Many people would like to save the world. Many of us find fault with our world in which poverty, homelessness, war and other evils exist. We want to be part of the solution, and we think we are. We have aspirations to take on the big things, but we ignore the little things.
We fail to realize that, if we are not faithful with the little things, we will not accomplish the big things. When we fail in the little things, we are part of the problem and not part of the solution.
I count myself among the many. I don’t always do the right thing. So, I am preaching to myself and to anyone who cares to listen.
One little, petty example got me thinking about this. It is not a big thing, but that is exactly the point. The little things that we ignore and discount add up. The little things are what define our character and the direction of our lives. The little things become the big things.
Before I give you the example, I urge you not to react the way I would be inclined to react. I might be tempted to say, “Well, I didn’t do that. He is not talking about me.” If you have not done what I am going to describe, don’t think you are off the hook. I guarantee you, if you are human, you have done something else that is similar.
The example is this: someone in our house (I do not know who) got up late at night, opened the refrigerator, took out a can of whipped cream, consumed the rest of the contents and then put the empty can back in the refrigerator. Before you say, “Is that it?”… Consider what it says about the person who did this and what it communicates to other people in the house.
It is a very little thing, a minor annoyance, but it says a great deal… and the little things like this define our character and add up to the persons that we are.
For one thing, consuming all that is in the can, and leaving nothing for the next person, is selfish. Even if you bought the can yourself, with your own money, it is selfish not to share. If you did not buy the can with your own money, it is even more selfish. Someone else is sharing with you, and you consumed all that is left in can.
This is minor, I know. If all of your actions are of similar character, however, you become a selfish person. You are thinking of yourself first and foremost. You are not thinking of others. You are part of the problem in the world that leads to greed, envy and covetousness. It is an “everyone for himself” mentality. That way of thinking is what leads to poverty, homelessness and fighting in the world.
Putting the can back in the refrigerator is deceptive. It says to the next person who looks in the refrigerator that there is whipped cream in there when there is not. The person who bought the whipped cream does not know that it is gone and more is needed. The person who goes to use the whipped cream will be disappointed to find there is nothing in the can. Maybe that person plans to use it for a cake or something else. When they go to use it, nothing is there, and the plans are frustrated.
Again, this is such a minor thing, but it says something about the person who put the empty can back. Deception is a betrayal. It causes distrust. When the truth is found out, it provokes anger. “Why would someone put an empty can back in the refrigerator?!” It causes tension, suspicion and damages relationships. Such a little thing, but little things add up to big things. Little things become a way of life.
Not throwing the can away is thoughtless and uncaring. It says, “I am going to leave this for someone else to take care of instead of taking care of it myself.” It does not take any more energy to open the wastebasket and throw it away than to open the refrigerator and put it back. In that sense, the person who opens the refrigerator and finds the empty can may perceive it as an intentional slight. You are making work for someone else. The person finding the empty container may resent the fact that you put it back, requiring someone else to throw it away. It engenders bad relations with the people around you.
It may also trigger a different reaction. The person finding the empty can might be tempted to leave it for someone else to throw away. It triggers others to be lazy and uncaring too. “An eye for an eye” reaction is a natural response.
Such a little thing, but the little things become who we are. The little things become our imprint on the world around us. All of the little things define us and set the stage for bigger things. If we are walking continually in one direction, it is harder for us to turn and react in the right way when we are faced with weightier decisions. If we overlook the little things, we may even fail to realize the bigger, more impactful failures of character. We eventually grow callous to “doing the right thing” and fail to see our shortcomings. People who forgive and overlook the little things are less apt to forgive or overlook the bigger things.
Not throwing the can away is lazy. Laziness becomes a way of life. I know because this is one of my most significant shortcomings. A person who has learned to be lazy in the little things has a hard time becoming diligent and sustaining diligence when diligence is needed. Being lazy in the little things allows little problems to pile up and become much bigger problems. Not making the effort in the little things creates problems that require much greater effort to address.
“Doing the right thing” or “not doing the right thing” becomes a way of life; it becomes our character; it becomes who we are.
To be fair, people do not always do the right thing, and people do not always fail to do the right thing. We are all a hodgepodge of both. We all have a tendency toward one extreme or the other, but I doubt there is anyone who always does the right thing or anyone who always fails to do the right thing. We are somewhere on the moral barometer between the two extremes.
In the end, it is not just about morality. It is not about do’s and don’ts. It is about relationship. It is about relationship to other people and the world around us. It is ultimately about relationship to God, our Creator and the Lover of our souls. God calls us to love Him and to love others as ourselves. Doing the right thing is an expression of our love for God and for others around us. Not doing the right thing is the opposite.
God sees what we do in secret. He knows our hearts, and out of our hearts we act and speak. Our actions and our words are the manifestations of who we are. It is a barometer that shows us where we stand in relation to God and man. If we ignore that barometer, we will continue tending in the same direction.
A person cannot impact the world for positive in a big way who is not careful in the little things. If we are not careful to do the right thing, we are not loving the people around us. If we are not loving the people around us, we are not loving God. More importantly, if we are not careful in the little things that only God sees, if we are insensitive to the God who sees those things, we are not in right relation to God.
“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” (1 John 1:5-6) Where do you stand today?
If you find yourself in darkness, if you see the barometer of your actions and words, and you see yourself tending toward failing to do the right things or doing the wrong thing, there is hope! “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)
We have to start with a realistic assessment of ourselves, however. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8) We cannot come into the light without facing our shortcomings.
Facing our shortcomings is never pleasant, but it is the only way to change. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
If changing the world and being a part of the solution is your aim, it starts with you, and it starts at home. If you are not living the change in your life among the people you live with, you will not have the character to achieve your goal and be part of the solution to the troubles in the world. Dreaming is good, but the reality is where we walk. If we are going to live out our dreams, we need to walk in the path of doing the right things.
We also need help from the One who made us and knows our comings and our goings. “For all have sinned and fallen short….” (Romans 3:23) If we confess our sins, ask “Christ in us” to cleanse us and allow the Holy Spirit to inspire, empower and guide us, we will become the change that we hope to be in the world that we touch. The tendency of our lives then will be doing the thing, even in the little things, and our faithfulness in the little things will add up and equip is to have a big impact on the world around us.
Postscript: 8 Verses that Show Jesus Christ Lives in You