Film / Book Reviews

The small mustard seed can change the world

Mar 2002    

Mustard seed versus McWorld (Monarch Books, 1999)
Author: Tom Sine

I RECENTLY received a Christmas gift, a book written by Tom Sine, entitled “Mustard Seed versus McWorld”. I would like to share my thoughts and reflections on reading this book with young fellow Methodists like me – new graduates overwhelmed by the uncertainty of what the future holds for us.

The book examines consumerism and godliness. In today’s modern society, price tags are placed on people. People are treated as commodities. This book is about modernity and how it is linked to individualism. There seems to be an ongoing quest for material wealth.

Tom Sine has mentioned how self-actualisation with God can be attained and how self-actualisation without God can also be attained. We have to learn that we have to bring God into the picture. People are moving extremely fast in pursuit of material wealth. This will stifle the growth of the mustard seed.

Sine says that the materialistic values which are pushed down our throats make it difficult for us to follow the scriptures. So when God places difficulties in our path, they are meant to help man to re-examine himself and his relationship with God. “The creator God who passionately loves a people and a world is working through the subversion of the mustard seed to make things new.” It is therefore important during such times as this when there is so much uncertainty to show love for fellowmen and maintain peace in the world.

Singapore is experiencing a recession. People are being laid off. Perhaps this will remind the people to turn to God for help. In the past, during good times people had been spending a lot. It is time for us to re-examine the values that we hold. As people buy more and more they want more and more and they become greedy. This is damaging to our society.

McWorld in Sine’s book refers to merchandise which entice the consumer. Franchises like Mcdonald’s are part of consumer culture. Sine is implying that one ought to rise above all this and become more spiritual. The mustard seed has to grow amidst chaos. God is using the mustard seed as a tool to change the world. To create a world that is compassionate and one that cares for our fellowmen and the environment, so that the world becomes a haven for men and not a war-ridden place of hate and suspicion. Sine also says that as Christians we should be able to distinguish the good from the evil.

The recent terrorism has caused us to wonder about the possibility of a perfect world. God frowns upon terrorism. He loves peace. With peace we will be able to live in harmony with one another.

In the book there is this idea of how heaven and earth are linked to each other. There is a God who is a creator. He plans our future for us. He creates a future for us. God is kind to the poor and needy. He helps the lame to walk and the blind to see. The book talks about how more attention is paid for consumption and profits and less to the common good. The wealth that we gain through hard work should be spent wisely. We should not indulge and be greedy. Otherwise, it will be damaging to the good of our society.

What caught my attention to this book is the reference made to the mustard seed. The reference to the mustard seed is made in the Bible twice. The mustard seed is so tiny, yet it can grow into a huge tree. No matter how small and insignificant we are, we can make great contributions to God’s world and to Singapore.

Young graduates like us should not be disheartened and should be optimistic about the future because God has a future for each one of us. In the Bible, it is also stated that if you have faith as small as the mustard seed, you can move mountains. So we should believe in God. We should believe that God will provide us with the environment where the mustard seed can grow and flourish.

We, as Christians, should place emphasis on ministering to others. There is place for ministry in such a culture — perhaps a new form of ministry.

Hilda Thuraisingam is a member of Short Street Tamil Methodist Church.


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