Little Comes Before Much

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’” (Matthew 25:21, NIV)

The Parable of the Talents is a well-known story Jesus told in Matthew 25. A master goes on a trip and gives different amounts of money (talents or “bags of gold”) to three different servants. The servant who receives the most money invests it for his master and doubles it, as does the next servant, who receives a little less than the first servant. The third servant receives the least amount of money, and we see why the master didn’t entrust much to this third man. Rather than investing his master’s money to increase it, he buries it in the ground for safekeeping until his master returns. He gives the master his money back with no loss, but also no return on investment, much to the master’s disappointment. The servants who invested their master’s money and doubled it are commended and given more, while the third servant loses his position and is thrown out of the master’s household.

This story has been used to teach many good principles. For example, all the things we have–money, job, house, cars, even family–aren’t actually ours. They belong to God. How would we live differently if we didn’t think of ourselves as the owners of anything, but rather as financial managers, managing someone else’s money and assets?

That’s a good principle, but what I wanted to point out in this post is another truth that has been a guideline for me throughout much of my life. Little comes before much. You have to be faithful in the small things before you are given more. In a day when everyone gets a trophy, it seems like people are losing touch with this important principle. We want to jump right in at the top of the career ladder, rather than starting at the bottom and working our way up (as if sitting in a college classroom has entitled us to skip the “grunt” work). We want our first step to be into a leadership role, bypassing the behind-the-scenes servant’s work.

When I was a worship pastor, I saw this all the time. People wanted to join the worship team and immediately be given a solo or lead part without first putting in the time singing backup. They wanted to step up and lead the congregation in singing but didn’t want to show up to church when they weren’t scheduled to be on stage. They wanted to play on Sunday, but not practice on Thursday night. I’m sure every workplace and career field has similar examples.

But Jesus says in the Kingdom of God, that’s not how it works. You have to follow before you can lead. You have to serve before you can rule. If you can’t be faithful with $100, you won’t be faithful with $10,000. Be content and faithful with whatever role, influence, financial resources, or position God has given to you–no matter how small or insignificant you think they are. Use them for his glory and the good of others, and he will increase your oversight. First, faithful with little. Then, faithful with much. It may seem like common sense, but I’ve found it’s so common that we often don’t have the sense to live by it.

My prayer for the week is that we will each take a moment to thank God for where we are and what he’s given us. And that he will show us how we can be faithful this week with whatever he’s entrusted to us, whether little or much.

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