My wife and I grew up in what today are called “Tiny Houses” but back then they were often called shacks. Yet, except when the farmers had a good crop and bought our classmates a new car, we didn’t think of ourselves as poor. We had to be resourceful, economical and frugal. The ability to deal skillfully and promptly with situations is often called “scrimping.” It helped to live in a rural area and raise one’s own food. Our parents all came from very large families and learned to scrimp during the Great Depression by taking in washing, sewing clothes, cleaning other people’s houses, etc, etc. Caring and sharing were not just a church program, rather something that started with the nuclear and extended families and good friends. We are sometimes amazed that people then could raise several kids on one small salary and still have the necessities to live and beyond. Our grandparents and parents had it so much harder than we did and many of you could tell of even greater hardships.
We really shouldn’t be surprised that the providence of God intervened so many times when things seemed so hopeless and bleak. King David alludes to scrimping when he writes, “I was young and now I’m old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread” (Ps 37:25). The Apostle Paul knew that scrimping is a learned behavior. He learned to be content whatever the circumstances (Php 4:11). God sent Elijah to the starving widow at Zerephath and worked a miracle with the flour and oil. She was able to scrimp by for many days on what she thought was the last meal for her and her son (1 Ki 16:7-16).
Of course, none of this excuses people who scrimp so that they can hoard up treasures for themselves (Mt 6:19-21). There are so many verses about sharing with the truly needy (Eph 4:28) (1 Tim 6:18) (Heb 13:16). Surely the Macedonian churches had learned to scrimp because they gave out of their extreme poverty which welled up in rich generosity (2 Cor 8:1-4). Once the 3,000 new Christians in Acts 2 had sold all their possessions and goods, they must have had to scrimp to feed others (Act 2: 44-46). Whether we call it frugality, resourcefulness, or scrimping, God expects us to use what we have in the best way possible to bring glory to Him (Eph 1:14) (1 Tim 1:17) (Heb 13:21). —Jim Bailey
Bettye Swann became a one-hit wonder with the song, “Little things mean a lot” several years ago. It had a catchy melody and the lyrics were tender and poignant:
“Blow me a kiss from across the room. Say I look nice when I’m not. A line a day when you’re far away. Give me your shoulder to cry on. Send me the warmth of a secret smile, to show you haven’t forgot, Little things mean a lot.”
An old allegory affirms that something of great importance may de-pend on an apparently trivial detail.
“For want of a nail the shoe was lost. For want of a shoe the horse was lost. For want of the horse the rider was lost. For want of the rider the message was lost. For want of the message the battle was lost.” There are several versions of this and Benjamin Franklin used one in his POOR RICHARD’S ALMANACK. The lesson is very clear, overlooking or ignoring the smallest detail can have disastrous consequences.
This was substantiated from the very beginning of mankind’s history. One bite from the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil set off the penalties of sin and death for everyone on earth (Gen 3:6) (Rom 5:12-14). One lustful look by King David at the beautiful Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, set off a firestorm of disastrous calamities—adultery, lies, murder and the death of a baby (2 Sam 11:2-4, 14, 24) (2 Sam 12:18). David was told by Nathan the prophet, “…the sword will never depart from your house.”
There are, of course, many other bad examples of small words and actions morphing into terrible results. However, there are possibly many more good consequences from a simple little thing. It would be hard to calculate how many conflicts have been avoided by heeding the proverb of Solomon, “A gentle answer turns away wrath…” (Pr 15:1). It is very probable that many conversions and new lives have started with a little thing like a smile (Col 4:5) (1 Th 4:12).
The greatest gift that ever could be started in a little thing called a manger in a little village and will stretch into eternity. The birth of Jesus Christ started with a small thing but means much more than “a lot,” it has resulted in freedom from the penalty of sin and eternal salvation in heaven for millions of people (Lk 2:4-6) (Jo 14:1-4).
This past week I was forced to reminisce about my past physical capacities as I cramped up while attempting to fix some plumbing problems. I remembered how much easier it was to quickly jump up from a sitting position than it is now. Reminiscence, recall, remembrance and retrospect all refer to the contemplation, reflection and evaluation of the past. This mental survey can cause one to smile or wince depending upon the event.
When faced with challenges to his authority as an Apostle, Paul is forced to list his sufferings for the gospel. He was imprisoned, flogged, stoned, shipwrecked, sleepless and in constant dangers, yet in retrospect he said, “…I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Cor 11:12-33) (2 Cor 12:9). When he looked back in retrospect he also put things in perspective. He reminds us that, “…though the outward person is wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (2 Cor 4:16). As he sees this happening he also says, “…if this earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven…” (2 Cor 5:1).
Unless retrospection becomes a pity party, and then an obsession, its judicious use can help us assess our spiritual progress, or lack thereof. Once again, however, the Apostle Paul points out a better plan, “Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead…” I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Php 3:13-14). Paul does look back in retrospect when recalling the love and growth of the various congregation he has visited. Nevertheless, like Paul, Christians today need to, “…fix our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith…” (Heb 12:2). Retrospection can sometimes help us to alter our present spiritual conduct, whereas introspection can help us maintain a steady march towards our heavenly goal.
On a recent cold, snowy morning, I opened our kitchen curtains expecting to see a bleak and dreary scene. Instead I saw one of the most beautiful sunrises I’ve ever witnessed, the curtains gave us privacy and darkness, but also concealed a gift from God that stretched from north to south in a brilliant red hue. Curtains come in many forms and sizes and perform several functions. They can be decorative to enhance the looks of a room or dark to allow someone to sleep better. A stage curtain is used to begin or end a performance. The Iron Curtain was a figurative phrase to indicate the barrier to exchange of information and ideas as was the situation between the Soviet Union and the Western World. In slang in the plural it can mean death by violence.
In God’s instructions to Moses, there were to be curtains in the Tabernacle made of, “finely twisted linen and blue, purple and scarlet yarn…” (Ex 26:1 & 31). They were used to separate the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place (v 33). Only the High Priest could enter the Most Holy Place once every year with blood not his own (animals) (Heb 9:25). This room was called God’s throne room and the curtain was called the “shielding curtain” to indicate God’s separation from the profane and sinful things (Isa 59:2).
In the New Testament gospels we discover that this curtain has been torn in two at the death of Jesus Christ (Mt 27:51) (Mk 15:38) (Lk 23:45). Hope now allows us to “enter the inner sanctuary where Jesus who went before us, has entered on our behalf” (Heb 6:19). “Therefore brothers, we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, His body (Heb 10:19-20). The fact that it was torn in two from top to bottom seems to say that God the Father did it to allow sinners to boldly approach the throne of grace with confidence because our High Priest, Jesus Christ, the Son of God loved us so much (Heb 4:14-16).