Jesus said, “What is the Kingdom of God like? To what can I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that a man took and planted in the garden. When it was fully grown, it became a large bush and the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches.” Again he said, “To what shall I compare the Kingdom of God? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch of dough was leavened.” (Luke 13:18-21)
The parables of the mustard seed and of yeast are well known to most Christians. So well known, in fact, that we forget how directional they are in pointing us to the kingdom of God.
The parable of the mustard seed allows us to visualize the future fruitfulness of our seemingly small actions on behalf of Christ whether they be small prayers, small sacrifices, or small, hidden acts of virtue. These are tiny, from the world’s perspective—not worthy of even a footnote in the annals of the relentless 24/7 news cycle, let alone a headline. And yet, hidden within these tiny acts of faith and responses to God’s grace is a great future, just as the tiny mustard seed contains in potency the largest of shrubs. Contemplating this comparison will enable us to continue committing ourselves to the small things, the things that don’t appear in the headlines, but the things that will be fruitful for an everlasting Kingdom.
The story of leaven in the dough allows us to visualize the hidden and transforming power of faith, hope, and love, of the grace and truth brought into the world by the Gospel. The leaven literally disappears within the mass of dough. In comparison with the dough, its weight and volume are insignificant. And yet, the entire loaf is affected by that leaven. It is changed and transformed. Just so, Christians living their faith authentically may be indistinguishable on the outside from their neighbors, their coworkers, their comrades, while their witness, their mere presence, gradually works a transformation not only of their inner circles, but even of entire communities, societies, and cultures.
We live in a culture that values what is big and impressive. We get excited about new car or better clothes or the most recent laptop or smart phone. And we are so keyed into these big and impressive things that at times we overlook what seems to be less. That is unfortunate, because small things matter. They matter because God uses them, and they matter in two different ways. They matter in the actions that we do, and they matter in the things we receive.
As we live any day or our life, we should never discount the small things we can do: a word of love or support to our spouse, a few moments to affirm a son or daughter about something they are good at or something that they have achieved, a phone call to a friend who is grieving the death of a loved one, or even a thankful smile instead of a vacant stare as we approach the cashier in the supermarket. These are all small things, tiny things, things that could seem to have no significance. Yet they can be important because God can choose to use them to build up some person in our lives and to increase the goodness around us. We should never discount doing small things in the course of every day.
But neither should we overlook the importance of receiving small things each day. For each day there are people in our lives who give us signs of love and support. How much richer our lives would be if we were open to accept those signs and take them in: the smile of our 3-year-old as we come home from work, the person who breaks to let us into traffic, a friend who says to us, “How are you? How are you really?” All of these are signs that God is using to show us that we are loved and that there are reasons for hope.
Big and flashy things always seem important. But small things matter. Things as little as a mustard seed can shape our lives. We can be the farmer who plants the mustard seed or the soil that receives it—the giver or the receiver. In both cases small things like a mustard seed can make a difference. God uses the small things in our lives to build the kingdom of God.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus, fill me with your Holy Spirit and transform me into the Christ-like holiness you desire. Let me grow in your love by reaching out in love in all things. Even the shadow of my outstretched hand shows another that I desire to act in holiness and love in all things.”
Even if at present, the kingdom seems to be one of the tiniest of seeds, we know that that tiny seed — the grain of wheat that fell to the ground and died so that it could bear fruit, Christ himself (Jn 12:24) — already contains within the fullness of the kingdom, just as a mustard seed already contains in “fertilized embryo” the full identity of the future mustard tree. Likewise, the image of the Kingdom as yeast points to us the confidence Christ has that, together with him, one or a few faith-filled hopeful Christians in a neighborhood, in a work setting, in a school, are enough to lift up the entire environment. The confidence comes from our already having received in the present in embryonic form the power of Christ’s resurrection, which has lifted up the entire fallen world.