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  • Adam Schell

What's Imperative

Overbooked: Making Time for What Matters Most

So over the last few weeks at Melbourne Heights, we’ve been talking about a problem that

we all face. And that’s the problem of being overbooked. We all try to cram more events and activities, more plans and responsibilities into our lives than we can actually fit. 

And, when we started this series a few weeks ago, I told you a story that’s circulated around the internet for years. It’s a story about a philosophy professor who stood before his class one day with nothing but an empty jar in front of him. 

And the students in his class that day wondered why the professor had the jar. But before anyone could raise their hand and ask what was going on, the professor reached under his lectern and pulled out several large rocks. And then he began carefully placing the rocks inside the once-empty jar.

After he finished, he asked his students, “Is the jar full?” The students slowly responded, “Yes.” 

But the professor's hands crept back under the lectern, and soon he was pouring a box filled with pebbles into the jar. When he had finished with the pebbles, he again asked his students, “Is the jar full?” The students thought about his question a little longer this time. But they could see no way that any more rocks could fit into this jar. So they tentatively answered, “Yes.” 

With a slight smile on his face, the professor reached back under his lectern and removed a bag of sand, which he then poured into the jar. With the jar overflowing, the professor asked a different question. He asked his students, “What can this jar teach us about our lives?”

One eager student's hand quickly went up. When called on the student responded, “No matter how full your life seems, you can always fit more in.”

And that was where I stopped this story when this series began. And I stopped right there because a lot of us have bought into that student’s way of thinking. A lot of us believe that no matter how full our lives seem, we can always fit more in.

A lot of us believe that no matter how full our lives seem, we can always fit more in.

But the point the professor was actually trying to make was the complete opposite of that. So, he asked the student who responded to his question to join him at the lectern. The professor then dumped everything out of the jar, leaving it empty again. Then he asked the student to fill the jar with the rocks, the pebbles, and the sand...but this time the big rocks would be placed in last.

When the student had poured the sand and pebbles into the jar, there wasn’t enough room left for all of the big rocks. And the professor explained, “If you don't put the big rocks in last, they will never fit. The big rocks are like the truly important things in our lives. If you fill your life with the small things, you'll never have enough time for the things that really matter.”

So rather than trying to show his students that no matter how full our lives seem, we can always fit more in; the professor wanted his students to understand that we have to make room for what really matters in life.

We have to make room for what really matters in life.

So that’s what I want to spend our time together today talking about. Remember the point of this whole series has been to help you slow down and clear your calendars, so you can make room for what matters the most in your life. So we probably need to spend some time talking about what should matter the most to us.

And to help you start thinking about what should matter the most in your life, I want you to think about a typical day in your life. Think about when you wake up and when you go to bed. Think about how long It takes for you to make breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Think about the time you spend driving to work, or a doctor's appointment, or to the grocery store. Think about the hours you spend at work – the meetings you sit through, the break room conversations you get drawn into, the time you spend waiting for IT to fix your computer. Think about how much time you spend watching TV, reading a book, or scrolling through social media. Think about the time you spend on personal hygiene. Think about the time you spend playing with your kids or taking care of an aging loved one. Think about the time you spend walking your dog, mowing your lawn, or loading the dishwasher.

Think about a typical day in your life.

Now, if you're like the average American, this is what that day looks like: You spend 8.9 hours at work, and you sleep 7.7 hours. And just like that 2/3s of the day is gone. From there the average American spends 2.5 hours watching TV, or scrolling social media, or doing other leisure activities. Household chores take up another hour of the day, and so does eating and drinking. Another 1.2 hours are spent caring for others – like your kids, or aging parents. That leaves 1.7 hours for everything else – from showering to shaving, from volunteering to commuting. And that's what a typical day looks like.

But what if you just had one more day? How would you spend it?

Would you hit the snooze button a second or third time? Would you scramble up a few eggs, or settle for a bowl of cereal? Would you rush off to work and hope to beat the traffic? Would you bother going to work at all? Would you spend more than 1.2 hours caring for the ones you love the most? Would you spend less time in front of the TV or looking at dog videos on Instagram?

If you had one more day, how would you spend it?

Most of us will never know, because we'll never know when that last day comes. But in a classic episode of one of the longest-running TV shows in history, The Simpsons, this is the exact question that Homer Simpson faces. Now, since The Simpsons is a comedy, Homer finds himself in this situation because he ate sushi that was likely poisonous. And his doctor tells him that if it was poisoned, he has 24 hours to live.

So how does he spend that one last day? Homer sits down with his son and passes on years' worth of fatherly advice, he listens to his oldest daughter play the saxophone, and he makes a video so that his baby girl can remember her dad. He reconciles with his own father and spends some quality time with his wife. And once everyone else has drifted off to sleep, Homer goes downstairs and listens to cassettes of the Bible – narrated by Larry King of course.

Even though it turned out his sushi wasn't poisoned, he spends what he thought was his last day with the people he loves, and his final hours with God. And if you or I found ourselves in a similar situation, we'd probably do the exact same thing.

But what does that say about all the other rocks and sand that we try to cram into the jars of our lives? If all of us value time with our family, our loved ones, and our God more than anything else we do; does that mean that everything else isn't important? Are we just wasting hours of our lives at work? Should we give up on cooking and cleaning up our homes? Should we shut down our social media accounts, and cancel our Disney+ subscriptions?

