A motivational teacher was speaking to a group of business students and, to drive home a point, used an illustration those students will probably never forget. As this man stood in front of the group of high-powered over-achievers he said, “Okay, time for a quiz.” He pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouthed Mason jar and set it on a table in front of him. Next, he produced about a dozen, fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar. When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is this jar full?”
Everyone in the class said, “Yes.”
“Really?” he said. He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. He dumped in some gravel and shook the jar, causing the pebbles to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks. Then he smiled and asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?”
By this time the class was onto him. “Probably not,” one of them answered.
“Good!” he replied. And he reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping in the sand and it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, “Is this jar full?”
“No!” the class shouted.
Once again he said, “Good!” Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Finally he looked up at the class and asked, “What is the point of this illustration?”
One eager beaver raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things into it!”
“No,” the speaker replied, “that’s not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is this: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all!”
What are the “big rocks” – top priorities – in your life? What are the most important things that you live for?
Henry Ford once asked an associate about his life goals. The man replied that his goal was to make a million dollars. A few days later Ford gave the man a pair of glasses made out of two silver dollars. He told the man to put them on and asked what he could see. “Nothing,” the man said. “The dollars are in the way.” Ford told him that he wanted to teach him a lesson: If his only goal was dollars, he would miss a host of greater opportunities. He should invest himself in serving people, not simply in making money.
That’s a great secret of life that far too few people discover. Money is important. No question about that. But money is only a means by which we reach higher goals. Service to others. Obedience to God. Those are two “big rocks” that must take precedence if we are to experience the fullness of life.
When I was a just a boy my mother would read a series of Bible story books at night as I was tucked in bed getting ready to drift off to sleep. I think this planted the seeds of my love for the stories of sacred scripture to this day. A few weeks ago while my mom was in town for a visit, she presented them to me. I had no idea that she still had them after all these years! In light of this discovery, I will be sharing these books and the stories within them during the Children’s Moment as part of worship beginning the second Sunday in October. I consider it an honor that I can share these stories that my mama taught me with our Asbury children.
It just so happens that one of my favorites children’s books was The Rich Fool: A Parable of a Man and His Treasures. In St. Luke chapter twelve, Jesus talks about a person who thought they had all the time in the world to build a materially abundant life. But this person discovered that time was running out and life had been wasted on acquisition and selfish desires. Jesus calls this person The Rich Fool. This coming Sunday at 8:30 and 11:00 a.m., in the last message from my sermon series, “Did You Get My Text? Decoding Some of the Most Misunderstood Stories in the Bible,” we’ll consider this story more fully.
I will see you soon!
P.S. I hope you’ll invite a friend in October for my new sermon series:Why Jesus Makes Me Nervous! Taking Seriously His Sermon on the Mount. The most important message that Jesus preached is recorded in the Gospel of St. Matthew chapters 5-7. It is full of unnerving notions and explosive ideas that for two thousand years the Church has been trying to tame. In short, we have never caught up to Jesus’ teaching. What would happen in our daily lives if we dared to practice the principles Jesus gave us in the Sermon on the Mount? In this unique look at this famous sermon you may be challenged, puzzled, and unsettled, but you will not be bored!