NOTE: In one of my favorites posts from 2019, here are my thoughts on Colossians 3:23.
In 2019’s social-media driven world, it’s all about being famous.
Today’s American culture considers entertainers, sports stars and “influencers” as the only people who are really important. That’s why the simple, plaintive words of the old country song “It’s All Right to be Little Bitty” speak so loudly to me, because they stand in such stark contrast. How appropriate that these words were written by Tom T. Hall, a man known in country music circles as “The Storyteller,” for they tell a story that everyone should hear, and take to heart.
It’s all right to be little bitty,
From a little hometown or a big ol’ city.
Might as well share, Might as well smile,
Life goes on for a little bitty while.
Tom T. Hall, 1996
This is not a condemnation of all social media. After all, I’m using social media to get this message out, and make others aware of it. But my heart, and I believe God’s heart, grieves the negative influence social media has when it leads readers to compare their lives with the non-reality often presented there. I’m not immune to this, either.
More than ever, it’s important for believers to “take their thoughts captive” in order to not fall prey to the “comparison flu.” And while they’re not scriptural, the lyrics of this song, at least for me, redirect my thinking away from what I don’t have, and who I’m not, to what is real, and what is true.
What is “little bitty?”
No one’s life is “small.” There’s at least one person out there, and more likely many people, to whom each person alive is a “big deal.” Are kids are a big deal to their parents? Uh, yeah. And even though many teenagers will deny it, parents aren’t “little bitty” to their kids, either. Wait until you lose a parent, like I did this last October.
To use an example from the work world, think about the people who live on a garbage collector’s route. To them, that garbage collector is a very big deal.
For each of us, there is only the territory – the family, work, and other relationships – given to you or to me by God. Whether God chooses to expand your or my territory, as prayed by Jabez in 1 Chronicles 4:9-10, is strictly God’s decision. And yes, God definitely cares how well each of us cares for the territory he’s given to us, both relationally and in our work.
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive an inherticance as your reward. – Colossians 3:23-24 (ESV)
I bet Martin Luther King Jr. had this verse in mind when he said these words:
If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’
What is success?
To a world that doesn’t understand God, “success” equates to income, power and position. But does God see success that way? When answering this question, I’m reminded of the scene in Steven Spielberg’s great animated movie, “Prince of Egypt,” when after rescuing Jethro’s daughters from bandits at a desert well, Moses objects to Jethro throwing a feast for him because “I’ve done nothing worthy of honor.” In response, Jethro wisely says, “It seems you do not know what is worthy of honor.”
Perhaps 21st century America doesn’t know what really defines success.
Honoring your promises to the spouse of your youth. Knowing your kids, being known by them, and being the kind of parent they should follow. Not taking the easy way out, like drugs, alcohol, and divorce, when things get tough. Taking care of your parents when they’re older and unable to take care of themselves.
Those aren’t my definitions of success. They’re in the Bible. Check ‘em out. In fact, Colossians 3 in the New Testament (the entire chapter) is a great place to start.
Called to be “little bitty”
But most importantly, John the Baptist, as he talked about Jesus Christ, set the ultimate standard for success on earth.
He must increase, but I must decrease. – John 3:30
So to “decrease,” do I need to disappear? To withdraw from life, to cease to exist? Not unless God calls me home, because otherwise the people God gave me to reach won’t hear about Him.
For me to decrease in my own life, Jesus Christ must increase.
He must increase in my thoughts, in my speech, in my deeds. He must increase in my dependence on Him. And my love for Him must increase.
When those things happen, the focus on myself naturally decreases, and the power of my witness for Him will increase.
No, I won’t go away. But I will become “little bitty.”
Because what I want others to see when they see me…is Him.