I read a graduation sentiment advising the graduate to go do great big things, go change the world. A verse popped in my head from Zechariah 4:10. The context is different, so I’m not attempting to make scripture fit where it doesn’t. But the sentiment still rings true. “For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.”
In the book of Zechariah, the Israelites had been back from exile in Babylon for 20 years and were discouraged. The beginning work of the temple rebuilding started strong but tapered off because of much opposition. In verse 10 of chapter 4, he is reminding the people that God is always at work even when we can’t see it. Often God’s “big” works are seen after many years of small acts of faithfulness and steadiness. Zechariah was reminding the people that though they despised their days of small works, they would soon rejoice when they witnessed the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel, the leader of God’s people at that time.
The plumb line could be considered a small thing, but it was crucial in the building of the temple. The plumb line guided the wall building, keeping them lined up properly in order that they last over time. The big work of the temple would have been impossible without countless small acts easily bypassed as unimportant.
Some graduates will go on to do “great” things like find a cure for cancer or invent the next technological advance. But those graduates are in the slim minority. We’d do better to encourage them to build a life doing small things with dedication and faithfulness. Small things aren’t applauded by the world. Small acts of faithfulness create a heart of humility, one who doesn’t seek attention and accolades. We need more of that.
Graduates, go do your small work well.
- Wake early and make your bed daily.
- Work with your hands. Scrub a toilet, take out the trash, pull the weeds, build something.
- Notice your surroundings and fill that need. Even if it’s not your job.
- Study hard even if you think you don’t need to.
- Serve someone other than yourself every single day.
- Smile at people everywhere you go.
- Open the door for the person walking behind you.
- Let the car out instead of jetting out first.
- Bend down and pick up the trash in the parking lot.
- Tell the person that nice thought you had about them.
- Master your gift or talent. Practice until the boredom is too much to bear.
- Listen even if you disagree.
- Become a person who keeps your promise even to yourself.
- Read books – they will change your life.
- Find life work that brings you life.
- Be kind to everyone. There’s never an excuse to be rude.
- Look up. See the world around you. Screens offer counterfeit moments of life.
- Show up on time.
- Don’t quit because things get hard.
- Do that thing you don’t feel like doing. Feelings don’t dictate your life.
- Learn how to problem solve.
- Love learning. More learning happens outside the education system.
- Love God with your whole heart.
- See, really see, the people around you.
- Be confident in your small work even if culture sees it differently.
- Tell the truth. Always.
- Spend time with God daily. It’ll change your life too.
- Be a good friend.
- Pick up the phone and call someone.
- Whatever you do, do it unto God.
So this list isn’t really about what work one chooses to do, it’s about the person you are becoming as you do the work set before you. That’s what matters most. As you move about your day and your life, do every small thing faithfully, humbly, and steadfastly.
Who am I becoming? Who I am in the Lord sets me up for whatever work I do daily. Small or big, I can celebrate it.
Living an honest life in the Lord, doing small acts daily, will build into a life you simply can’t imagine today.
So, graduates, you are free to choose the path of small work. Your small work matters! The things that don’t bring recognition on stage and applause from the masses, God sees them all. One day you will stand before God and see how every small thing accumulated into a treasured life.