Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Big Rocks

Our lesson on Sunday included an illustration. A professor put rocks into a jar until they reached the top. He asked the class, “is it full?” Then he poured sand into the jar, shaking it so it would fall between the rocks. “Is it full?” He then poured water over the sand.

I’ve heard this illustration used by several preachers. Usually, they are saying to put God first, then add the other things in life. On Sunday, it was used to say that putting worldly things in your life can limit the influence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. But today I saw a similar illustration on Facebook. A professor filled a jar with golf balls, then pebbles, then sand, and finally beer. He used it in much the same way pastors do, but when a student asked about the beer, he told the student that it was because there is always room to drink a couple of beers with friends.

That’s the problem with object lessons. They give the appearance of proving our point, but two people can use the same object lesson to say two very different things. Where one person is promoting reliance on the Holy Spirit, another person is promoting spirits of a different kind.

We must be careful how we use object lessons. We can use them to illustrate what we are saying, but we should never use them as proof. The fact that it is easier to put the big rocks in first proves nothing about life because the way we label those rocks is arbitrary.