On the table are five containers. The largest sits empty. The second has four big rocks in it. The third is full of gravel. The fourth, sand, and the fifth, water. The goal is to get all the items in the empty container. But this requires wisdom and a method. If you start by pouring the water in first, by the time you get to the final container with the four big rocks, you’ll only be able to put in two of the four rocks.
However, if you start with the big rocks first, then add the gravel, then sand, and finally water, everything fits. The smaller gravel and sand work in around the big rocks to naturally fill in the gaps.
Jesus was asked, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” His response is found in Mark 12:30-31, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ ‘The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Focus on following the greatest commandments, and everything else will follow. But if you allow things that are secondary or even more distant to take priority, then the things that should be of greatest importance get crowded out. Jesus criticized the religious leaders of the day for allowing this to happen: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: Justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others” (Matthew 23:23).
One modern way of summing this up is to say, “Keep the main thing the main thing.”
- Why do you think loving God is the greatest commandment? Why is it so important?
- What is one way you can keep “the main thing the main thing?”
God, we know our hearts are easily led astray and distracted by secondary things. Help us to know how to focus on the greater commandments: to love you above all else and to love others as we would love ourselves.
There are a couple of different versions of this illustration on YouTube. Most focus on showing how this relates to one’s work life, rather than their faith. Watch if you want, or try recreating it in your home.
Steven Covey version:
Art of Manliness version: