Moreover, we will bring to the storerooms of the house of our God, to the priests, the first of our ground meal, of our grain offerings, of the fruit of all our trees and of our new wine and oil. And we will bring a tithe of our crops to the Levites, for it is the Levites who collect the tithes in all the towns where we work.
- A clear glass container at least one quart in size with a large opening;
- A pitcher of water; Enough large rocks to fill the glass container;
- Gravel to fill in the spaces between the rocks;
- A pail with more large rocks, enough so each group member can receive one rock; and
- A whiteboard or easel.
Suggest that all of this material can be purchased at a building supply (stones, gravel, sand in the garden section) and super center (glass container, pitcher and pail). All should be very dry so the gravel and sand pours freely.
Notes to the Leader: This study does not require a high component of discussion and can be used if the group is new or young. You will be trying to decompose the typical Christian response to priority setting, “God should be first.” The idea of God first, however, is more complex. You will begin your study by doing a demonstration. Instructions follow. The demonstration will then be used as the discussion topic for the lesson.
Begin to fill in the glass container with large rocks. Place them carefully in to the container until it is full. Then ask the question, “Is it full?” The response of your group is not important, just move to the next step. You do not have to tell your group what you are doing. In fact, a little mystery at this point is good.
Start pouring in the gravel. Your choice of the size of the rocks, gravel and sand should be such that the rocks are large enough to leave air pockets. The gravel then fills them in. Shake and tap the container. Then ask the question, “Is it full?”
Next, start pouring in the sand. Your choice of the size of the gravel should be such that the gravel has left air pockets and the sand filters into the remaining spaces. Shake and tap the container. In order to make all this work, the rocks, gravel and sand should be very dry. Then ask the question, “Is it full?”
Now, pour in the water slowly. When you can no longer pour in any more water, ask the question, “Is it full?”
The setup for the discussion
In each progressive step, more and more of your group should have become skeptical and realized that you could keep on packing more into the glass container. At the end, take one more large rock and ask someone in your group to put it into the container. It should be so full at this time, that one more would not fit.
Section One: What’s the Point?
Now ask the question, “What is the point of this demonstration?”
Let the discussion go for a while. Silence is OK so are answers like:
- There is always room for packing more into your life
- You can take on so much you eventually can fill your life
- It is an example of (my) life, etc.
The discussion itself does not really matter until they begin to get to the point of your demonstration:
- The container represents life. The rocks, gravel, sand and water represent the choices we make and the priorities we set.
- The moral of the story is: In order to fill the container (life) to the maximum, you must put the big rocks in first.
Ask your group the question, What are the big rocks of life?
- God (while this is a key point, do not offer it as an example unless someone in your group does)
What is the gravel of life?
What is the sand of life?
What is the water of life?
Note: You are not looking for Biblical answers here, like “Jesus.” Use worldly things.
Section Two: The Moral of the Story
The moral of the story so to speak is that God wants to be one of your big rocks and He wants each of us to put Him into our life first, before we fill our life with the other things (rocks, gravel, sand and water). The example shows that you have plenty of room for other big rocks, gravel, sand and water but if we wait until our life is full, it is very hard to find room for God.
Section Three: The Bible’s Rock Stories
Have someone in your group read Mark 10:23-27. This is the famous story about a rich man and a camel fitting through the eye of a needle.
Was Jesus telling the man that there was “no way he could go to heaven if he was wealthy? How does this story relate to our “rocks?”
- Jesus wasn’t referring to a sewing needle when he talked about a camel going through the eye of a needle. The “eye of a needle” was referring to a small gate within the larger gate at the entrance to a city, probably Jerusalem. It was common to build an ordinary door in the huge gate so that the ordinary people of the day could go and come in the city without leaving the large gate wide open all the time. For a camel to get in, he would have to take off the burden of all he was carrying on his back, and kneel down and crawl through the door. So Jesus was comparing the rich young rulers many possessions as a burden to him. He was giving his treasure more importance than service to God. He had used his money to fill his life with large rocks. He was unwilling to put God in his life first. For that reason, he went away very troubled at what Jesus told him. He was unwilling to change his ways.
Have someone in your group read John 4:1-29
Now re-read John 4:28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I did. Could this be the Christ?”
Why would John put such an insignificant detail into his accounting of the story as “she left her water jar?”
- In the story of a Samaritan woman’s meeting with Christ she is amazed by the fact that Christ knew everything about her life. While this is often the key point of the story that is discussed, there is an interesting and inconspicuous reference to her water jar that gives us an indication of a change in her priorities. After her encounter with Christ, and her enlightening of His wisdom, she stopped what she was doing and went to tell others. In her response lies the answer to the question of balancing God and life’s priorities. Once we understand who Christ is, it is impossible to continue life as it was. Our priorities change as we begin the process of a Christ-directed life instead of a self-directed life. We make God a rock and put Him in our water jar.
Have someone in your group read Romans 1:21-32
Now re-read Romans 1:21
How is Paul’s story similar to our rock example?
- It is a somber story that could be the front page of any newspaper in America or, worse yet, a story about our representatives within our government. Paul is very serious here. He ties the entire depravity of mankind to the simple mistake of not placing God first into the container of life.
Paul explains the process by which mankind is deceived. It begins when God is not first. The “darkening of the heart” follows this. This is when we begin to believe the many lies of the world with respect to our God. You might want to discuss them and build a list:
- God is too good to let someone spend an eternity in hell.
- I can find God anywhere, like out on the golf course
- Darwinism and the dinosaurs
- The Bible is just a history book written by men
- I believe in God so that is enough – I don’t need organized religion
- Let my kids decide about God for themselves, I don’t need to influence them.
Note to the Leader: End with a personal exchange between you and each of your group members. Have a supply of large rocks in a pail. One at a time, go to each group member and hand him or her a rock. Look them straight in the eyes and tell each person that the reason you are involved in this study is that you want share what you have learned in life. “God is a big rock and true joy comes when He is put into life first.” Re-read the key verse from Nehemiah 10:37 emphasizing that God does not ask for all we have, just “firstfruits” taken from the bounty He has provided each of us.
Bible Truth Being Taught
God provides us with many choices that we can freely make but He expects to be the first one we make.
To enjoy our freedom that comes from God’s grace by keeping our Savior and our God as one of “our big rocks.”