He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”
We live in a global age. Nowadays most large companies have adjusted to this fact and are sensitive to cultural and linguistic differences that may arise in their marketing campaigns for markets abroad. This wasn't always the case though. Many companies made big mistakes when they first went abroad because they didn't pay attention to the little things. As the old adage goes, "The little things can make a big difference." Here's one example. When Coca-Cola first entered the Chinese market it chose a series of characters which rendered a sound similar to Coca-Cola. Literally it sounded like Ke-ke-ken-la. It wasn't until after they had already printed thousands of signs that the executives at Coke found out that the literal rendering of the characters meant "bite the wax tadpole" in one Chinese dialect. Needless to say this probably didn't help sales. Coke later changed it's Chinese brand name to Ko-kou-ko-le which means "happiness in the mouth."
Little things really do make a big difference sometimes, and I think that this pretty well sums up what Jesus meant by his parable of the mustard seed. It's easy for us to think about Christianity (or as Jesus liked to call it "the kingdom of God") from a 21st century perspective and forget that it was ever small. It's easy for us to forget that the kingdom may have seemed insignificant back then. It consisted of mainly a carpenter turned preacher and his ragtag goup of uneducated disciples, some fisherman and some traiterous tax collectors. We look back over the centuries and see the millions of believers, all the great thinkers and theologians, the famous sermons, and the great revivals. But Christ spoke these words sometime around 30AD. Christ is going around and teaching people that the kingdom of God is at hand. It could arrive anytime now. Be ready! Watch! But people expected a glorious king to arrive in pomp and splendor and by comparison Jesus may have seemed a little disappointing. He couldn't even keep all his followers (John 6:60-71).
Christ reminds his contemporaries about the properties of the mustard seed. Though it was the smallest of their seeds, when planted and given time it grew into a tree which was large enough for birds to nest in its branches. So too is the kingdom. God chose to start small but over time it has gown larger than anyone could have imagined. This is a helpful reminder for me because there are days when what I have to offer God doesn't seem much bigger than a mustard seed. There are days when the work I am doing for the kingdom seems insignificant. On those days, it is helpful to be reminded that we serve a God who uses the small things. A God who oftentimes starts with what little we have to offer and then mulitplies it by the power of His Spirit to do great things. (John 6:1-15).
So if you are feeling like what you have to offer God is a little insignificant remember that we serve the guy who bragged on a widow for offering a mite! (Mark 12:41-44) So stop worrying about the fact that you aren't the next Billy Graham. Simply do what God has called and gifted you to do and trust Him to use it for His glory. If you work the security team at your church do it to His glory. If you keep babies in the nursery, do it for His glory. If you serve on the Finance Committee do it for His glory and trust Him to take your small offering and make a big impact. Don't use this as an excuse though. You may feel like you are insignificant in the kingdom because you legitmately aren't doing anything. You aren't serving the Lord in any way. You aren't speaking to your neighbors or your friends about salvation. You aren't serving your church or even going to church at all. If so, then remember that the small things make a big difference in your life too. Start doing the little things that you know you are supposed to be doing. Go to church. Pray. Tell someone else about Jesus; plant a seed in their life. Start small and surrender yourself to God to do the rest over time. Remember the kingdom starts small and small things can make a big difference.
For further reading...
Mark 12:41-44 - The widow's mite.