June 07, 2021 | Stories by Linda Opp
I'm often roped into playing Monopoly with my grandsons. In my opinion, a game of Monopoly is a good illustration of eternity, minus the benefits. But no matter how I feel about it, my love for my grandsons outweighs my objections, and so we play.
Differing Monopoly styles have become evident. The eight-year-old's style is to only purchase the expensive property so he can collect exorbitant rents. He will repeatedly pass up cheaper properties, waiting to land on Boardwalk or Park Place. Meanwhile, I am buying Baltic and Mediterranean, and consistently collecting rents of a few dollars here and there, slowly growing my pile of cash. I have a couple of houses, while he is still waiting. He doesn't understand my strategy. “Grandma, why are you buying that? You aren't going to win that way.”
Sensing a perfect life lesson here, I say something like, “Well, I'm doing something with the little I have, while you just sit there, waiting for your big break.”
He's not convinced, but I don't think this is just an issue for eight-year-olds. It goes back at least as far as the Jewish return from Babylonian exile, around 540 BC. The Persian King Cyrus, who had defeated Babylon, allowed a small contingent of Jews to return to Jerusalem and start rebuilding the Temple. You can read about the struggles this entailed in the Old Testament books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Under their encouragement, the foundation was finished.
And then God's people quit. They walked away from this project and started building their own houses. They'd lost their vision, partly because the building that was supposed to go on the foundation wouldn't be nearly as large or majestic as the one that had been destroyed seventy years earlier. And they got distracted by life, and by the economic and political obstacles of rebuilding. It seemed too hard, and what difference was this small beginning going to make, anyway?
In a series of eight visions, God speaks to the Jews and their leader Zerubbabel through the prophet Zechariah. He tells them to get on with it, because this is God's project, and he has big plans. “Not by might nor by power (like that of previous kings like David and Solomon), but by my spirit, says the Lord Almighty... Who despises (disrespects) the day of small things? Their disrespect will change to rejoicing when they see Zerubbabel putting the capstone (the final stone) in place” (Zechariah 4:6, 10).
Small things that God asks us to do are often not impressive. They may not make us feel successful or important or even liked. They might even get destroyed later. That's what happened to the Temple that got finished 22 years after Zechariah's vision. It was renovated and expanded by Herod the Great beginning 20 years before the birth of Christ but then destroyed again in 70 AD. All that remains today is the Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall. But God's plan has not been thwarted.
In 640 BC, rebuilding the Temple was the sign of God's presence with his people, and a sign to the surrounding cultures that God was at work. In Zechariah's later visions there is great emphasis on God's plans for the first and second coming of the Messiah, and the full and final realization of his kingdom. It will extend far beyond the lifetimes of Zechariah's day, reaching into eternity. The Jews were not building their own unending kingdom. They were building God's eternal kingdom. They were taking a step on the road that will one day lead to the universal worship of the King, described in Zechariah 14.
So when we're tempted to discount the importance of obedience and faithfulness in things that appear to be small or insignificant, let's remember - God's apparent small things are often big things in disguise.
In the language of Monopoly, don't wait for Park Place and Boardwalk. Do something with Baltic and Mediterranean right now.