Small

Cabbages and Kings

eople are big! Jesus healed a blind man who, upon opening his eyes, said he saw people as trees walking (Mark 8:24). Seeing them as trees? Me too. I see their feet, but, since I’m nearsighted, their tops are out of sight. In people culture, bigger is better.

A boy in catechism class said to another, “My dad is taller than yours.”

One girl said to another, “I hope to marry someone who is tall, dark, and handsome.” Why all this preoccupation with size?

My son, influenced by popular culture, is off to college, studying to be a rat because, he says, “Bigger is better.”

The Israelites in the Bible were proud of their first king, Saul, who was a head taller than any of the people (1 Sam. 10:23). Goliath’s 9 feet (270 cm) in height inspired fear in God’s army.

Creatures in my world of animals such as elephants and giraffes can claim the prize for size. But all of this only proves that God is a lover of variety:

All creatures great and small, the Lord God made them all.

People should not look down on me because of my size. After all, a germ can kill a person.

We have a book in our church library, Gulliver’s Travels, written by Jonathan Swift. They called him “Dean” because he was one of the higher-ups in the church. His book is a satire.

The Dean said that a human has a body no finer or nobler than that of a horse or ape. He said that an army general with a decorated chest would look like a pitiful dwarf in the eyes of a giant. He illustrated his point by writing a story in which a man, Gulliver, visits a country, Lilliput, where all the people are no taller than 6 inches (15.2 cm). When their king stands on the sleeping Gulliver’s chest, dressed in all his finery, and draws himself up to all of his 5-and-a-half inches to look Gulliver in the eye, the reader must understand what English literature’s greatest satirist is saying.

To paraphrase Psalm 8: “What is man who is no bigger than a mouse?” And what are the people in our church, some of whom sit on back benches beneath which I hide, some of whom suffer from flatulence, befouling the air with innocent expressions?

But the God who notes the sparrow’s fall loves them all. Yet instead of being humbled by the thought, many stand as a general on Gulliver’s chest and argue as to which of them will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 18:1).

Bigger is better? Some in our church suffer from an edifice complex. They want us to become a mega-church. They forget what Gresham Machen, founder of Westminster Seminary, once observed when he said that smaller is better when a membership loss results from faithfulness in the pulpit.

Of course, I do hope we will grow. There might be more for me to eat. Still, I do worry a bit when babies in the nursery, when asked how big they are, are taught to raise their little arms while their attendants yell, “So big!” I hope someday those babies will stand in church and sing “How Great Thou Art.” But such words are not easily wrung from the hearts of those who think they are pretty big themselves.

I overheard the young people last week admiring a football fullback. “He’s really big!” said one. Said another, disdainfully, “Oh well, the bigger they are, the harder they fall.”

That’s not true spiritually. The smaller they are, the harder they fall . . . and worship.

About the Author

Rev. Jacob D. Eppinga was pastor emeritus of LaGrave Avenue Christian Reformed Church, in Grand Rapids, Mich. He went to be with his Lord March 1, 2008. This column concludes his popular “Cabbages and Kings” series, which he wrote for 40 consecutive years. Watch for It’s All Grace, a collection of his best and more recent columns to be published in book form this fall by Faith Alive Christian Resources.
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