A Bucket of Rocks

bucket of rocksA master forced two of his slaves to carry large buckets, loaded down with rocks, gravel, and sand. The farther the slaves walked, the harder and harder it was for them to carry such heavy burdens.

Along the way, these slaves met a good man who said,

I bring good news! I have purchased your freedom. You no longer belong to your former slaveowner. Both of you can work for me now. I have some fresh, delicious fruit that needs to be transported into town. This fruit is much lighter than all those rocks you’re carrying. And if you’re hungry, you are welcome to eat all you want on the journey, free of charge.

The first slave tried to stuff fruit down into his bucket. He was able to force an apple and a pear halfway down into the sand and gravel, but the fruit was bruised in the process. He tried forcing a peach into the bucket, but it was crushed in his hand, and turned into a mushy mess. Then he just tried to stack a few pieces of fruit on top of the bucket. That seemed to work at first, but fruit kept rolling off and hitting the ground. And he complained about how much heavier the bucket was, now that the fruit had been added to it. Weary and tired, he finally gave up and threw all his fruit to the ground. He said,

I’m going back to work for the first guy. He is harsh and cruel, but at least I know what to expect, and I’m able to carry the load. This second slavemaster makes things even harder on me, and I can’t take it anymore.

The second slave slipped his hand into his bucket, and pulled out a small amount of sand and gravel. He touched it to his tongue, tasted it, and then spit it out. Then he tasted some of the good master’s fresh fruit. It was delicious, sweet, and refreshing. He turned his bucket upside down, and dumped out all the rocks. He rubbed his hand around the inside of the bucket, to make sure he had gotten rid of every grain of sand. Then he turned his empty bucket right side up, and filled it with the good master’s fruit. With a song in his heart, and a spring in his step, he effortlessly proceeded down the road. He walked side by side with the good master and said,

Truly, your yoke is easy, and your burden is light!

If you have a bucket full of rocks, it is very difficult to put anything else in the bucket. You may have some beautiful apples, pears, and peaches, but you cannot stuff them into the bucket without destroying the fruit. Taking a bucket full of rocks, and stuffing lots of good fruit into it, is a very difficult thing to do.

But when you pour all the rocks out of the bucket, suddenly things become very easy. You can put all the good fruit into your bucket, without damaging any of it.

That’s the way our lives are. That’s the way our children’s lives are.

Everything worldly, everything secular, everything focused on entertainment . . . those can easily be “rocks” in the bucket. Even if a particular activity is “not that bad”, or “not obviously sinful”, it still is an activity that takes up precious time. And any time spent on *that* activity is time which you cannot spend on *godly* activities which build up the Kingdom of Christ.

When people talk about how “difficult” the Christian life is, it is usually because they are acting like the first slave. They welcome the fruit of the Spirit generously offered by the good Master. But they have great difficulty handling that good fruit, because they still have not emptied all the rocks and sand out of their buckets.

Easy:  Taking time to participate in Bible studies
Difficult:  Taking time for football, basketball, bowling, hunting, and NASCAR, and still having time for Bible studies

Easy:  Spending hours in prayer, daily
Difficult:  Spending hours being entertained daily, plus trying to squeeze in daily prayer

Easy:  Tithing a tenth of your income to Christ’s work, off the top of your paycheck
Difficult:  Spending money on entertainment, new clothes, restaurants, fast food, and still having enough money to give to the Church

Easy:  Filling your children’s minds with Holy Scripture, teaching them to sing the Psalms
Difficult:  Filling your children’s minds with television shows, movies, video games, and secular music, and trying to get them to read Scripture and sing the Psalms too

If you “empty your buckets”, and singlemindedly devote your time, labor, and money to the building of Christ’s kingdom, you will find that it is very easy to follow Christ’s commands. There is plenty of time in every day for hours of prayer, there are plenty of opportunities to fill your children’s minds and hearts with the Christian Faith, and when you faithfully give a tenth of your income to Christ, He will faithfully meet all of your needs on the remaining money you have. There is nothing impossible or unreasonable about any of this.

But it is impossible to keep Christ’s commands, if you are unwilling to empty all the rocks out of your bucket. If you continue to squander your time on sleep and entertainment as you did before, you will not have any time left for prayer. If you continue to waste your money on pleasures and entertainment as you did before, you will not have any money left to give the Church. And if you still allow your children to fill their hours with television, movies, video games, and nonchristian music, there will not be much time left for them to pray, to memorize the Scriptures, and to read the lives of the Saints.

Because you leave your buckets full of sand and rocks, you find the commands of the Lord to be grievous, heavy, and difficult, even though Jesus himself said that his yoke is easy, and his burden is light. (Matthew 11:30)

Indeed, the burdens in your life do not come from the spiritual fruit which the Lord asks you to carry. Many of your burdens come from the rocks and sand which you refuse to pour out of your bucket.

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:24)

You cannot serve both God and money.
You cannot serve both God and pleasure.
You cannot serve both God and entertainment.

About Fr Joseph Gleason

I serve as a priest at Christ the King Orthodox Mission in Omaha, Illinois, and am blessed with eight children and one lovely wife. I contribute to On Behalf of All, a simple blog about Orthodox Christianity. I also blog here at The Orthodox Life.
This entry was posted in Matthew 11:25-30, Matthew 6:24, Money, Spiritual Living, The Orthodox Christian Family. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to A Bucket of Rocks

  1. Fr. Gregory Madlom says:

    Thanks, this is a very helpful parable. As I will use this, I want to make sure to give credit as to its source. If you created this, think of more like it.

    In Christ,

    Fr. Greogry+

    Sent from my iPad


  2. Your words touched me Father Joseph. With God’s grace I will empty the rocks from my head & the sand in my soul that my life can be filled with the fruit from Christ’s Kingdom. The Peace of the Lord!

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