In Matt. 25 and Luke 19, Jesus gives parables showing that your faithfulness/stewardship with the things God has given you in this life directly relates to the spiritual and eternal riches you will be given. He says things like, “You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much,” (Matt. 25:21).
Similarly, in Luke 16:1-13, Jesus talks about someone who was planning for a future day where he would have to give an account of his faithfulness and stewardship to his master. The moral of the story was: “If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?” (Luke 16:11-12)
In other words, your faithfulness with small and temporary things corresponds directly with God giving you large and eternal things. Now consider this:
- Elijah called Elisha into a prophetic ministry when he found the young man, “plowing with twelve yoke of oxen in front of him,” (1 Kings 19:19). See, Elisha was being called as a prophet to the 12 tribes of Israel, but it started with him being faithful in taking care of 12 oxen.
- When David was anointed as a king of Israel, he was, “keeping the sheep” (1 Sam. 16:11). This corresponded to his faithfulness in watching over the sheep of Israel as their king. And, in contrast, when Saul (the unfaithful king) was anointed as Israel’s king, he was looking for (but not finding) his father’s donkeys (1 Sam. 9). See, as he was not able to tend donkeys, so was he unable to tend the people of Israel, which caused God to anoint David as king, instead.
- Or when Moses met God in a burning bush and was commissioned to lead Israel out of Egypt and through the desert, guess what he was doing? “Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law…and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness,” (Ex. 3:1). You read that right. He was leading a flock of sheep through the desert when God told him that he would lead His sheep (i.e. Israel) through the desert. Even more, we find that God only began to speak to Moses, “When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see [the burning bush],” (Ex. 3:4). In other words, Moses’ faithfulness to turn aside toward the Lord-in-the-burning-bush showed God that he could speak His words to this person. If he was not faithful to turn, it is questionable if God would have ever spoken.
And this carries over into the N.T. as well. As Watchman Nee points out in his book, What Shall This Man Do?, the ministries of Peter, Paul, and John directly correspond to the task they were doing when the Lord called them:
- Peter was catching fish when called by Jesus (Matthew 4:18; Mark 1:16). Correspondingly, his ministry was one of evangelism. He was the first person to preach the gospel to the Jews (Acts 2) and the Gentiles (Acts 10). He “caught his fish,” spiritually. He was given a vision of a sheet coming down (similar structure to a net catching fish), and was shown that this means God wants him to “catch” the Gentiles, too (Acts 10). However, fish in a net need more structure. They need a formation. And so…
- Paul was building tents when (and after) Jesus called him (Acts 18:3). He took an unformed group of Christians and was given a primary role of shaping the church, and teaching them how to live and work together after they are believers. As he formed physical tents by trade, he also was forming God’s spiritual tabernacle through his words and deeds. This is the thrust of the N.T. letters written by Paul. But…
- When Jesus called John as a disciple, he was repairing nets (Matt. 4:21; Mark 1:19). It is true he was with Peter as they fished together, but his role, at the time of his calling, was one of mending the nets. And, remarkably, the ministry of John (as seen through his written works in the N.T.) was always one of restoring and mending. John’s gospel comes after Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and the church has historically believed his gospel came to correct errors that the people had misread into Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Similarly, John’s 3 letters, and the book of Revelation are placed at the end of the N.T., and their function is to “repair” places where the church had been missing the mark. He spiritually fulfilled the task he was physically doing when Jesus called him.
Peter caught fish, Paul built the structure, and John repaired what had been tearing.
The theme is consistent in the O.T. and N.T. – the physical, seemingly meaningless tasks set the trajectory for the larger ministry God gave them. For the believer, this ministry may happen later in their life, but it ultimately foreshadows the tasks God will grant in eternity…all based on how we steward the small and seemingly meaningless tasks before us.
Sort of changes the value of all those things we do while wishing we were doing the “really important” things…doesn’t it?