Are You a Big Z or an Ordinary N?

Imagine getting a Scrabble tray with the following letters:


Wow! All the highest-scoring letters! You’ll surely win this time!

Except there are a couple of problems.

First, there are no vowels. You’d only be able to play off vowels in your opponent’s words.

And most words are not made up of just the high-point letters. Usually you have to combine them with an ordinary D or T or N.

Too, I’ve often found that the words that use all the tiles and earn bonus points are most often made up of the more common letters.

Life is like that with people, too. The ones out front or with heavy responsibilities don’t operate alone. Stars have their publicists, make-up crew and stylists, agents, drivers. Executives have administrative assistants, mailroom workers, technicians. Presidents have cabinets, advisors, security details. Mills, factories, and manufacturers are mostly made up of everyday workers. Every company has those who keep the premises hygienic and pleasant by keeping it clean.

Have you noticed this principle in the Bible as well? Moses had Aaron and Hur. David had his mighty men. Elijah thought he was alone standing against the prophets of Baal, but God had 7,000 who had not bowed the knee to a false god. The obscure names among Jesus’ twelve closest followers were just as much disciples as Peter, James, and John.

Besides the Bible heroes we all know and love, lesser-known servants of God played key roles. A little servant girl told Naaman about the prophet in Israel who could heal him of leprosy. Unnamed prophets appear in only one scene, but deliver vital messages. “A certain man drew his bow at random” and killed King Ahab, one of Israel’s wickedest rulers. A woman only known as a Shunammite provided a respite for the prophet Elisha in his travels. A little boy gave his lunch of loaves and fishes to Jesus, who multiplied them to feed a multitude. “Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for” Jesus and the disciples “out of their means” alongside Mary Magdalene. Paul’s nephew brought news of an ambush planned against Paul, prompting his guards to beef up security.

Everyone has an important part to play in God’s kingdom, whether it’s a large or small part. If we envy another’s role, we forget they have their own set of problems and temptations. If we’re discontent with our role, we forget God sees and values it.

Have you ever had one tiny cog mess up a machine’s functions? A few wrong keystrokes in computer code can throw a whole program off. A little virus can wreak havoc in computers and bodies and communities. One person not doing their job right in the process of bringing a product to market can cause the end product to fail or even be unsafe. One customer service representative can make the difference in solving or causing problems, in our relief or frustrations with a company. One kind greeting at church can make a visitor feel welcome. One word of encouragement can change someone’s outlook.

The Bible uses the metaphor of the body to describe the church in 1 Corinthians 12:14-31. The body has a number of parts, but all are important. This passage has us imagine how ridiculous it would be if the whole body were an eye–how would it eat or walk or speak? Equally ridiculous is the thought of doing without one member or another. One part can’t say it doesn’t need another. Each part working together with the others helps the body function rightly, which aids all the parts. Ephesians 4:1-16 uses the same imagery, closing with, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” I’ve spoken of not thinking less of ourselves if we don’t have a big role to play, but Romans 12, also speaking of the church as a body, warns “not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned” (verse 3). There is no room for pride or discouragement with God’s giftings. But “having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them” for His honor and glory and for the good of the rest of the body (Romans 12:6). We can be content in the place He has us.

My grandfather used to say, “God must love common folk, He made so many of us.” Sometimes God pushes us out of our comfort zones, like Moses, Jonah, Gideon, Esther, and others. But most of us won’t be the mega-best-selling author, the speaker followed by the masses, the hero about whom epics are written. Yet we can glorify God in our homes, churches, cars, businesses, neighborhoods. In fact, back to our Scrabble analogy, if we’re an N or T or an I, we can be used more often and in more places than a Q.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

28 thoughts on “Are You a Big Z or an Ordinary N?

  1. I love the Scrabble analogy! This was the topic of our sermon this morning as well, underlining these truths for me. May we all glorify God and contribute to the body of Christ in whatever role God has given us!

  2. Love this post! I’ve always felt more like a follower than a leader. I thought at times that was not a good thing. But perhaps that’s where I’m supposed to be – praying for and supporting the “Z” and content to be the “N”. This post got me thinking.

    • In my Christian school and mu children’s there was an emphasis on developing leaders. I often wondered where the followers were, if everyone was leading. 🙂 We’re all to follow Him first.

  3. wonderful post. I’m just a common letter here but hopefully I’m shining the Light of Jesus in my corner of the World and prayerfully doing what He has for me.

  4. What an awesome analogy! Yes, we certainly need those “common” tiles in Scrabble, often far more than the high-score ones. I love your grandpa’s saying, and “a certain man drew his bow at random” gave me goosebumps. I thought too of chords in music — yesterday while playing a hymn at church, I hit one incorrect note along with the 6 or 7 right ones. It definitely messed up the sound! On another note — here’s the link to the Queen’s video mentioned at my place: I LOVED the high school/college memories you shared!

  5. Pingback: May Reflections | Stray Thoughts

  6. I love the link with the Scrabble tiles! And it’s so true, every person matters. I think some of the people who have made the most impact for God will be those who have been quietly faithful without many people even knowing.

    • I so agree with that. I heard one person say once that a certain person was one of the most influential people in Christianity. And I thought, we won’t really know who that is til we get to heaven. I think we’ll be surprised.

  7. I appreciate your grandfather’s saying. I definitely consider myself one of the “common folk.” 🙂 And as a Scrabble fan myself (and now an avid Bananagrams fan too), I so appreciate your analogy here, Barbara. All the letters count.

  8. Most people would rather be a big Z than an ordinary O. Yours truly included. 🙂
    However, when we consider the magnitude of the work at hand, you realize it’s really not about you.
    It’s much bigger than us – and it’s our highest privilege to serve in whatever capacity we find ourselves.

  9. What a great reminder! We tend to hear that God is using our time in small obscure service to prepare us for bigger things, but this is a good reminder that this type of service is valuable in itself.

  10. I’m thankful that God uses the weak things to bring Him glory, Barbara. And I appreciate your grandfather’s words, “God must love common folk, He made so many of us.”

  11. “My grandfather used to say, “God must love common folk, He made so many of us.” I love that! I’d like to put it on a t-shirt! 🙂 It is ridiculous to think of the body as only an eye and being able to function as God wants us to. Thank you for these thoughts today. It tells me, too, not to make any more excuses for not using all my “parts” as God calls.

  12. Hi Barbara,
    I’m only one small consonant, but that’s fine with me. I love that God includes even unnamed men and women in scripture. He notices each one’s contribution to the kingdom.

    Thank you for this lovely encouragement! I’ll be highlighting your post on Friday.

    Peace and grace,

  13. Pingback: When You Struggle with Faith - Tammy Kennington

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