Activity – First Things First

This activity is a well-known illustration of priorities, and has many applications. There is a set of pictures you can use as well.

You will need a tray and a glass jar. To fill it find something large, like ping-pong or golf balls; something medium-sized, like dried beans or gravel or nuts; and something small, like rice or sand or sugar.

If you want, you can use pre-measured amounts so that balls + beans + rice just fill the jar. To find the right amounts, do the second part using as much of each as you can.

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Look at the jar. This represents your life: your time, your attention, your effort. You can spend this on different things.

Pour in the rice. This represents the million tiny things that fill your day. Take a minute to look at the grains and think what you spend your minutes on during the day.

Next, pour in the beans. These are bigger and fewer and represent the important things in life – family, friends, safety, freedom, health. If you had filled your head with the small stuff, you would have had no time or attention for the things that actually matter. Think about what or who those beans represent for you.

Look at your jar now. It is mostly full, and that’s fine. People are important, work needs to be done. And many people go through their whole lives like this and never spot the empty space at the top. But we are creatures of both time and eternity, and without God, there will always be a gap. Perhaps you’ve noticed it?

Add the ping-pong balls. These represent our place in God’s kingdom. You may have trouble getting them in.

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Some things are urgent and grab our attention – a report that needs to be finished, the latest whatever. Some things are important – people, relationships. But all of these, however important, are part of this world, and are passing. Jesus told us to make sure we have treasure in heaven, to seek first his kingdom. He said it to the rich young ruler, he said it to the Pharisees, he said it to his squabbling disciples, he says it to us.

Tip the contents of the jar out onto the tray.

Put the balls back in first. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness … Now put in the beans. There is plenty of room. God knows these things are important and they are good. Now add the rice. It may seem like the jar is full, but give it a shake down and the rice will all fit. ... and all these things will be given to you as well.

Suggested Texts

  • Ex 20:3
  • Deut 6:5
  • Psalm 23
  • Ecc – all of it!
  • Matt 6:19-33
  • Matt 18:1-35
  • Matt 19:16-26
  • Matt 23:23
  • Mark 8:36
  • Mark 10:17-27
  • Mark 12:28-34
  • Luke 10:38-42
  • Luke 12:22-34
  • Luke 18:18-23
  • Romans 12:2

 


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