Small Things, Big Consequences

Small Things, Big Consequences (CaD Jos 16) Wayfarer

[The tribe of Ephraim] did not dislodge the Canaanites living in Gezer; to this day the Canaanites live among the people of Ephraim but are required to do forced labor.
Joshua 16:10 (NIV)

Over the next couple of days, I’m going to be working with a client and teaching them strategies for handling escalated customers over the phone. It’s the number one training and coaching request that our team gets. There are no magic pills when it comes to handling an angry customer, but there certainly are strategies that work in many, if not most, situations. Using the right voice tone, and choosing the right words to communicate both empathy and ownership are important. They can turn a potentially explosive situation around.

Beyond business, I have found this same principle to be true in everyday relationships. Early in our marriage, Wendy and I established a couple of small habits without ever talking about them or discussing them. We just did it, and over time I believe it has helped fill one another’s love tank.

One of these tiny habits is the simple and repetitive expression of gratitude for the things one another does as part of the division of labor in our household. Every time Wendy spends the day doing laundry, I always thank her. Likewise, she always expresses her gratitude to me for taking care of the lawn and landscaping. A little gratitude goes a long way.

The other tiny habit is expressing a positive willingness when either of us asks the other for assistance, help, or a favor. It’s amazing how powerful the phrase “I’d be happy to do that for you” is when it is both said and exemplified. It subtly says, “You’re not a burden. I love you, and I’m happy to assist with whatever you need from me.”

Small things, but I believe they have had a huge positive impact on our relationship.

In today’s chapter, the tribe of Ephraim receives their allotment of the Promised Land. As with yesterday’s chapter, the Family Patterns are telling. Ephraim and Manasseh were the sons of Joseph, who was his father Jacob’s favorite son and was sold into slavery by his brothers. Now, 600 years later, the tribes of Joseph are still getting preferential treatment.

So far, three tribes have received their Promised Land inheritance and at the end of each property’s legal description, there is a report as to whether the tribe was able to conquer the remaining peoples located within their boundaries. Caleb drove the Anakites from Hebron (chapter 14), Judah was unable to dislodge the Jebusites from the fortress of Jerusalem (chapter 15), and Ephraim was unable to dislodge all of the Canaanites living in their territory in today’s chapter.

The tag regarding the Canaanites being subject to forced labor is actually a legal wording of that time. It appears in other land documents from that region in the Bronze Age. Forced labor was a common form of taxation in those days. Instead of paying money, subjects of a local or regional ruler were required to work on building projects.

While these lines about not dislodging the inhabitants of the land appear as legal footnotes of the chapter, they will actually have far-reaching, consequences that are not always positive. The tribes will be influenced by the other peoples and cultures living among them. Throughout the rest of Israel’s story, idolatry will plague the nation as the tribes adopt and worship local deities along with the Lord, breaking the first of the ten commandments given through Moses. This will have negative repercussions.

When David becomes King of Israel, he will make Jerusalem the capital city. This was, in part, because of the presence and local power of the Jebusites who still lived and thrived there. After conquering Jerusalem, David makes it the seat of his power which was essentially a political move to appease and align the Jebusites to his rule.

In the quiet this morning, I find myself pondering the reality that small things can have large, far-reaching consequences. The principle works both in the negative and the positive. A bad habit allowed to perpetuate can ultimately lead to tragic ends. Likewise, a small daily choice to express kindness and gratitude can result in a fruitful relationship.

Today, I want to be mindful of the small words of gratitude, the little acts of kindness, and simple generosities I can express to everyone with whom I interact. Simple words, gratitude, and affirmations repeatedly expressed can have huge consequences on both my attitude and in those in my circles of influence.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

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