Have you seen the billboards for the jewelry stores around Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day, displaying a gorgeous and expensive ring in a little box with the caption “Good things come in small packages”?
That expression has also been used for petite women – or one-ounce bars of gold – or a life-saving vial of medicine. It is overused to the point of becoming cliché.
But in God’s realm – which is never cliché – it is a gutsy truth.
We use the expression because in our world, bigger is almost always assumed to be better.
We see good things in small packages as an exception, not the rule.
Ford has announced that it will no longer sell most of its car models in North America. It will focus instead on trucks, crossovers, and the Mustang – which, although it’s not bigger, is faster and much cooler than, say, a Fusion or a Taurus. There is this new phenomenon of tiny houses catching on – but I don’t see too many of us selling our comfortably-sized homes and moving into something smaller than our garages.
But we do need to discipline ourselves to see God’s kingdom in small things. And we see God at work in our Scripture lessons today – in the small kindnesses, the details, the inconspicuous, and even the unlikely.
Small is big in God’s realm. If it were not, we as individuals would be lost.
Compared to God, we are all small – and we are all in need of God’s grace and mercy and love.
Think of Horton in Dr. Seuss’s classic Horton Hears a Who. He goes to great lengths to protect people who are too small to be seen and whose voices only an elephant with huge ears can hear. And what reason does Horton give for his concern? “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”
We must learn to see the big value of small things
Especially when it comes to how we view ourselves and others. We need to use God’s eyes – or Horton’s ears. What kept the Israelites from going into the Promised Land the first time they got close? Ten of the twelve spies who went ahead came back with a negative report about the mighty men of Canaan: “We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”
They saw themselves as small – and assumed that the Canaanites saw them the same way. In spite of Joshua and Caleb’s encouragement, they refused to go into Canaan – so they spent the next 40 years wandering in the wilderness.
We see ourselves as small – and we see what we have to offer as small. But to God, no gift is too small.
No gift is insignificant. God takes what the world considers to be small and insignificant and does great and world-changing things with them.
We all have heard the story of the boy who offered his two fish and five small loaves of bread to Jesus –
who then fed five-thousand families with them.
We also read this morning of the widow at Zarephath. The prophet Elijah had warned the evil king of Israel, Ahab, that God was shutting off the rain for several years because of Ahab’s wickedness. Elijah then escaped to neighboring Phoenicia – which was also affected by the drought and famine. There he met a widow who had only enough flour and oil to make one last meal for herself and her son – yet she was willing to offer that little bit to the Lord’s prophet. God took what little she had and used it to feed the three of them until just before the rain returned.
And we read of the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with perfume. This woman had a reputation around
town – having lived a “sinful” life. Luke does not elaborate about what her many sins were, and that suggests that our suspicions are probably right.
This woman crashed a dinner party to which Simon the Pharisee had invited Jesus, making the host very uneasy. But that didn’t stop her. She had gifts for Jesus, and she went right to work giving them to Him.
What were her gifts? The perfume. Her tears. Her hair for wiping His feet. Her kisses on His feet.
And one that is not mentioned, but it is clearly there: her heart. Her love. Her appreciation. Her self.
In the eyes of the people in that town, this woman had nothing to offer Jesus. She was an outcast. She was the one whom people talked about behind her back – or insulted to her face. We don’t know how big or tall she was – but she was very small in the eyes of everyone but Jesus. To Him, her love was gigantic.
Jesus knew that His host was looking scornfully at the woman, so He told a quick parable. We find it in verses 41 and 42:
Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both.
Now which of them will love him more?
As we compare Simon the Pharisee and the sinful woman, which one do you think Jesus will use to build the Kingdom of God?
Of course – the sinful woman. She has been forgiven much, so her love and appreciation for Jesus is greater than Simon’s. She realizes how great her need was and how much Jesus had done for her. Simon is clueless.
As a Pharisee, he was a big man in the community and in the synagogue. He believed he was pleasing God by keeping the letter of God’s Law – so Jesus could not do much for him. He may have invited Jesus to dinner out of curiosity – or to try to catch Him in saying or doing something self-incriminating.
Do you sometimes wonder if you have any value in God’s kingdom because of what you have done? If you have much to be ashamed about from your past – so much the better – you are that much bigger in His sight.
Don’t be rattled by that thought. Bask in it. If you realize that you have been forgiven much, then you will love Jesus much, and that makes you big in the Kingdom. As it did the woman.
What she had to offer came from the heart. Her gifts were so powerful that they moved Jesus – and we still talk about them today.
And we sing about such gifts. Christina Rossetti’s “In the Bleak Midwinter” is a favorite at Christmastime. We would have sung it today, but we are just starting to see signs of spring – so instead we will read the final verse:
What shall I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb.
If I were a wise man, I would do my part.
What shall I give Him? Give my heart.
If you feel small because you don’t have much to give – don’t worry about it. You can offer Jesus your best gift: your heart. Mother Teresa was a giant in God’s Kingdom, yet she played down her accomplishments by saying, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
If you have a heart full of love and appreciation for what God has done for you in Jesus, and are willing to invest that love in others, then you are a giant in His eyes.
So stop belittling yourself and get busy loving Jesus and others – like the spiritual giant you are.