Thinking Big or Thinking Small
There are two ways by which pompous thoughts can adversely affect our effectivity in stewardship. If we are thinking big, we are likely to overlook the small factors that would set us off. Another way is that if we already have a big reserve, we may relax thinking that it is a buffer that may not be depleted when we sit back and relax. Great achievements always come with complacency. We may realize when it is too late that a buffer is only a buffer if it is sustained by continuous productivity.
Whatever God has given you, regardless of how big it is, don’t ever multiply it by zero. Anything multiplied by zero is zero. What does this mean? Doing nothing with what you have been given, is like multiplying it by zero. When what you had is taken away and given to others, you will remain with nothing—zero.
Let us look again at part of the parable of the talents that we saw earlier, especially about the servant who hid his talent.
“His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”—Matthew 25:26-30.
Note that the man was called wicked. This is a very strong term yet this man did not misuse the money. And as if that was not enough, he was banished into darkness where there was weeping and gnashing of teeth. Humanly speaking, this sounds cruel. Some people may use this to claim that God can’t be merciful to pronounce such a harsh sentence on someone whose only wrongdoing was that he didn’t invest a small amount of talent. But for us believers, let us use that to show that it is not a small deal to ignore the instruction that God has given. Because God has the ability to do great things using small things, it was not a small matter after all.
Note also that in the parable, the master didn’t ask the servant with five talents why he didn’t make six or more, nor the one with two, why he didn’t make three or more. This tells us that the most important thing for the Master, at this point, was not how much you did but that you did something. Set to work, beloved—only strive to do your best, like an athlete, aim to push yourself to the limit of your ability. It is also possible that these people did the best they could do; otherwise, the Master could have asked them why they didn’t strive to realize their full potential.
Take for example if God were to give out seeds: To the first man, He gives five seeds of mango; to the second, two seeds of guava, and to the third, one mustard seed. If you the reader has a practical picture of the sizes of the seeds in question, you have probably begun to figure out where this is leading.
If the people who got the seeds were to be mobilized by the size of what they were holding in their hands, the third servant would despise the mustard seed—being the smallest seed there is (Mark 4:31)—yet it has the capacity to grow into a very large tree, and eventually into a forest, if planted. Prophet Zachariah therefore asks: “For who hath despised the day of small things?” (Zach. 4:10).
There is nothing wrong with thinking big or thinking small. But there is everything wrong when the thought pattern is ...
i) under the spell of a syndrome;
ii) when the small thinker allows himself to be intimidated and spellbound whenever grandeur shows up;
iii) when the big thinker is complacent and conceited;
iv) when the small thinker imprisons himself by his thoughts and doesn’t provide for growth.
At one time, I used to think big. I guess I had a “think-big” syndrome. I wanted to be a big man—both in status and in stature. My perception was that people with big bodies display an intimidating image. When they speak, others listen. If you are small in stature, people don’t seem to take you serious. You have to be twice or even thrice as good as the big bodied to match the latter—or so I perceived.
I didn’t grow up with computers. It was until I was 30 years old when I came into contact with them. I had wanted to buy a computer before I knew much about them. One day, I walked into a shop. On display were what I called at the time “big computers” and “small computers.” I later learnt that the big computers were called “desktops” and the small ones, “laptops.” You guessed it! I would go for the “big computer.”
I got amused at the prices. Some of the “big computers” cost less while some of the “small computers” cost more. For me, this was an irreconcilable paradox. I asked the seller if there were people ‘beside their mind’ enough to buy an expensive “small computer” and not a “big computer” which was even costing less. He told me that as a matter of fact, they had more ‘beside-their-mind’ customers than they do their counterparts.
Technologically, the world has turned around to show that small things can be very effective. We are discovering this in the technological world but it has always been like that spiritually. To be careful not to exaggerate this matter, it is also important to point out that it is a natural rule that most things start small.
We have to come to a point where we ask the question: When and where does it really matter? Mobile phone, for example, how big or small should it be? Today, a smart mobile phone has more computing capacity and efficiency than the computers of yesteryears. There are things better small; there are things better big and there are things that the size is irrelevant. We must be watchful that the size of our talents, resources, ministries, etc. do not adversely affect our stewardship.
It really doesn’t matter to God that our dreams are too small. I know this may sound controversial but I have come to learn that it is the truth. Let’s say that our dream is a mustard seed—a very small dream indeed. That our dream is small may not be a problem if we put the dream to work. As we work diligently with the dream, nature will take its own course. A planted mustard seed, watered and taken good care of will not remain small. We don’t even need to dream big in order to make it grow—we only need to manage the process as we do the little right things at every turn. The apostle Paul captured this when he said: “I have planted, … but God gave the increase” (1 Cor. 3:6).
I have heard people say that we usually limit God with our small expectations. I don’t think so! Ephesians 3:20 tells us that God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think, according to the power that works in us. As long as God’s power works in us, it doesn’t matter that we ask small or do small. Our initial small dreams will not confine what God will do, “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure”(Philipp. 2:13).
A friend told me of a pastor from a developing country who got into contact with some missionaries from a developed country. The missionaries wanted to work together with the pastor. They asked him to facilitate the buying of a parcel of land where they would build a centre to house a school, Bible college, etc.
The pastor was a big dreamer. He gave a quotation for the price of a parcel of land which scared away the missionaries. A missionary lady in the planning committee went to my friend to ask if the quotation was realistic. My friend happened to have been originally from the developing country in question but was then residing in the developed country where the missionaries came from. Though he never told the lady that the price looked extremely high, my friend was shocked at the quotation, especially because the piece of land was some distance from town. It is possible that the pastor had wanted a very big parcel.
The missionaries were not from a big church. They got intimidated by the quotation and were at the verge of withdrawing. The pastor hadn’t interacted with the missionaries for long. It would have been advisable for him to start something small and let it grow. He went straight for a kill and by so doing, he was instead at the verge of killing the small fire that was beginning to burn. We don’t need a big fire to start a conflagration that would burn down a forest, a matchstick fire is all we need.
But even in cases where size matters, we must remember that big things start small. I encourage the reader to think small at the beginning, only put the thoughts into action and let them grow therefrom. If you let your initiatives grow under your watch, you will be able to manage the size of your fully-grown projects.