There is a story of a college professor, an empty jar and a lot of rocks. After placing an empty jar in full view of his class, he began to add large rocks, one by one. When his collection reached the top, he asked the class if the jar was full. They affirmed that it was.
He then supplied a bunch of little rocks and began adding them to the “full” jar. Again he asked “Is the jar full now?” Yes, of course it was.
Then he presented a bag of sand and water and proceeded to fill the “full” jar even more.
If he had put the sand in first, neither the little rocks nor the big rocks would have fit. If he had filled the jar with water first, he would have created a mess by trying to add anything else. The point being that you need to start with the big rocks first. Focus on what is most important before filling your life with little rocks or sand.
This is a good illustration when deciding where focus should be, but sometimes the little rocks can make a big difference, too. Think of a pebble in your shoe. It’s hard to ignore. Sometimes taking care of those little things first can make it easier to wrap your head — and your energies — around those bigger rocks.
My winter coat has been missing a middle button for months. I know where the button is and it will likely take less than two minutes to sew it back on, but it seems like such a little thing, I don’t bother. But I must say it bothers me every time I wear that coat. I carefully position my scarf so that no one will notice the missing button. I mean, if I can’t even fix a button then how can anyone expect me to properly care for my family? Or my clients? Or … I mentally bludgeon myself over that still-waiting-to-be-done item on my list. It reminds me of my failures, of all the things yet to be done. Of all the ways in which I am not living up to expectations, be they mine or others’.
What would happen if I just crossed that item off my list?
Yes, “big rocks” should be prioritized highly, but sometimes we can get so overwhelmed by the big rocks on our to-do lists that we rarely make progress. I don’t want to be the third servant.
In Matthew 25 the Bible recounts some parables of Jesus. One of them is about a master who goes away on a journey, entrusting his wealth to three servants. The first two invest their talents thereby increasing their master’s worth. The third is fearful, lazy, reluctant. Instead of risking the loss of his master’s coin, he buries the money and clings to safety.
When the master returns, he punishes the third. The first two, however, are commended. “Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!” (v. 21, 23, NLT)
Yes, I want to focus on the important tasks, the things I prioritize as greatest, but I don’t want to be paralyzed by the size of those tasks. I want to be faithful in whatever tasks I’ve been given, be they small or large rocks. And I know that the more faithful I am with the little things, the more prepared I will be to receive great things.
Read with Me: Sometimes it feels like our Bible reading is a mere matter of checking off boxes. How can these “little rocks” prepare us for bigger ones? On the flipside, how does prioritizing time with God as a “big rock” impact your life? What little rocks may prevent you from spending more time with God?