Fuller

Living a Mustard-Seed Life

September 28, 2021 • Life for Leaders

Scripture – Luke 13:18-19 (NRSV)

He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.”

Focus

Today, you may not be engaged in “big tree with bird nests” kingdom work, but if you seek God’s guidance in all you do, if you are committed to do everything in the name of the Lord (Colossians 3:17), then the kingdom of God is truly present in your life in lots of “mustard seed” size actions.

Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.

Devotion

As a citizen of the United States, I have relatively little personal experience of an actual kingdom. Most of what I know about royalty comes from television, watching British royal weddings or the award-winning TV series “The Crown.”

But, in spite of my inexperience, I can say with confidence that kingdoms are often full of pomp and circumstance. When a king or queen shows up somewhere, it’s time to pull out all the stops. And when the Crown puts on a royal wedding, it isn’t what you’d call subtle.

The association of kingdom and bigness isn’t anything new, and it isn’t reserved for the British. In the first century A.D., when the Jewish people envisioned the coming of the kingdom of God, they pictured something even more spectacular than a British royal wedding. The King of kings would come with earthquakes and fire, with thunder and lightning. The whole world couldn’t miss it. Every nation would take notice.

Thus, when Jesus talked about the coming of the kingdom of God, his listeners were surely confused. Yes, many were also intrigued. But what Jesus said about the kingdom didn’t match their expectations. For example, when he said that the kingdom of God is “like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden,” this would have been perplexing. Mustard seeds were tiny. And when sowed in a garden, they would have been completely invisible, at least for a season. The kingdom as a tree big enough for bird nests might have gotten traction with Jesus’s audience, but it takes a long time for a tiny seed to become a bit tree. This just wasn’t what faithful Jews were expecting or hoping for.

Though we live in a different time and culture, and though we may not have much experience of royal galas, we may also expect God to do it up big. We’re impressed by big churches, big concerts, big preachers, and big results. Things the size of a mustard seed just don’t cut the mustard with us, if you’ll pardon a garish pun.

But the truth is that God is still in the mustard seed business. Yes, sometimes the kingdom of God shows signs of its future growth. But, for the most part, God’s work in this world happens in small ways, in faithful actions that are virtually invisible. A boss treats an employee with unexpected kindness. A colleague stands up for a co-worker who is unfairly treated because of her race. An older adult invests in the life of a neighborhood kid whose father is serving overseas in the military. And so forth and so on. Each day throughout the world, the kingdom of God shows up in millions of actions that will never make headlines.

Today, you may not be engaged in “big tree with bird nests” kingdom work, but if you seek God’s guidance in all you do, if you are committed to do everything in the name of the Lord (Colossians 3:17), then the kingdom of God is truly present in your life in lots of “mustard seed” size actions.

Reflect

When you think of the kingdom of God in the world today, what comes to mind? What ideas? What images? What feelings?

Are you ever tempted to think that what you do for the Lord doesn’t matter because it’s not big enough? Or are you happy to be engaged in kingdom works of the mustard seed variety.

Act

Do something today – something small, perhaps something nobody will ever see – as an expression of God’s reign in your life.

Pray

Lord Jesus, I must confess that I can be overly impressed by big things. Thus, I can easily discount my contribution to the activity of your kingdom in the world. After all, I’m mostly in the “mustard seed” category of kingdom life.

Help me, Lord, not to worry about whether what I accomplish is big or small. Rather, may I seek to serve you in dozens of mustard seed activities. May I do this in my and in my home life, in my neighborhood and in my church.

To you be all the glory. Amen.

Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: The Mustard Seed Kingdom


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