Well, believe it or not, these are the kinds of questions that underlie the scripture passage I want us to take a closer look at today. So if you’ve got a Bible close by or a Bible app on your phone go ahead and open it to Luke 10. Luke 10. And, as you’re finding it, I just want to remind you that the book of Luke is basically a biography of Jesus. So when you read the book of Luke, you can read about Jesus’ birth and his baptism, you can read about Jesus’ ministry and the miracles he performed, and you can read about Jesus’ crucifixion and his resurrection.

But in Luke 10, we’re going to find a story that teaches us what’s important in life. So let’s take a look at Luke 10 together, and we'll start reading in verse 38. It says:

38 While Jesus and his disciples were traveling, Jesus entered a village where a woman named Martha welcomed him as a guest. 39 She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his message. 40 By contrast, Martha was preoccupied with getting everything ready for their meal. So Martha came to him and said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to prepare the table all by myself? Tell her to help me.”

41 The Lord answered, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things. 42 One thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the better part. It won’t be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:38-42 (Common English Bible)

Now let me paint the broader picture for you here. Mary and Martha live in Bethany, which is about a 40-minute walk to Jerusalem. And it just so happens that Jesus and his followers are heading straight past their home on their way to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover festival. So they stop at Mary and Martha's home.

Now picture this, thirteen guys unexpectedly stop at your house. They don't call ahead, they don't send you a text message, at best they sent one guy running ahead to let you know the rest of the group was coming. And it gets worse. These thirteen guys have been traveling all day – and we're not talking about traveling in a bus loaded down with all kinds of snacks from Publix – these guys have been walking all day long. And all they've had to eat was the food they could glean from the fields along the way. And these guys are about to stop at your house.

So what would you do? I can tell you what I'd do, I'd lock the doors, turn out the lights, and pretend like no one is home, because I got better things to do than try to take care of thirteen unexpected guests.

But that's not what Martha does. Martha gets to work. You can just imagine her running around the house quickly picking up all the clutter before she gives the floors a good mop. All the while she's got pots of green beans cooking on the stovetop, a chicken roasting in the oven, and pies cooling on the window sill.

So when Jesus and his disciples come knocking on her door, she has everything under control...all she needs is her sister's help setting the table. But instead, her sister plops down on the floor with all the guys and joins the conversation.

How are you going to feel if you're Martha? You’ve done all of the work to get ready for this big dinner party, and all you ask your sister to do is help set the table, but she won't do it! Chances are you're going to be ready to blow your top, but not Martha. She’s such a good hostess that she goes to Jesus and quietly asks him to send her sister to help.

But Jesus doesn't take her side. Instead, Jesus corrects her, Martha – the one who has spent all day cooking his supper. He says, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things. One thing is necessary."

But I'm sure Martha didn't feel like she was distracted. She knew exactly what she was doing...and it was important. She had thirteen guests sitting in her living room, thirteen guests who had been traveling all day, thirteen guests who were hungry...and they weren't going to feed themselves.

So how could Jesus say that she was worried and distracted by many things? How could he say that only one thing is necessary because she was clearly doing the most important thing she could?

But Jesus never said what she was doing wasn't important...Jesus said that there was only one thing that was necessary...there was only one thing that was imperative.

And there's a big difference between those two words: important and imperative. When we say that something is important, we're saying that it has great significance or influence. But when we say something is imperative, we're saying that something is absolutely necessary.

What Martha had done was confuse what was important – feeding her guests – with what was imperative – which was being with and loving her guests.

And let's just admit it, it’s easy to get what’s important and what’s imperative confused because there are a lot of things in our lives that are important. It's important to go to work. It's important to do something meaningful and productive with your time and to earn a living while you’re at it. It's important to spend time tidying up around your house to keep yourself and others healthy. It's important to spend time exercising and eating.

But none of these things are imperative. So what is imperative? Well, Jesus tells us in Matthew 22:37-39 when he's asked what the greatest commandment is. Jesus says: 

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Matthew 22:37-39 (New King James Version)

And it just so happens that right before Jesus and his disciples make their way to Martha and Mary's home in Bethany, Jesus has an encounter with a legal expert that reminds us of this exact same thing. In Luke 10:27, we’re told, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself."

So what Jesus is telling Martha is essentially this: Don't let what's important keep you from what's imperative.

Don't let what's important keep you from what's imperative.

It's important to provide for your guests, but it's imperative to love them. It's important to tidy up your house, but it's imperative to invite friends over. It's important to mow the lawn, but it's imperative to play with your kids in the backyard. It's important to make it to work on time, but it's imperative to act like a decent human being during your commute. It's important to unwind after a busy day, but it's imperative to talk with your spouse about their day. It's important to mark items off our to-do list, but it's imperative not to treat people like they're an item on that list.

Life is filled with things that are important, but loving God and loving each other is what’s imperative.

Loving God and loving each other is what’s imperative.

So this week I want to challenge you to focus on what's imperative instead of what’s important. Make room for the big rocks in your life first...and then fit the smaller stones in around them. I still want you to do what's important, but don't let what's important keep you from what's imperative.

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