The Lookout | 6.15.14
By Alan Dowd

On a hot, humid July afternoon, I helped my parents move out of the house they had lived in for 23 years. After nearly a quarter-century, four kids, four dogs, three cats, two birds, a rabbit and a hamster, Mom and Dad had accumulated a lot of stuff. We cleared out the main floor, then the basement, then the upstairs, and then we came to the attic. When I saw the piles of boxes, I let out an involuntary groan. But when I took a peek at what was in those boxes, I stopped groaning and started grinning.

The boxes held tattered drawings and old report cards, my sister’s dance and cheerleading awards, my brothers’ baseball and basketball trophies, and thick folders of articles I had published long before I called myself a writer. Maybe Mom and Dad knew something I didn’t.

I always suspected they had kept all that stuff. I remember how proudly they displayed it—sometimes on the refrigerator, sometimes on the dining room table. But I had never seen all of it in one place and never thought about how much time and care, space and effort, they devoted simply to being proud. And then it dawned on me: In that 120-degree attic, in the stacks of boxes and piles of papers, God was telling me a parable about what—and how—He thinks of His children.

Sure, the Father remembers and treasures the big and great things His children do for the kingdom: the martyrs who die for Him; the pastors who live for Him; the missionaries who give up everything for Him; the rich man who builds hospitals and churches for Him; the musicians who use their gifts to point people toward Him. They have a special place on His fridge.

But He also remembers and treasures the little things that often go unnoticed, at least down here.

Supporting Parts
It’s always been this way. Think of Shiphrah and Puah. If their names don’t ring a bell, don’t worry. A tiny fragment of Exodus—just six verses—tells us that these Hebrew midwives disobeyed Pharaoh’s orders to kill all newborn Hebrew boys. Shiphrah and Puah “did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live” (Exodus 1). The Father applauded them for it; their courageous act of civil disobedience served His plan.  

Or think of the man behind Esther. His name was Mordecai. When he found out about a plot “to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews,” Mordecai traded in his garments for sackcloth, began to intercede for his people and appealed to Queen Esther.

She initially balked, explaining that “for any man or woman who approaches the inner court without being summoned, the king has but one law: that he or she be put to death.” Mordecai reminded her that she had a special duty because of her special place, finally persuading her to act with words that still pierce our hearts: “Who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?”

Esther finally did the right thing, but it was Mordecai’s words that changed Esther’s heart.

Or consider the story of Paul, the most consequential evangelist in history. God called him “my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings” (Acts 9).

But it all began with a faithful man named Ananias. His mission seems so trivial, so small, compared to Paul’s: Take a walk down to Straight Street, find Paul, place your hands on him and pray for the restoration of his sight. But Paul’s king-sized, world-changing mission depended on Ananias’ seemingly insignificant act of obedience.

Being faithful, being obedient, doing the little things may seem trivial. But Ananias reminds us that what we see as trivial or tiny in the here-and-now can have cosmic, eternal consequences in the hereafter.

Likewise, the miracle of the fishes and loaves shows us that little things can have a huge impact. Our focus is naturally drawn to the end of the story, to Christ’s miracle feast. But take another look at the beginning of the story, in John 6.  

“Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish,” Andrew tells Jesus. “But how far will they go among so many?”

It’s safe to conclude that Andrew didn’t commandeer some helpless kid’s lunch box, which means that when Jesus asked for ideas on how to feed the multitudes, that nameless boy stepped up. Jesus used his tiny gift to work a miracle.

Speaking of tiny gifts with a big meaning, no story in the Bible underscores how much God treasures the little things more than the one of a widow and her humble offering.

Mark tells us that Jesus stopped to watch the crowd put their money into the temple treasury. As Jesus looked on from a distance, “A poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins,worth only a fraction of a penny.”

Jesus then points out what really matters to Him. “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others,” he declares, His face beaming with the pride of a father. “They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

Listen to the way The Message captures Jesus’ words: “All the others gave what they’ll never miss…she gave her all.” And like any good dad, God bragged about her to His friends.

The widow “gave her all.” To the temple treasury, to the other worshippers, to the rest of the world, it may have been just a fraction of a penny. But to the God of creation, it was everything. And He stopped everything to take notice. He even immortalized her in His autobiography.

Delighting in You
The widow in this story is an archetype of all who are overlooked by the world. But what the world overlooks, God exalts. In fact, it was God’s idea to put her act of sacrifice on His fridge. The Father does the same with us when we do the right things for the right reasons. It’s only when we start to think of the little things as a big deal that we become small in God’s eyes.

This isn’t to say that works can save us, or that God needs us to carry out His plan. We need God—not the other way around. But when we help, it brings the Father joy and makes Him proud.

When a young couple waits until they’re married, their work goes on the Father’s fridge. When an old couple keeps their promise to God and each other, their work goes on His fridge.

When parents tackle the endless task of nurturing little ones into godly leaders and thoughtful citizens, their work goes on His fridge.

When a boss treats her employees as God treats His children, her work goes on His fridge. When employees do their best, their work goes on His fridge.

When volunteers show up, pitch in and help out, even when they don’t want to—perhaps especially when they don’t want to—their work goes on His fridge.

When a neighbor protects a battered woman, when a family protects an unwed mom, when a nation protects an unborn child, their work goes on His fridge.

When people defend the defenseless—whether on a playground or a battleground—their work goes on His fridge. 

Whenever you do what’s right—especially when you can get away with doing what’s wrong—your work goes on His fridge. As Zephaniah so beautifully puts it, the Lord takes “great delight in you” and “rejoices over you.”

Piece by Piece

Why would He do that? Why would He stop everything to praise a penny offering or mention that His all-you-can-eat feast for 5,000 began with a young man’s lunch pail? Why does He care about the little things, the tiny details, the supporting cast?

Perhaps it’s because each of us are his “handiwork,” as Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians. In the original, Paul used the word poiema, conveying the notion of a work of art. When we use the gifts He gives us to do what we were made to do, we reflect Him and take our place in the great mosaic our Father—our Abba—is piecing together on His fridge.