Sermon Text: The Little Things
Here’s something I’m sure of: The little things in life are the big things.
I didn’t know that when I was young. Back then, I thought it was all about the big stuff. Now I know better. Big stuff can be seen in the little stuff. The little things in life are the big things.
Jesus taught this, you know. In today’s passage from Luke’s gospel, he said, “Whoever is faithful with a very little is also faithful with much; whoever is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest with much.”
Here’s a contemporary story which underlines what Jesus said.
There was a little boy named Freddie. When he was six, he was in the car with his dad.
Dad was speeding, and the town cop pulled him over. The dad slipped a fifty-dollar bill to the cop along with his license to avoid getting a ticket. Freddie was looking, and his dad said to him, “It’s okay, son...everybody does it.”
When Freddie was nine, he went shopping with his mom. By accident, the checkout clerk gave too much change — a fifty dollar bill instead of a five. Freddie’s mom slipped the money into her purse. Freddie noticed, but she said, “Everybody does it.”
When Freddie was sixteen, he got a job in grocery store. His boss told him to hide the overripe tomatoes at the bottom of each basket and put the greener ones on top. The boss said, “It’s just good business.”
So Fred went off to college. One day, another student offered to sell him the answers to big exam coming up. Fred bought the answers, but then he got caught. He was kicked out of the college for cheating. His parents were hugely upset. They said, “How could you do this to us? If there’s anything everyone hates, it’s dishonesty!”
Jesus said, “Whoever is faithful with a very little is also faithful with much. Whoever is dishonest with a very little is also dishonest with much.” The little things in life are the big things.
So this applies to honesty. It also applies to helpfulness.
Life is full of opportunities that might seem small. This coming week, you and I are not likely to end a war, or write a Pulitzer Prize winning book, or come up with a great invention. But we are very likely to have a chance to do one of these things: send a kind note or card to someone...visit somebody who needs it...give someone a word of encouragement...share a meal with somebody...read a story to a little child...do a chore for a neighbor...help out with a feeding project for the needy. (That last one is happening later this morning!)
The little things in life are the big things. A small gesture at the right time makes a big difference. Little stuff can have a big impact.
So this teaching of Jesus applies to honesty. It applies to helpfulness. And it even applies to happiness.
The little things in life are the big things when it comes to happiness. You can’t go to Disneyland every day. You can’t go to a pro sports game every day. You can’t go to the greatest party of your life every day. But you can find joys every day in the ordinary, little things.
I have a book on my shelves at home called Endangered Pleasures. It’s a great little book by a woman named Barbara Holland. She claims that joy has been leaking out of our lives. She writes, “Somehow, bad news is easier to believe, and more important, than good news. The small pleasures of the ordinary day come to seem almost contemptible. The small pleasures glance off us lightly.”
The rest of her book calls attention to and celebrates ordinary pleasures: taking a hot bath...going on a trip...having lunch...enjoying a pet...savoring a good conversation...
paying attention to the changing seasons...having fun with boats, or babies, or books.
Make your own list! I think she’s totally right.
Ancient texts from the Book of Ecclesiastes in Hebrew Scripture, to the Gospels in the New Testament, to the Babylonian epic of Gilgamesh, to the Greek Epicurean texts, say very similar things.
Ecclesiastes says, “Eat well, drink smart, do what you love, love who you can.” Even though there are vanity and emptiness in the world, the small joys make life worth living.
The Babylonian story of Gilgamesh offers the same wisdom. A wise woman tells King Gilgamesh, who is on a search for meaning, “Embrace whatever joys life has to offer...
Know your limits, accept the human condition, savor the ordinary sweet pleasures of the day.”
The simple pleasures the Greek philosopher Epicurus especially praised are such things as plain but good food, satisfying work, the contemplation of nature, and friendship. He said that friendship is by far the most important.
And Jesus himself taught simplicity and community. The little things in life are the big things.
That’s wisdom...wisdom from the Jews, wisdom from the Greeks, and wisdom from Jesus. The little things in life are the big things.
It goes for honesty — the moral choices we make. It goes for helpfulness — the small acts of kindness we can offer to people who need them. And it goes for happiness — the little joys we can find in each day.
So be honest. Be helpful. Be happy. Do it in the little things.
Because the little things in life are the big things!