Everyone Can Do Something

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.

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Life is Not Fair

My fifth grade teacher used to tell us all that time, “the only person who gets to decide your future is YOU,” and “YOU are the one who determines whether or not you are happy and successful in life.”

Even at that age, something just did not seem exactly right about what she was saying. I knew enough about my own life and the lives of those around me to know that life is not at all fair, and a lot of the things that can hurt us deeply may not be under our control.

The Bible acknowledges this, too. Was it fair, when in 2 Samuel 11, Uriah’s death was secretly orchestrated by King David, who had his eye on Uriah’s wife? What about in Genesis 37-40 when Joseph was thrown into a pit, or sold into slavery, or framed for rape, or forgotten about to waste away in prison? What about in Joshua 7 when thirty-six men lost there lives at Ai because of a sin that Achan had committed in the previous battle at Jericho?

Yet in the midst of all of the unfairness, the Bible offers hope, and not despair.

Romans 12:19 quotes Deuteronomy 32:35 in reminding us that God is aware of everything that goes on, and He will settle all accounts in the end, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

Exodus 22:21-23 reminds us that he sees and cares about mistreatment, “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. If you afflict him at all, and if he does cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry.”

Psalm 68:5-6 assures us that he cares for the downtrodden: “A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, Is God in His holy habitation. God makes a home for the lonely; He leads out the prisoners into prosperity, Only the rebellious dwell in a parched land.”

Not only does the Bible assure us that God sees that which is unfair in our world; it also reminds us to stop using our misfortune as an excuse, but rather to get back up and take responsibility for those things that we are able to control.

In Joshua 7:7-9, Joshua was in great despair because all of Israel was suffering and he did not know why. “Alas, O Lord God, why did You ever bring this people over the Jordan, only to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? If only we had been willing to dwell beyond the Jordan! O Lord, what can I say since Israel has turned their back before their enemies? For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it, and they will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will You do for Your great name?”

God’s response was powerful: “Rise up! Why is it that you have fallen on your face?” He then gave Joshua specific instructions on how to take charge and be proactive about the situation, rather than whining.

Maybe that was what my teacher was trying to tell us. No, life is not at all fair. No, we cannot control what other people do. Just as people mistreated Jesus, they will mistreat us. But we can still take responsibility for our own actions, and we can go out in the strength of the LORD to do good in His name.