On an episode of the television show The Office, Dunder Mifflin Paper Company branch manager Michael Scott approaches the receptionist Pam to ask what is wrong with a plant in the office which is wilting and withering.
“Would you like me to ask the night cleaning crew if they’ve stopped watering it?” Pam asks.
Michael answers, “Yeah. You know what? Ask them about the toys on my desk too. They always used to arrange the toys on my desk in a… a very pleasing way. It used to brighten my morning.”
While this conversation takes place, we are shown a flashback of Dwight—an employee who has left the company and who had a kind of love/hate relationship with Michael—watering the plants of the office when no one else is there. Pam corrects Michael about the toys: “Oh, that wasn’t the night crew. That was Dwight.” Michael is visibly taken aback. He had no idea about the things Dwight was doing to make each day a little better.
Many people go through life wondering if what they’re doing matters, if anyone notices. Some roles and duties are more visible than others. Mothers and fathers who stay at home with their children wonder if anyone understands the little things that go into keeping the home together. Quiet, steady employees wonder if anyone notices their diligence while so many of their co-workers are idling away the day and the pay they are earning. Christians ministering in hidden ways like prayer, encouragement, and hospitality, wonder if it is all worthwhile.
Some of the most difficult parts of the New Testament to read are the most encouraging in this area. I’m referring to the lists of names in the greetings at the end of the NT letters. Romans 16 is notoriously full of unfamiliar names. So are the rest of Paul’s letters. Take Colossians 4 for an example: in the final 12 verses, Paul refers to Tychicus, Onesimus, Aristarchus, Mark, Jesus Justus, Epaphras, Luke, Demas, Nympha, Archippus.
Out of these ten people, perhaps two of them (Mark and Luke) have become household names, while Epaphrus and Onesimus are not absolutely foreign to us. But the other six are relatively strange to our ears and eyes. They never became famous. They were not remembered beyond their own circle for very long. They have remained in obscurity.
But each one of them has found a place in God’s story, with special mention made of their dedication and love for the Lord. Paul knew that each one of them mattered to God’s plans.
Not everyone is a Luke or Epaphras. It doesn’t matter. You don’t have to be, and God didn’t make you to be that. He made you to be you, redeemed and devoted to his servants. And whether or not anyone ever sees what you do, God does, and it is not for nothing.