Friday, February 10, 2012

Learn This Lesson First

There are many versions of this lesson, but I'll share it the way that I heard it the first time.

There was once a wise teacher who was asked to speak with a group of professionals and business students. He decided that the best way to communicate with them was through an object lesson. Here is what he shared.

He took a large one-gallon, wide-mouthed mason jar and sat it on the table in front of him. Then he took some large rocks and began to put them in the jar, one at a time, until he could fit no more in the jar. He then looked up at his accomplished students and asked them, "What do you think? Is the jar full?" All of them said, "Yes!"

He then pulled a jar of gravel from under the table and poured it into the mason jar, shaking it as he did so that the gravel filled the cracks between the rocks. He then asked the question again, "Is the jar full?" This time some of the students said "Yes," and some said, "No."

He proceeded to pull out another jar, this one of sand, from beneath the table, and began to pour it into the mason jar, filling each crevice that was left between the gravel stones. One more time he asked, "Is it full?" This time, the response was timid, again with some saying "Yes," and some "No."

He then took a ptcher of water on the table and began to pour it into the jar, continuing until the water reached the top of the jar. As he finished pouring he said, "Now, it is full." Then he asked, "Now, what is the lesson?"

An eager student raised his hand and said, "The lesson is that no matter how busy you are, you can always find time to do something else."

The teacher shook his head and said, "No, the lesson is this, if you don't put the big rocks in first, you'll never get them in at all."

Here is a profound lesson on priorities - putting first things first. It's a lesson that has been stated in different ways by different people at different times. The greatest teacher in history, Jesus Christ, basically said it like this: "Love God first, then love people; everything else follows after these." (Matthew 22:37-39 - my paraphrase).

What is it that you are choosing to put in your jar first? What are the priorities that govern your life? Some choose success, position, money, fame or pleasure. All of us find, at some point in our lives, that none of these can provide long-term satisfaction, and certainly not anything of eternal significance.

The greatest lesson that any leader can learn is to, first, humble themself before the God of the universe. As Billy Graham said, "Wise men know when to bow." The writer of Proverbs wrote in Proverbs 9:10 - "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." We were created for eternity, by God, for His purposes. Understanding this first can keep us from the fate of many who have climbed the ladder of success, reached the top, and found that it was leaning against the wrong building. Don't let that be said of you.

Related Articles:
The Pareto Principle
“Put God First” - The Principle of Priority
"Do It Now" - The Principle of Inertia
Book Review: "What Good Is God?"

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