You may have heard the saying, “no one can do everything, but everyone can do something.” This was certainly true of the Hebrews who had returned to Jerusalem from exile and were led by Nehemiah to rebuild the broken walls.
The entire third chapter of Nehemiah lists family after family and details which section of the wall each family worked on. When it became apparent that the people needed to be vigilant against military threats while they did the work, they divided up responsibilities and worked twice as hard.
Nehemiah says, “I stationed men in the lowest parts of the space behind the wall, the exposed places, and I stationed the people in families with their swords, spears and bows. When I saw their fear, I rose and spoke to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people: ‘Do not be afraid of them; remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives and your houses.’”
No individual family in Israel could have rebuilt the wall or protected the city in the meantime. It was only possible because so many individuals stepped up and did their part. No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.
Sometimes, like Elijah when he despaired before God that he had failed as a prophet, we feel like we have to do everything ourselves or face utter failure. The truth is that if we each do what we are individually capable of, God’s kingdom can thrive and grow.
At other times, we may feel that whatever we can personally contribute to the kingdom is so insignificant that it is essentially worthless. We must be reminded of what Jesus said about a poor widow who gave two small coins to the Lord: ‘Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.’”
The job of Elijah was not to singlehandedly restore God’s nation to righteousness all on his own. He simply had to be faithful and do his part, and God would raise up 7,000 others to help him. The job of the poor widow was not to climb the corporate ladder and give large sums of money each year to charity. She simply had to live her own life and use her own resources in a way that glorified God.
No single person who reads this article can fix the whole world or do all of the work in the kingdom. But each of us can live our lives in a way that makes the world a better place. We can use our lives as votes for justice, righteousness, and truth. We can treat others the way that we would want to be treated.
In the parable of the talents, the man with only one talent did not get in trouble because he only had one talent. He got in trouble because he did not use it.
Maybe you are good at talking to strangers and acquaintances about God, or conducting Bible studies. Maybe you have a gift for speaking the truth in love and holding your brothers and sisters accountable when they stray. Maybe you are good at preaching or teaching, or at encouraging others with smiles, kind words, food, cards, visits, or phone calls. Maybe you have a passion for acts of service and charity. Maybe you can give a lot of money.
Maybe some days you do not feel like you are good at any of those things. Sometimes we can be our own worst critics. But what God asks of us, and what He asked of the families mentioned in Nehemiah, and what He asked of Elijah, and of the poor widow with the two little coins, is that we just do what we can. If we all do that, great things will happen.