The Power of Small Things

Jesus calls us to be faithful in small things.

Read Luke 16:1-13 here.


Sterling College Flute Ensemble:

Sterling College Choirs:

There’s an African proverb that says, “If you think you’re too small to make a difference, you haven’t slept with a mosquito.”

Speaking of small things, do you know what washes up on small beaches?  Microwaves![1]

We’re talking about small things because in our scripture reading for today, Jesus tells us we need to be faithful over small things.

“Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much” (Luke 16:10 NRSV).

Jesus says this after telling a story about a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting the rich man’s possessions.  The rich man tells the manager that he will be fired.  So, in anticipation of that, the manager reduces the debts of the people who owe the rich man.

It’s possible that the manager had overcharged these people so he could take a cut, and that’s what he’s fixing.  Or that he charged these people interest, something that is forbidden in the Old Testament (Exodus 22:25, Leviticus 25:35), and so he’s eliminating the interest.[2]  Or maybe he’s simply desperate for the favor of these people so he’ll have a place to go.[3]

Jesus isn’t saying it’s ok to lie or cheat or steal (Lev. 19:11).  Jesus does say it’s good to use money to help people.

“I tell you, use worldly wealth to make friends for yourselves so that when it’s gone, you will be welcomed into the eternal homes” (Luke 16:9 CEB).

I tell you use worldly wealth to make friendsThe manager has done something that helps people, and Jesus commends his forward thinking.  “You will be welcomed into the eternal homes.”  In eternity, there won’t be any money, but there will be lots of people. Even in earthly homes, people would certainly be more welcoming to this manager after he reduced their debt, and they maybe even thought better of the rich man now that they owed him less.[4]  How we use our money might seem like a small thing, but… Being faithful in small things can make a big difference.

[5]We need to be faithful in little things.  God often works through those small things.  Like nudges from the Holy Spirit.  Sometimes I ignore them because they seem too small, or too simple.  When we’re asking God for answers, sometimes we don’t like the answers because they’re not big enough, or complete enough.  But I wouldn’t be standing here today as a pastor if I’d kept waiting for the big picture.  All I got was the next step.  I had to finish college first.  I kept trying to let that one go, and God kept bringing it back to me, and it wasn’t until I finally finished college that I was able to see what came next.

This was true for the Israelites waiting to go into the Promised Land, too.  They were almost there, but to get there they needed to cross the Jordan River.  Problem was that it was the rainy season and the river was at flood stage.  We know what rivers look like at flood stage!  Deep and wide and dangerous.  God told Joshua to have the priests carry the ark of the covenant to the edge of the river and step in.  I’ll bet some of those priests thought Joshua was crazy.  They were surely going to be carried away by the raging river and drowned.  But as soon as the feet of the priests carrying the ark touched the river’s edge, the waters started backing up, so that the priests were able to walk in on dry ground (Joshua 3).  They had to trust God enough to take the first step.  A small thing with a big result – all of Israel was able to cross the Jordan into the Promised Land.

We might dismiss small ideas because we’re looking for the next big idea, but those small ideas can change the world.  There was a company that was formed in 1992 in Silicon Valley.  They hired some big minds to come up with big ideas.  They had $10 million and 10 years to spend it. They seemed to have the perfect recipe for success. But the company only lasted 8 years and then closed without having done much of anything.  The problem was they only wanted big ideas, and so they dismissed all the ideas people came up with that didn’t seem big enough.  They had performance anxiety which killed their creativity.[6]

Being faithful in small things can make a big difference.

Being faithful in small things can make a big differenceA smile seems like a small thing, but that smile and making eye contact ways we show someone that they are not alone.

Showing up sometimes seems like a small thing, but it can make the difference in your grade in a class, or the vote in a meeting, or how things go with your job.  Showing up can make a huge difference for a friend who is alone.

Little things matter.  A prayer. A kind word. I’m sorry. I love you. Thank you. How we use what we have.

ClimateStrike2019Small things can become big things.  This past week we saw this in a big way – the power of one voice. The girl there in the picture on the left is Gretchen Thunberg, a 16-year-old who was frustrated that people weren’t doing more to save the planet, so she started sitting outside the Swedish parliament building every Friday with a sign that says she’s on strike for the climate.  She did that faithfully for months and months before people starting joining her. The picture on the right is from this past Friday when millions of people around the world joined her climate strike.[7]  One of Gretchen’s frustrations is that people think there’s nothing we can do, or that little things won’t make a difference.  But they do matter, and they do make a difference.[8]

In just a few minutes, we’re going to hear some beautiful music. As we listen to the choirs today, notice the difference when one voice sings alone, and when a few more sing together, and when they all sing.  Voices singing together make beautiful harmonies.  In music, in life, and in faith, each voice makes a difference.

Jesus says, “If you’re honest in small things, you’ll be honest in big things; If you’re a crook in small things, you’ll be a crook in big things” (Luke 16:10 MSG).

Small things can change the world.  Jesus did. One man who was God in the flesh died for us…

  • So that we could know about the hugeness of God’s love for us.
  • So that we could say a small word, say yes to Jesus, and know the power of God’s love for us, and in us, and working through us.

Apart from him we can do nothing (John 15:5),

but with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26, Mark 14:36, Luke 1:37).

Let us trust God to help us to be faithful in the small things, and let’s change the world.


[2] Bruce Larson, Communicator’s Commentary (Waco: Word Publishing, 1983), p. 233.

[3] Fred Craddock, Interpretation (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1990), p. 193.

[4] Larson, Ibid.

[5] These two paragraphs were accidentally left out in my delivery of this sermon.

[6] Dev Patnaik, “Embrace Your Small Ideas for Big Impacts,” Fast Company 08/28/09


[8] Gretchen Thunberg TED talk

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