be reconciled with God, then first we must be reconciled with our brother. If we would be trusted to bring the gospel to those in prison, we must first bring the gospel to our homes and friends. If we would be trusted to make disciples of all nations, tribes, and tongues, then we must first be prepared to BE disciples and follow Jesus in all aspects of our lives.
1 Corinthians 16:19
The churches of Asia greet you. Aquila and Priscilla greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.
Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea, and Nymphas and the church that is in his house.
The church we go to on Sundays is not the “church” of which Paul speaks. He is writing about the church that is the assembly of believers, those who are called to set themselves apart for the Lord, meeting together to do the Lord’s work. How could there be such a church in someone’s house unless that house had first been a family “church”? If we are faithful at home, we will be faithful in public. But unjust behavior is often hidden in our homes, and that is what God will bring into judgment. (Ecclesiastes 12:14) We must earn God’s trust by being just in ALL things, by being faithful at home and in our car and in the workplace and in the grocery store and in our quiet moments alone. The small things may be as simple as addressing someone with respect, or it may be as difficult as keeping our cool when someone offends us. The point is to always be aware of our behavior and our hearts.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3
1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.
2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
But our faithfulness in small things does not come from constant monitoring of our behavior, nor from following a nit-picky set of rules for daily living. True faithfulness springs from love–love for God first and love for our fellow man second–and without that love, then all our attempts at faithfulness will come to naught. When we love as God loves us, as Christ loves us, as the Holy Spirit works through us in love, then we will be faithful in ALL things, great and small.
Today, rather than examining our lives for chinks in the armor of our faithfulness, let us instead look for the weakest link in our love. Let us ask ourselves if we are withholding love from anyone. Are we being faithful in what is least if we do not give mercy without measure? If we are to truly walk humbly with the Lord our God, then we must do so out of a heart of love. Our Christian walk with God will spring forth not from fear of judgment but from love and faith and hope–and, as Paul said, the greatest of these is love. And that love will cause us to be faithful in all things. Therefore, let us be faithful in our love no matter what the circumstances, no matter where we are, no matter how offended we might be, no matter how long our wounds have been festering. Let us be faithful in loving the Lord our God in all we do, and faithful in sharing His love and mercy with all–especially our friends and family–so that we will find it easier to truly be faithful in all things.
Holy Lord God, You are the model of faith in the way You are so faithful to us. You promised salvation, and You gave us Your Son. You promised eternal life, and You raised Jesus from the dead. You promised to never leave us nor forsake us, and You have given us Your Holy Spirit. And in so many little ways, Lord God, You have shown Your faithfulness to make good come out of the evil in our lives. Teach me, Father, to be as faithful and forgiving and loving as You. Amen.