Serving Others is a Big Rock
Years ago Stephen Covey gave a parable about priorities that is known far and wide. A professor set a wide-mouth quart jar on his desk along with several fist-sized rocks. He carefully put as many of the rocks into the jar as he could. He asked his class “Is the jar full?” They all said “Yes.” Then he pulled from his desk a container of gravel and poured some of it into the jar shaking it a time or two so the pieces of gravel would work their way between and under the larger rocks. He asked again, “Is the jar full?” Again, the group said, “Yes.” He pulled a bucket of sand out and began pouring it into the jar allowing it to settle into the open spaces in the jar. He asked one more time “Is the jar full?” This time the group was on to his scheme and answered “No!” So he pulled a jar of water from under his desk and slowly poured much of it into the jar with rocks, gravel and sand. He said, “Now, the jar is full!”
The professor asked if anyone could identify the point of his experiment. One student exclaimed, “No matter how full our schedule seems to be, there is always room for other things.” The professor said, “No, that’s not it. The point is if you don’t put the rocks in first, you will never get all the rest into the jar.” In other words, first things first.
You can see from the title of this blog I believe serving others is a big rock. It’s priority. I am convinced the reason a lot of people do not serve others or rarely do so is serving is not their priority. Their jar is full of gravel and sand so there is no room left for serving.
Believers have big rocks too.
Let’s look at this in terms of the Christian life. What is priority for the Christian? Another way to ask this is What activities/behaviors define a follower of Jesus? To see what others are thinking, I Googled spiritual disciplines and found various lists of spiritual activities common to most Christians. Bible study, worship (or celebration as it is called by some), giving, and prayer made all the lists. Some added fellowship or small groups, fasting, and Sabbath. Serving made some of the lists but not all and none I saw had it higher than fifth or sixth in importance.
When I was coming up in the church, my denomination (Baptist) used what they called a Six-Point Record System. When I arrived for Sunday School, I was handed an envelop like the one you see here and I checked off each of the items listed then scored myself. I now understand my leaders were trying to instill in me the importance of being on time and taking my offering to church and going to “preaching” or worship. But what they also did was to teach us children who are now church leaders ourselves that these are the things we should take care of. Notice serving others is nowhere to be seen on that envelope! Is it any wonder that serving others has been playing catch-up to all these other actions for a long, long time?!
What did Jesus say?
Two events in the life and ministry of Jesus made it crystal clear that Jesus saw serving others as a big rock. (Actually, there are plenty more occasions when Jesus either demonstrated or taught the priority of serving others, but these are the bigees.) One is reported in Matthew 20. The mother of James and John lobbied Jesus on behalf of her sons. She asked that they be given places of prominence when Jesus set up his kingdom. Jesus’ answer was: “ . . . the Son Man did not come to be served, but to serve . . . .”
In other words, serving is a big rock.
The other is even more compelling. When Jesus and the disciples gathered in the upper room to observe Passover just before he was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, he did something all Jesus followers remember . . . , something besides instituting the Lord’s Supper. He took off his outer garments, wrapped himself with a towel, poured water in a basin and one-by-one washed the disciples’ feet. He did what only a lowly servant could have been expected to do. Then he said to the stunned disciples: “What I have done for you, you should do for each other.”
That was not a suggestion. It was not a hopeful comment. It was a command. Serving others is not optional for the Christian; it’s priority. It is most certainly a big rock.
What if most followers of Jesus took this command concerning the priority of serving others to heart?
What if most Christians gave as much attention to serving others as they do to church attendance/support?
What if most believers placed serving others either first or second in his own list of spiritual activities?
How would this impact how Christians are perceived by non-believers today?
How would this effect the influence of the church in most communities?
How would it impact the spiritual development of believers everywhere?
I could go on, but you get the point. When we put first things first, when we give priority to those things to which Jesus attributed priority, it makes all the difference.
What do you think?
Is serving others a big rock for you or gravel or sand? If you were to make a list of spiritual activities from most important to less important, where would serving others appear on that list? Do you have ideas of how the priority of serving others can be accomplished?