Taking Care of the Big Stuff

Stephen Covey tells a great story that demonstrates the importance of keeping priorities straight. He saw it at a seminar:

The leader showed the audience an empty wide-mouthed gallon jar, then put as many rocks in the jar as would fit.

He asked the crowd, “Is this container full?”

Of course, everyone said, “Yes.”

The leader smiled, then poured some gravel into the jar, filling the crevices between the rocks. He asked again, “Is it full?”

The crowd was beginning to catch on; most of them said, “Probably not.”

Next he poured some sand it into the jar. “Now is it full?” he asked.

They had learned the lesson. In unison they shouted, “No!” And they were right; he then filled the jar with water.

Afterwards the seminar leader asked, “What’s the point here?”

Someone said, “Well, there are gaps, and if you really work at it, you can always fit more in your life.”

The seminar leader said, “That’s not the point! The point is this: If you hadn’t put these big rocks in first, you never would have gotten them in!”

He’s saying: Make sure you do the big stuff first.

It’s a habit we all need to develop. We’re tempted to tend to the nagging little details first, hoping to get them out of the way so we can focus on job one. The problem, however, is that the nagging little details never completely go away. They keep coming back, and there’s always a couple more on the way.

It’s best to learn to ignore them (for now) and direct your attention to that which really matters.

So, what really matters? This is something we each must define individually. But here’s a clue. Jesus said that the list begins with your relationship to God and his purpose for your life.

“Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)

We often spend our days seeking sand and gravel and water, but they’re just filler. The big stuff needs to be done first.

Think about it. What’s your top priority? How will you tend to it today?

Today’s memo first published at Preaching Library.