Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Bigger Isn't Always Better

Last week, our family listened a wonderful message by John Piper called "Four Mistakes I Hope You Don't Make". It was addressed to the graduating class of a program for college age students but I think the points he makes are applicable to all of us. The gist of his message revolved around four mistaken assumptions that Christians can make as we navigate our way through life.

The first mistake he highlights is the assumption that big is better than small. It struck me how easily we're preconditioned to this mistake since we live in an age of mass consumerism and discretionary wealth. Let's face it - we are attracted to large and flashy, not small and modest. According to the National Association of Homebuilders, the average size of a home has increased from 1400 square feet in 1970 to 2330 square feet in 2004. As consumers we're demanding bigger portions and the food industry is only too willing to comply - in 1998, the large soda at Burger King was 32 2002, it was "supersized" to a 42 oz drink. Bigger portions must be better, right?

Yet this isn't just a modern (or post-modern) malady. It is actually the folly of our fallen condition to assume that "big" is necessarily better than "small". Jesus told a parable to illustrate the folly of covetousness and ever seeking "bigger barns":

And he told them a parable, saying, "The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, 'What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?' And he said, 'I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.' But God said to him, Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God."
(Luke 12:18-21)

Not into building bigger barns? Don't be too sure that this doesn't apply to you.

This shows up in our lives in many different ways. Sometimes, we fail to recognize God's purposes in small beginnings and modest achievements. Perhaps we're in a perpetual search for a better, higher paying, more fulfilling job. Or maybe we're silently dissatisfied that our big dreams aren't being fulfilled. The truth is we're often easily discontented with what we have or where we are, presently.

But God has a different perspective, doesn't He? By His measure, bigger isn't always better. He chose David, a smallish, young shepherd boy in preference to his older, bigger brothers. He is the God of the mustard seed that grows to the largest of trees. God may start us in modest surroundings but He has glorious plans for His elect.

Do you naturally assume that big is necessarily better than small? How have you been tempted to make that mistaken assumption? What encouragement from scripture or elsewhere can help us regain a right focus?


Anonymous said...

Another great post ESI

Twenty years ago, and feeling dissatisfied with my lot, I noticed the following:

.... for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:11-14

This verse still helps me see things in perspective. Focussing my attention on God's generosity and grace encourages thankfulness for what I have got rather allowing me to waste time and emotion on what I want or feel I need.

On a global scale I'm a rich man:
* I've never known real hunger or thirst
* I've always had a warm and safe place to sleep
* I've benefitted from a good education
* I've got supportive and caring friends and family
* I've never been persecuted for my faith, race, colour, sex etc

I hope that I retain these 'riches' but I also hope that I never lose sight of how blessed I truely am.

the Fool

L.L. Barkat said...

Okay, I admit there are some little things I like... diamonds, chocolate chips, the whisper of a kiss. You know? (sorry if this seems too off topic... I'm apparently in some kind of mood tonight :)

George said...

Onlinefool is wise: Be content, regardless of the dimensions. Just as bigger isn't better, neither is smaller. It's God that's better, not stuff. What stuff we have is enough is we choose to be content. (Easy enough for me to say; I don't live in Darfur, of course.)

Every Square Inch said...

onlinefool - Thanks for adding to the conversation by sharing some wise thoughts, especially the encouragement to focus on God's generosity.

LL - yes, there are small things that are wonderful too - but you'd actually prefer diamonds small rather than big? :-)

George - Yes, I'm grateful for not being in Darfur but I need to learn gratitude in small, daily things as well.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Great post, ESI.

Should be encouraging to me. I really kind of hate our cramped lot our house sits on. I rather despise inwardly what little I do in life compared to what I wish I would have done, like teaching somewhere.

But we need to get God's perpsective on everything, as John Piper and you point out here. And it is always out of the small that God works in bringing and builidng his kingdom in Jesus, it seems, from what we see in Scripture.

Every Square Inch said...

Ted - thanks for sharing your thoughts. And be encouraged - I think you'll be surprised how your faithful, small efforts will count for eternity.

We just need to be faithful and trust God to tally the score at the end, the way He sees fit.