Everything’s better if you super-size it

Published 5:57 pm Tuesday, October 8, 2019

By Charles Qualls

The football player goes back to his hometown and everyone marvels at how much muscle the strength-and-conditioning coach has put on him. People pat him on the back and kind aunts and uncles squeeze his biceps. He knows the question will come eventually: “How much do you bench press?”

The question at the denominational gathering, or at the family reunion, sounds innocent enough. “So, how many church members do you have?” We can give them the benefit of the doubt. Consciously or unconsciously, though, we may realize they are actually trying to calculate whether we are important or not. It is the ecclesial version of “How much can you bench press?”

For a time, architects and companies in major cities seemed to be in a race to see who could build the tallest building. For years, the Empire State Building in New York seemed to be the standard. Nowadays, it does not even make the list of the 25 tallest in the world.

We seem to be obsessed with seeing how big we can make things. In 1955, the “large” drinking cup at America’s largest fast-food restaurant chain was 7 oz. That was a standard size, and the only size. Now, the large is more than 4 times that size, at 32oz. Or as we call it at our house, “a swimming pool with a straw!”

A standard french-fry serving was 2.4 oz. back then. But now a “small” fry is 2.6 oz and the “large” serving is 5.9 oz or more than twice the size a standard one used to be. It should come as no surprise, of course, that in general we Americans have “super-sized” ourselves right along with our food orders.

Entertainers from Elvis to Elton John and from Liberace to Lady Gaga have always costumed themselves in over-the-top ways that made sure their music wasn’t the only thing that “wow’d!” you. Our culture, despite every rational thing we should know about health and quality, about sustainability and decorum still seems to whisper to each of us the same lie: “Everything’s better if you super-size it.” Houses. Cars. Churches and companies. We even seem to do our faith that way, too, if we’re not careful.

One day, the disciples walked up to our Lord and asked him to “Increase their faith!” This happened in Luke 17: 1-6. Jesus had just taught them concerning forgiveness. There was an existing Hebrew standard for the practice of forgiveness. However, his disciples could tell he was serious about it. They pressed him, and his response was overwhelming. The notion seemed radical to them.

They sensed they weren’t ready to be that grace-filled. So, they asked for more faith. Jesus’ response probably confused them more than they already were. “If you had faith even as large as a mustard seed, you could ask a mulberry tree to move and it would relocate itself into the sea.”

In other words, you don’t need more faith or bigger faith. You need real faith. You need the faith you have to be genuine and grounded in Jesus’ own teachings.

You want to know how to recognize a super-sized life and faith? It’s not necessarily going to be the loudest God-talker in the room. Probably won’t be the person who says the most, either. Might not be the handsomest or prettiest. It’s not likely to be the biggest presence who dominates the room when they walk in. Nor even the person who has the brightest personality around.

No. You probably aren’t looking for anything big or flashy. Nothing obvious or opulent. Nothing over the top or expensive. Just things we can all relate to. Reliable, proven things that look like Christ. Qualities like goodness. Faithfulness. Generosity. Also, be looking for folks who are loving, kind, considerate, empathetic and willing. In other words, people who bear a resemblance to a God who also looks like those traits.

You want to live a super-sized faith? It’s a lot more about “being” than looking, acting or sounding.

So it is supposed to be as people of faith. Also, as people living in a world that constantly tells us that if it isn’t the newest, biggest, brightest, best-known and most expensive you can get, then “it” simply isn’t worth very much. Don’t fall for the lie. Your faith doesn’t have to be super-sized in order to be huge! Your faith just needs to be real.

THE REV. DR. CHARLES QUALLS is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 562-5135.