"I don't really believe in great things"

Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord God of hosts;
let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel.

For it is for your sake that I have borne reproach,
that shame has covered my face.
I have become a stranger to my brethren,
an alien to my mother's sons.
For zeal for your house has consumed me,
and the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me. (Ps 69.6-9)

These lines caught my eye this morning. It made me think of something I was just reading in a Christian magazine, two interesting pieces concerning a popular young Christian speaker, author, and activist. A former "evangelical" who switched to a social justice emphasis (a pretty popular move to make these days, partially due to this guy's media exposure). The first piece was critical of one of the largest Christian publishing companies, saying they've turned the gospel into a source of huge profits. Which is a pretty good point. But the writer was a bit conflicted, because he had also just written an endorsement for a new book (by the popular young speaker/author/activist) published by that very same publishing company.

The second piece was by the young speaker/author/activist himself, describing a scene at one of his public appearances. Speaking to a crowd of 10,000 young people, he lamented "the sad irony of us speakers getting paid big bucks to preach a Gospel that says give all your money to the poor." So he asked for the $4000 honorarium in one dollar bills, and offered them to the crowd, telling them to take a dollar to mark their commitment to spend time with someone in need and get to know them. Which is a pretty good idea. He told them, "I could try to do great things with the money, but I don't really believe in great things—I believe in small things done with great love." Not a bad message.

But these two uncomfortable, conflicted situations make me wonder. Especially when contrasted with the lines of that psalm, or the life of Jesus. Did Jesus ever face anything like the pressure to endorse a profitable religious institution, or struggle to figure out what to do with the large speaking fees he was earning?

The only time I recall Jesus being invited to speak at an official religious event, he offended the audience so badly they tried to throw him off a cliff. Usually he just preached on hillsides or along a shore. There was a time when popular support for Jesus was strong enough that the people hoped to make him king, but Jesus carefully avoided that—and the next day he preached such a challenging sermon that many of his followers left him. In the end (as in the psalm), the popular opinion was that Jesus should be done away with.

The message about doing small things with great love is a good one. But if it's love we're interested in, love like Jesus' love, then there's no need for big organizations to draw crowds or big corporations to advertise our message and print thousands of copies. Jesus had no need for the wealth and power of men. They could offer little to further his message of complete dependence on the one God—they actually worked against it. For Jesus' love there was a different way.