Character Tested By Small Occurrences
The Review and Herald
October 15, 1895
Character Tested By Small Occurrences
By Mrs. E. G. White
When Christ was a guest at the house of one of the chief Pharisees, there was a man at the table who did not relish the plain, practical truths which he presented in reference to men's duty toward the poor. He did not wish to follow Christ's instruction, and call the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind, to a feast, when they could not recompense him again by a similar invitation. He did not desire to wait for recompense until the resurrection of the just. He thought that eating and drinking were the great blessings of life, and desired to turn the conversation in a different channel from that in which Christ had directed it. He fervently ejaculated, "Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God." It was not a pleasant consideration to him to have his present duties plainly set before him. His attitude was similar to that of those who rejoice that they are saved by Jesus Christ, when they do not comply with the conditions upon which salvation is promised. Christ died to make it possible for the human family to return to their allegiance to God, and to obey all his commandments. The law is a transcript of his character. Many deceive themselves in thinking that they can continue in sin, and transgress God's holy law, and yet claim Christ as their Saviour. It was disobedience to the law of God that caused Adam to suffer the loss of Eden. Jesus died to redeem the race, to save men, not in continued transgression, but to save them from their sins. No man who is enlightened by the law of God, and yet who refuses to obey that law, will ever enter the Eden of God; for he would create a second rebellion in heaven.
The man at the feast who exclaimed, "Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God," occupied a position similar to the man who is represented as coming in to the marriage supper without having on the wedding garment. This man did not realize that he must be clothed with the garment of Christ's righteousness. He was not thinking of his fitness for heaven, but of the pleasures to be enjoyed in the kingdom of God. He made no remark concerning getting ready for eating bread with the saints in light, nor thought that he must live unselfishly, and day by day fulfill the duties that God requires that men shall do for their fellow-men. He did not realize the selfishness of his course in indulging himself at his neighbor's expense, or in feasting a few favorites who would recompense him again. He did not appreciate the love that had been manifested by the Lord toward him in bestowing upon his undeserving subject a profusion of rich gifts.
Men and women are not fulfilling the design of God, when they simply express affection for their own family circle, for their rich relatives and friends, while they exclude those from their love whom they could comfort and bless by relieving their necessities. It is true that where large affection is manifested in the home circle, it not only brightens the home and brings cheerfulness and happiness to the entire family, but if love is unselfish, it will extend without the walls of the home. The manifestation of kindness, tenderness, Christian courtesy, is approved of God. The affection manifested in the home is a manifestation of Christ's love that flows through him from the heart of infinite love to bless the members of the family circle. It is love that will constitute the bliss of the heavenly family. Those who cultivate love in the homelife will form characters after Christ's likeness, and they will be constrained to exert a helpful influence beyond the family circle, in order that they may bless others by kind, thoughtful ministrations, by pleasant words, by Christlike sympathy, by acts of benevolence. They will be quick to discern those who have hungry hearts, and will make a feast for those who are needy and afflicted. Those who have heavenly discernment, who exercise tender regard for every member of the family, will, in doing their whole duty, fit themselves to do a work that will brighten other homes, and will teach others by precept and example what it is that will make home happy.
When the Lord bids us do good for others outside our home, he does not mean that our affection for home shall become diminished, and that we shall love our kindred or our country less because he desires us to extend our sympathies. But we are not to confine our affection and sympathy within four walls, and inclose the blessing that God has given us so that others will not be benefited with us in its enjoyment. However low, however fallen, however dishonored and debased others may be, we are not to despise them and pass them by with indifference; but we should consider the fact that Christ has died for them, and that if he had not given his life for us, had not caused his light to shine into our souls, we might have been even worse than those we are inclined to despise. We should remember that Jesus has purchased the fallen man or woman or youth that we are tempted to despise. They may be giving themselves over to the power of Satan, and may be uniting with Satan in obliterating the moral image of God from themselves and from others, yet the Lord Jesus looks with yearning tenderness upon the debased and profligate. He desires to redeem those who are corrupting soul, spirit, and body. He sends out his invitation to them, saying: "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
How great should be the interest of professed followers of Christ in those whom Satan has brought under his control in both mind and body, when they consider the fact that "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Christ longs to reshape the marred human character, to restore the moral image of God in men. Shall those who profess to be laborers together with God look upon those who are wretched, who are bruised, robbed, and left to perish by the adversary of God and man, and pass by on the other side as did the priest and the Levite? Though you do not say it in words, do you in sentiment entertain the thought, "Am I my brother's keeper?"
