He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”– Matthew 13:33, NRSV
We live in a world full of people who want to make a difference. When we are children, we dream of being astronauts, soldiers, doctors, lawyers, pastors, nurses, ground-breaking reporters and authors, along with a myriad of other professions that lend themselves to making big differences in the lives of others. In college, I was one of thousands of starry-eyed undergraduate/graduate students ready to get out of school, land the “dream job,” and get started on changing the world.
Once graduations took place and careers were begun and ended, though, I came to a common realization: this crap sucks. Every day is not some life-altering engagement with people that produces loads of positive ripples that transform the world before our eyes. More often than not, even the “dream job” is full of mundane details, seemingly useless conversation, and just trying to survive whatever bureaucratic tedium might be in place.
Recently, I have really been struggling with this. As a pastor, I had influence. People had a reason to listen to me, and my word carried some actual weight. I was able to counsel, guide, educate, comfort, and correct. When I lost that job, I felt like I lost a piece of myself. I have been feeling like I matter less, even in the eyes of those I love, because my pastoral authority is no longer there.
Today, I realized this is total bull.
Balderdash… Alright, I am done. But seriously.
We have such a hero-worshiping culture, that we actually despair because we aren’t among the loudest, busiest, or biggest names in the world-changing business. The falsehood of our world tells us that unless we have a dangerous or high-profile job, we can’t make a real difference. If we aren’t the doctor, astronaut, cop, soldier, philanthropic billionaire, or amped-up, full-time missionary, we just aren’t doing that much, just benefiting from what these extraordinary people do.
Load of trash.
Jesus warns us of high-profile attempts at making a difference. Check out His admonitions here in chapter 6 of Matthew’s Gospel, where he encourages us to be seen in secret by our Father, without letting even our left hand know what is going on with the right hand (Matthew 6:3-4). Further, we are even instructed to look at the Kingdom of Heaven as something that arrives in seemingly small, unsuspecting ways.
If we look at the text that kicks off the article, found here in chapter 13, we see that the Kingdom of Heaven, the transformation of the world into a place under the blessed reign of God (in short, a pretty big deal!), doesn’t come to us via bombast and spectacle. Instead, the Kingdom is made up of mustard seeds and yeast, small things applied and nurtured consistently until everything falls into place. This, dear reader, is how making a real difference in the world works.
Sure, I am not a pastor anymore. I am a freelance personal trainer, currently writing my own devotional, and I write a blog. That said, I bring a smile to my clients’ faces every day. I help them feel good about their bodies and improve their quality of life. I continue to work with people like my good friend Ekram, who just published a wonderful book that relies on some of my Christian perspectives (he is a Muslim). My blog has followers from all over the world, people who feel encouraged and comforted by what I write about. On top of that, my looser schedule enables me to love and support my wife. I can be there for friends and family at any moment, and I am still involved at our new church.
All of these things are small, but they add up. They are little things that God can act through if they are maintained consistently and applied with a heart of love. You may feel like you do nothing, or that you have failed because you have yet to make the “big difference” you had always hoped for. I guarantee if you look around, you will find that you have opportunities in front of you. These may not be opportunities to feed a whole third world country or tackle systemic racism, but they are opportunities to make a real difference in the lives of those with whom you interact.
Jesus’ instruction boils down to feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger, and comforting the afflicted. These are things we can do in a variety of ways, to some degree, every single day. You don’t believe me? Check out Matthew 25 here.
You, as you are, are enough. You possess all you need to make a difference in this world, and God is just waiting for you to realize it. It doesn’t take money, power, or overwhelming influence to change the world. Jesus had none of those things as we know them. It doesn’t take major mission trips, deployments, or excessive sacrifices, though none of these are necessarily bad. If you allow God to open your eyes, and if you look intently at your daily life, you will see that work, school, sports, home, friends, neighbors, and family all afford more than enough opportunity for you to get those transformative ripples going.
Vote, raise your kids, help your parents, donate to charity, get involved at church, sit with that lonely kid at school, listen to your friends, share your thoughts, ask questions, volunteer, pray for a co-worker; do what you feel moved to do, a little bit every day. If we all plant these small seeds, if we all add that little bit of yeast to the batch of our daily lives, we will soon look back and see the Kingdom of Heaven breaking through in ways we never thought possible.
Peace be with you!