Small is Big

Martha Berry, who died in 1942, founded the Berry School for Needy Children at Mount Berry, Georgia.  One time she asked Henry Ford for a million dollars to help her school.  He gave her a dime.

Most people would probably have told him to keep his lousy dime, but Martha took it and bought some peanuts for her students to plant.  Eventually, they harvested those peanuts and planted more the next season.  Then they did it again.  And again.  Finally, they harvested and sold enough peanuts to buy a piano for the school.

But here’s the best part of the story.

Martha Berry wrote to Henry Ford and told him what they had done with the dime he gave her.  He was so impressed by her can-do spirit and ingenuity that he had her come to Detroit, where he personally handed her a check for one million dollars.*

It is very common for us to undervalue things because they are small.  A small amount of money is thought to be worthless.  A small church is thought to have little influence.  A small athlete is thought to be disadvantaged.  A small job is thought to be unimportant.  It’s no wonder so many people feel deprived and unblessed.  They’re constantly undervaluing some of the best things in life.

Jesus forever affirmed the value of small things when he bragged about the poor widow who dropped two cents into the offering when she went to worship.  (Mark 12;41-44)  The rich, highfalutin folks were dropping in huge sums of money, while her gift was what my great-grandma would have called “piddly.”  But Jesus didn’t call it that.  He said she was the most generous person in attendance that day.

Jesus also talked about the power of small faith (Matthew 17:20), the influence of small people (Matthew 18:2-3), and the value of small deeds. (Matthew 25:35)

Don’t let the smallness of a thing fool you.  Small can be very, very big.

For further reflection read Proverbs 30:24-28, Matthew 5:18, and Luke 16:10.

*Kent Crocket, Making Today Count For Eternity (Sisters: Multnomah, 2001), 149-150

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15 Responses to Small is Big

  1. Barry Buchanan says:

    thank you Mark this one really talked to me at a deep level

  2. Bob Tremblay says:

    Thought of this at my veterans ceremony today,Mark:
    My brothers came home in a body bag,
    My brothers came home in a coffin,
    Dear God please give us peace,
    This happens all too often..

  3. Klaus Roetsch says:

    Back home here in Canada, this Sunday, we listened to a sermon about the widow giving the two coins. You guys in sync? One again, thank you for the thought provoking messages…we forwarded it to our family and friends.

  4. Dan Plumley says:

    Thank you Mark. Small church, small home study groups: they have so much potential of changing individual lives, and yet so many seem not to recognize the potential. Jesus made it so clear, why is it so hard to see?

    • Mark says:

      Dan, I think it’s the constant brainwashing of culture. All day, every day we are conditioned to believe bigger is better. Think about how we’re being conditioned to believe that bigger government is better. And bigger phone companies. And bigger banks. And bigger car dealerships. And bigger department stores. It never ends.

      • Dan Plumley says:

        True, but then I think we both know it goes a lot deeper than that.
        Not too long ago I was talking in Sunday School about a church that had brought recovering prostitutes to their morning service regularly to help them. Fellow elders at a church I no longer go to expressed concern that I was going to bring ‘whores’ to church with me.

  5. Marg says:

    I am reminded of the Mustard Seed with this Mark. I am not sure anymore exactly where that is anymore Mark and my bible does not have a list for me to use to find it.
    Thank you for your wisdom Mark

    • Mark says:

      Marg, near the end of the devotion I mention the power of small faith and reference Matthew 17:20. That’s the verse you’re looking for…faith as small as a mustard seed.

      • Marg says:

        Yes Mark I have just read the passage, thank you

        • Bob Tremblay says:

          For assuredly,I say to you,if you have faith as a mustard seed,you will say to this mountain,move from here to there,and it will move,and nothing will be impossible to you.

  6. Buddy Harris says:

    Great story mark!

  7. Barb Paton says:

    Once again, Thank you, Mark for a timely, well-stated blog. As you know, Rich and I serve a small congregation, while we don’t have a large offering each Sunday, we are able to pay our bills and send established contributions to missionaries and children’s homes. We totally rebuilt a large 2 car garage that was part of our old parsonage and opened a community food pantry 3 years ago, that now serves about 50 families a week. Because of this outreach, people are being greeted with the love of Jesus and relationships are being built. We have 2 other churches in town that eagerly support the food pantry as well, and because of the cooperative spirit between the churches new friendships are being formed and our “differences” have become much less important and our common bonds as brothers and sisters in Christ have been brought to the forefront. We join each other for worship on National Day of Prayer and other occasions and meet around the dinner table together several times a year. What sweet fellowship we enjoy and we pray God is pleased with our unity. He has blessed Our Shpherd’s Pantry in ways we could not have imagined. In times when other food pantries have empty shelves, ours have NEVER been empty and when the they have gotten close either one of the churches drops off an unexpected bounty or a neighbor comes by with a financial donation.
    We have not gotten stuck in the idea that because we are small in number that there are not big things that God can do through us. Many of our people are not able to contribute financially to the church in big ways, but the do what they are able and we value even the smallest amount, because it may be exactly what we need to meet our bills for the month. God continues to supply our needs because we are grateful for the small things in life. We realize that if we were large, we may not have welcomed the partnership of our neighboring churches and local Chamber of Commerce thinking we could supply the communities needs on our own. We may not appreciate the small things people are able to do whether it’s offering at church or a jar a peanut butter for Our Shepherd’s Pantry. We may not realize the value of a friendly widow who makes sure that shut-ins receive a bulletin and a note each week, paying the postage herself. While we pray daily for God to send us the people He wants us to reach, and we do our part by reaching out to the community, we know He may not desire for us to ever be “Large” but we will be “Small” and value what He has given us to do.
    Thank you again,

    • Mark says:

      Thank you, Barb, for a great testimony. And remember that you are in my prayers as you face your health challenges.

    • Mark says:

      Thank you, Barb. I, too, have served small churches, and it’s interesting that some of my best stories of redemption and life-change come from those congregations. God works in and through small churches just like he does big ones. Keep up the good work!

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