The kingdom of God, Jesus taught his disciples, is like the smallest of seeds. In the church we can become preoccupied with size. How many gather for worship? How large is the membership? What is the financial offering? And in many areas of the world, implicitly and explicitly, we assign God’s favor to abundance. This is the prosperity gospel. If we gather in large numbers and our resources are significant, this is of God.
So Jesus’ story about the smallest of seeds is a reversal of our worldly expectations. Jesus is profoundly present where two or three gather to pray in a house church amidst persecution. Members of a small, rural church choir faithfully meet each week to practice their offering of praise to God. The Holy Spirit whispers in a still, small voice.
The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. We offer our small and seemingly insignificant gifts. When these seeds are planted, there is growth. Here we are called to exercise the gift of imagination. As Paul writes, God is able to accomplish abundantly more than we can ask or imagine. (See Ephesians 3:20.)
We often look upon our small gifts with limited or lowered expectations. And, of course, the kingdom of God is a reversal of our human perspective. From a small seed there is growth; and here the tree puts out large branches, and birds make nests in their shade.
Whenever I see a tree, I now try to imagine the person who planted the seed. In a warm climate, the tree provides shade and respite. The person who plants does not often reap the benefit of the labor. And yet in God’s economy, a small gift offered in faith has an extraordinary influence. We are not called to do great things today. We are called to plant small seeds.
O God, help me to offer a small gift today. Move me to plant a small seed; prompt me to take a next faithful step, trusting every outcome to you. Amen.
From a human perspective, we tend to judge people by appearances: how attractive they are, how wealthy they seem to be. God’s standard, however, is not outward appearance but the attitude of the heart. David was the youngest brother in his family, but God knew his mighty heart and chose him as the next king of Israel. The psalmist declares that God gives victory to those who put their trust in God, not in the outward appearance of might. Jesus reinforces this truth with the parable of the mustard seed. Paul tells the Corinthians that we should no longer judge by what we see on the outside, for God changes what really matters—what is on the inside.
Read 1 Samuel 15:34–16:13. When have outward appearances prevented you from seeing someone’s value as a child of God?
Read Psalm 20. How do you discern whether your “heart’s desire” is in line with what God wants for your life?
Read 2 Corinthians 5:6-17. In what ways are you “urged on” by the love of Christ? How do you behave differently because you know Christ’s love?
Read Mark 4:26-34. When have you seen God make much of a small gift that you offered?
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