I believe George Herbert said it first, but it was repeated in Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac (1757): “A little neglect may breed mischief: for want of a nail the shoe was lost; for want of a shoe the horse was lost; and for want of a horse the rider was lost.”
One day, I put a card in the mail to a person, hoping it would be delivered the next day. It was returned to me a week later because I neglected to include the apartment number in the address.
Forget the birthday of a person close to you and see if it is small stuff. Ask the person in charge of announcements at church how small a matter it is to forget to refer to a new baby, a death in a family, or someone having surgery. Fail to notice your wife’s new dress or to express appreciation for a special meal. Fail to pay a credit card bill on time and wince when you must pay the interest plus a heavy late fee. Leave the lights on as your car sits in a parking lot all day and discover that everyone else has left and your jumper cables are useless without another vehicle.
Often something that seems insignificant at the time becomes the cause of major difficulty. We lament: “If only I had paid attention to the small stuff!”
Years ago, I served a church in another city as an associate to a wonderful minister. The treasurer of the church began to make a habit of neglecting to issue the payroll checks on time. To him, it was small stuff, but the minister said to me, “If they keep forgetting to pay me, I may just forget to show up for work.”
Most of the folks I know will overlook an occasional offense. Some will perpetually forgive even habitual neglect. The careless need to realize that over time accountability will erode and confidence diminish. Even though forgiven, fewer and fewer folks will allow those who run roughshod over them to take advantage of them.
The speaker I heard recently at a university convocation in another city told the huge student body, including about a thousand freshmen, that grades are overrated. The speech was very captivating and entertaining as well as containing a lot of good stuff. Another plus for the presentation was that it was brief (in stark contrast to the one given last year). My hearing impairment left me wandering what was provoking such loud laughter at times, so I was delighted to listen to it again on the computer when I got home.
I bragged on the speech, and could hardly wait for Janelle to hear it. She admitted that it was a terrific speech, but my school teacher wife took exception to downplaying the importance of grades. She pointed out that a lot of families out there were severely sacrificing to send their young people to college, and certainly would not want them to blow off grades.
Jesus was critical of those who majored in minutia, while neglecting the “weightier matters” of the law. He was, however, careful not to give license to those who want to abandon the small things all together. He said, “You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former” (Matt. 23:23). Life is best when it is balanced.
“He who is faithful in a very little, is faithful also in much.” – Luke 16:10