Thursday, September 15, 2005

Faithful in Little, Faithful in Much

When the Master returned after having entrusted his servants with various sums of money (talents), those who multiplied his "investment" were granted this blessing: "Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your Lord" (Mt. 25:21). The one who hid his talent in the ground, however, was cursed and cast out for being "wicked and lazy." Why? Because there is a spiritual principle involved here, one He'd like to share with us: "He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and he who is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much" (Lk. 16:10). If the slothful servant was unfaithful in a simple task entrusted to him, the Master surely couldn't trust him with anything really important, so he could no longer be counted among the Master's servants.

The same principle applies in our own lives. We can't expect to cut corners in small matters, be a little lazy, tell a few "white lies," get a little curious about forbidden things -- and at the same time think that when something really serious or important comes up, we'll surely rise to the occasion and do the right thing. It doesn't work that way. Why? Because the way we think and act, even in small things, forms our character in a certain way, perhaps imperceptibly in any particular situation, but if we become habitually unfaithful in little things, we will also be unfaithful in the big ones. Some people think that the prime of life is for making money and engaging in various forms of self-indulgence -- they can repent and "get religion" when they are old and unable to enjoy their former pleasures anyway. But if you disregard the commandments all your life, chances are you will not repent in old age, either.

On the other hand, our fidelity in small matters (avoiding scrupulosity, of course) will form our character in such a way that we will also be faithful in greater things. Our lives are composed mostly of a long series of relatively little things, so how we handle them indicates what kind of person we are and how we are likely to handle other things. Ultimately, it is not our accomplishments themselves that really matter, but how the things we do make us who we are, that is, how what we do forms our character, either as faithful or unfaithful. Do we sacrifice ethical principles for the sake of success? Do we allow the Gospel and the Church to form our conscience in truth and love, in morality and justice -- or do we learn all the ways to get an advantage through little compromises? The little ones will soon turn into big ones.

St Francis de Sales once said: "We shall soon be in eternity; then we shall see how unimportant were all the things of this world, and how little it mattered whether they were accomplished or not." What does it profit someone to gain the world and lose his soul?

Start small. Be faithful in little things. There will come a time when God will entrust you with much. When more is given, more is required in return. On the other hand, he who has (that is, who has been faithful) will be blessed still more. The main thing is not to be unfaithful, even in a little. That begins the moral and spiritual degeneration that ends in the outer darkness. Rather, be a good and faithful servant, and enter into the joy of your Lord.