“Whoever is faithful in… little is faithful also in Much.” 

“Hunting Wild Hogs in Arkansas,” is the title of a picture hanging in my house.  It’s from the November 26, 1887, Harper’s Weekly.  It’s by an artist known in his day more for his scenes of the Civil War. (1) Two men on horses, rifles in hand are in the woods with their dogs looking for hogs.  Their dogs have  a vicious one cornered, tusks bared, in a fight to the finish. He’s as mean and ferocious a Razorback as you would ever care to see.

Joey came by the other day to look after our horses.  He’s our horseshoer. We got talking about one thing and another and finally got talking about hunting. I don’t but he really enjoys it. With some buddies he hunts hogs. I didn’t know people did that much anymore. Then he told me a story.

A few years ago, he and some buddies decided to go hunt some hogs.  He got up pretty early, got everything together, and was getting ready to go.  Then he noticed his little boy, who was three at the time, standing by the door. He wanted to go hunting with his dad. His dad told him, no, you can’t go with me. Maybe when you’re bigger. The little boy started crying, really crying.

Who decides what readings will be read each Sunday morning? It’s determined by what we call a Lectionary. On a given Sunday usually there will be readings from the Old Testament, the Psalms, one of the Epistles from the New Testament, and then a reading from one of the Gospels.  Without getting too detailed the Lectionary for Sunday readings are set up on a three-year basis. In preaching generally the Gospel receives the major emphasis.

My reason for going into even this much detail is, what do you do if you are assigned to bring the message on a Sunday and the Gospel reading is one of those “hard” sayings of Jesus or one of his parables that’s a little bit difficult to figure out.

I suspect you can sort of figure out where this is going.

Usually a preacher can resort to a “Plan B” because, of course, there are readings other than the Gospel for a particular day that can be chosen for emphasis in the sermon.

I guess all this hemming and hawing on my part is to say that I’ve found the Gospel reading for this particular Sunday morning challenging, really challenging. There I’ve said it.

Why would a rich man who has heard that his manager is squandering his property and who has now told that manager “you cannot be my manager any more”  turn around and commends the manager when he accepts as “paid in full” only part of the amounts owed by the debtors?  Only 50% in the case of one and only 80% of the amount owed by another? Surely that is squandering his property yet now the rich man commends the manager.

I guess I have to remember that these are stories Jesus is telling – parables intended to teach about traits, about how to live, not about actual situations.  So good are most of his stories that we think of the Good Samaritan, for example, as a real person.

As a good storyteller Jesus also used humor.  Jesus has the manager say, “What will I do, now that my master is taking this position from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg.” It probably got a great laugh from his audience well acquainted as they were with the long hours and strenuous requirements of real work in that day or who understood firsthand the shame and embarrassment of those who had to resort to begging.

But maybe there’s another aspect that makes this story plausible to one who hears it today as we have heard it read – and to those who heard it from Jesus the first time he told it.  It is the matter of the Receivables.  The rich man is owed 100 jugs of olive oil and 100 containers of wheat along with other debts.

How long has he been owed these amounts?  How have they been paid in the past?  They may well have been notations on a ledger but what was the probability that the rich man would actually receive those amounts?   Amounts written on a Ledger are just marks on a piece of paper until actually paid.  On one the manager accepted 50 cents on the dollar and the other 80 cents on the dollar and the rich man was happy.  Maybe the rich man felt that by astute discounting the manager salvaged something rather than the high probability of collecting little or nothing on these accounts.

After telling this story Jesus did talk about its meaning.  And one of the things he said is “whoever is faithful in … little is faithful also in much…And whoever is dishonest in very little and is dishonest also in much.”

Maybe the second part of that is a little more obvious:  An employee who steals a little would probably have little problem in stealing a lot given the opportunity.  We could say that a great theft was probably preceded by a very small and minor one. But without the first and minor theft there would never be a large and major one.

But maybe Jesus was more interested in the first point he made, “whoever is faithful in…little is faithful also in much.”  I think Jesus is not unhappy with me because I don’t rob banks – but He and I know that there are potential penalties for me if I get caught robbing a bank.  Therefore, I and most people don’t rob banks.

But because He loves me and wants the best for me because He knows the potential for good that I – and everyone else is capable of.  And He is interested in developing those little traits of faithfulness in us so that we can grow into the type of people we are capable of becoming.

I think Jesus wants me – us – to be faithful in little things more than I am now because He knows that if I am, I am more prone to be faithful in the big things in life.  If nothing else if I – we – am faithful in the little things that becomes my – our – habit – my – our good habit.

OK, what’s your point you may be thinking to yourself.  I don’t plan on robbing any banks.

A couple of years ago I visited San Francisco and while there visited Mission Dolores. And as is my habit when I visit interesting places I picked up a small guidebook.  That night I glanced at it. Chapter Five was titled “Sainthood.” The chapter began: “Each one of us is called to sainthood or at least to some degree of holiness.  We don’t have to do astonishing and amazing things to be one; we simply have to try and turn our daily chores into small and humble offerings to God.”

Well, that sounds easy. 

Let’s start today after we leave church.

After church a friend and I are going to lunch with some other friends.  My friend suggests we go to Franke’s.  I really don’t care for it but I know my friend likes it.

I should:

  1. Go and enjoy it anyway.
  2. No, we’re not going there.  You know how I hate it.

While at lunch one of our friends expresses his opinion about a well- known political figure.  Among other things he says is that so-and-so doesn’t have the brains of a gnat.

I should:

  1. Say, ‘You may be right, but let’s not let him ruin our lunch’ and change the subject.
  2. ‘Well, you’re not exactly a rocket scientist yourself, you know,’ and enjoy the heated argument that follows.

On the way home someone runs a red-light and luckily, we stop in time before there is a collision.

I should:

  1. Express thanks that no one was hurt and go on.
  2. Let the other driver know what I think of him by what I yell at him and the hand gesture I give him.

The niece of a good friend is giving a piano recital this evening at the same time as a major football game which will be televised. She is just starting out on piano and, frankly, her talent in that area is not yet apparent. The good friend would really like to see the football game.

He should:

  1. Attend the recital and find ways to compliment what his niece has done.
  2. Call her mother and explain they can’t make it as his spouse is sick (she’s not).

As I was thinking up these situations, I found I enjoyed doing it too much.  I knew what the “right” thing to do in each situation but my heart was really sometimes in Answer “B.” I don’t know about you but I really need to do some work in these areas. Even at my age when I should know better I find that I am too impatient, too prone to lose my temper -as I think about it I do not consider the other person as much as I should – which frankly suggests to me that I’m too centered on myself rather than others.

And maybe this is Jesus’ point – it is the seemingly little challenges of each day where we have the opportunity to try and turn our daily chores into small and humble offerings to God.

Joey returned home after the hunt.  It had been a good hunt.  They managed to get several hogs.  Afterword’s they enjoyed a few cold beers as was their custom as they talked about their hunt. Yet Joey didn’t feel as good about the hunt as he usually did.

Joey noticed his son still by the door where he had been when he had left.  His wife told him, “He’s been there ever since you left.”

Joey told me, “That day I quit hunting until he was big enough to join me.”

Joey was done with the shoeing and pulled out his iPhone.  His boy is about 10 or 11 now.  Joey showed me some of the pictures of he and his boy on recent hunts.  On one of the pictures the proud youngster is behind one of the hogs he got.  His dad stands behind him smiling.




Richard Robertson

  • (1) Gilbert Gaul
  • (2) Mission Dolores by Susan P. Castillo