In Praise of Grunt Work

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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A great storm mercilessly lashes a small island. The clouds pass, and a father and his son walk down to the beach where the sea’s surge has washed tens of thousands of starfish onto the beach, all dying in the sun. The little boy frantically begins throwing them back into the sea, and the man puts a gentle hand on the boy’s heaving shoulders.

“Son, there are too many. You can’t make any difference.” The boy pauses to consider a starfish in his hand. “It makes a difference to this one,” he says. And he tosses it back into the sea.

The unsinkable Titanic breaks apart and a thousand souls perish. The small rivets securing the massive steel plates were inferior material. The steel plates themselves become brittle in the cold because they contain too much phosphorous. On impact with the iceberg, the hull buckles and water seeps in between the plates.

The mighty Challenger, America’s first shuttle disaster, hurled to the earth in flame because of defects in its small rubber O-rings.

“For want of a nail the shoe is lost, for want of a shoe, the horse is lost, for want of a horse, a rider is lost,” George Herbert wrote.

When we think we’re too good, too busy, too proud, too important, too valuable for the small jobs, then it is the small job that will eventually cause our undoing.

Jesus didn’t pastor a mega-church in California or head a mighty para-church organization from Colorado Springs. He focused on children, lilies, sparrows, the wounded, the weak, the lame. He heralded the woman giving the widow’s mite, not the rich and powerful magistrate.

Mother Teresa once said, “We cannot do great things on this earth. We can only do small things with great love.” Jesus never ranged more than a few dozen miles from his humble place of birth.

So what is grunt work? Nothing less than the business of heaven.

“For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them . . . ” Rom. 12:4-6a