God's character is expressed in his law, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." He has expressed this love in giving his only begotten Son to a life of humiliation, of poverty, of shame, of denial, of rejection, mockery, and anguish. He expressed this love when he permitted Christ to be brought before the priests and the rulers and before the maddened multitudes, and placed beside Barabbas. Barabbas was a noted robber and murderer, and Christ was the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth; but when Pilate asked, "Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you?" the hoarse voice of the mob shrieked out, "Barabbas!" They had been instructed to make this choice by the priests and the rulers, and all heaven witnessed the result of their moral taste in the choice which they had made. They had what they desired. Barabbas, with all the stamp of crime and debasement upon him, was released unto them. When Pilate asked, "What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?" their voices were heard like the bellowing of wild beasts, "Let him be crucified!" When the governor asked, "Why, what evil hath he done?" they cried out the more, saying, "Let him be crucified!" When Pilate said to them, "Shall I crucify your King?" (now listen, O heaven, and be astonished, O earth, at the answer), they said, "We have no king but Caesar." They virtually said, "We will not have this man to reign over us." But the sacrifice that God made to redeem the fallen sons of Adam will one day appear in its true significance before those who have refused the Son of God, and rejected his invitation to come to the marriage supper. God proved that he loved his neighbor as himself by giving his only begotten Son to die for the world. We also are commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves. Some may ask, as did the lawyer, "Who is my neighbor?" The Lord Jesus has made it plain that every one who is in temporal or spiritual need is our neighbor. He has revealed the fact that it is our duty to make straight paths for our feet, lest by precept or example we lead others in the path of transgression. But the poor are never to cease out of the land. The poor are God's legacy to those who are more favorably situated. "He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker." The Lord has left the poor to the mercy of his church, not to be neglected, not to be despised and scorned, but to be treated as the Lord's inheritance. There will always be those who will need to be ministered unto. How inconsistent it is for the professed followers of Christ to furnish their own tables with everything that appetite shall dictate, while they neglect to consider the poor as the Lord has bidden them to do.
The Lord saw that it was essential for us to be surrounded with the poor, who in their helplessness and need would lay claim to our ministration. They would be an aid to us in perfecting Christian character; for in providing food for their tables and clothing for their bodies, we would cultivate the attributes of the character of Christ. If we had not the poor among us, we would lose much; for in order to perfect Christian character, we must deny self, take up the cross, and follow where Christ, our Example, leads the way. Those who extravagantly expend means in pleasing themselves in the gratification of appetite or in any other way, make self an idol, and sacrifice at the altar of self that which would give bread to the hungry, provide comfortable clothing for the naked, furnish homes for the homeless, and relieve the sorrows of the poor. The Lord says, "I will have mercy, and not sacrifice." Let us at once seek to realize what is our obligation to the Lord's human family, and do our duty to as many as possible. We may minister to few or many, but if we do our best, it is all the Lord requires. The King will say to such, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?" Christ himself became poor for our sake, that we, through his poverty, might come into possession of eternal riches. He has adopted the poor and the suffering as his own peculiar treasure, and has left them to the care of his church. His disciples are to be stewards of his gifts, and to use his bounties in relieving suffering humanity. They are to feed and clothe and shelter those who have need. Parents are to present to their children the example of being God's almoners, in order that they in turn may become missionaries, may be tenderhearted, pitiful, kind, patient laborers together with God. They are to work as co-partners with Christ to restore, to heal, to save those who are perishing.
It is by the occurrence of small things that character is developed, and that the manner of spirit that dwelleth in us is made known in our lives. There are many who undervalue the small events of life, the little deeds that are to be performed day by day; but these are not to be estimated as small, as every action tells either for the blessing or the injuring of some one. Every action tells its own story, it bears its own history to the throne of God. It is known whether it is on the side of right or on the side of wrong. It is only by acting in accordance with the principles of God's word in the small transactions of life, that we place ourselves on the right side. We are tried and tested by these small occurrences, and our character will be estimated according as our work shall be. By studying the word of God, by becoming doers of that word, we shall be strengthened of God when placed in a trying, perilous position. As we attain power to stand the small tests of every-day life, we shall thereby gain strength and knowledge that will enable us to bear the more important tests that we shall be called upon to endure. It is well for us individually to understand what a privilege is that of prayer. Nothing can so arm the soul for the conflicts of life as prayer to our Heavenly Father. Day by day as we learn of Jesus, we can display his attributes, and we shall not waver between right and wrong. As circumstances arise that require a right attitude, we shall be loyal to God, because we have trained ourselves in habits of faithfulness and truth. He who is faithful in that which is least, will acquire strength to become faithful in that which is much. The faithful soul will permit nothing to come in between itself and God; but those who are not loyal to God cannot be esteemed as wise, true, or good. Their opinion and wisdom cannot be relied upon, or trusted to control. Those who turn cowards before men's ridicule, prove that they have lost all realization of the value of Jesus. Shall we join the company of those who are acting as Satan's agents to compass the ruin of our souls? Shall we choose Barabbas before Christ? God forbid!