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The Christophers: Serving God is Top Priority

Fr. Ed Dougherty, M.M.

The work from home trend that exploded during the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way many companies now approach their workday, as well as the degree to which employees are expected to be in the office. This trend has also affected the way people view work in general, with many turning to entrepreneurial enterprises or simply viewing their homes as their primary offices. These trends can be beneficial, but change always presents new challenges—and a major challenge in this new environment is the responsibility to set one’s own priorities and create a routine that facilitates reaching the goals we are called to.

A famous story of unknown origin tells of a philosopher who stood before his students holding a jar, which he first filled with rocks. When the rocks reached the top of the jar, he asked his students if it was full. They said it was full, but then the philosopher started dropping small pebbles in amongst the rocks, shaking the jar so the pebbles would find their way into all the crevices, until the jar looked full again. Next, the philosopher took sand and poured it into the jar, and it found its way into even smaller crevices until everyone agreed that the jar was full.

Then, the philosopher said to his students, “This jar represents your life. The rocks are the most important things: family, friends, loved ones, and the values we hold dear. If everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles represent secondary things that matter to our wellbeing, like our work and the essentials that sustain us. And the sand is everything else. The small stuff.”

The philosopher concluded, “If you put the sand into the jar first, there is no room for the pebbles or the rocks. The same goes for your life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you.”

This bit of wisdom has helped many people realize how to prioritize what matters most in their lives, and it is reminiscent of Christ’s words, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

These words of Christ found their way into the beliefs of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, who taught that serving God should be our first priority. The things of this world should only be utilized to achieve that end, and we should rid ourselves of the things of this world to the degree they detract from that goal.

These lessons create great starting points for establishing priorities and creating our own routines in life. Start with the things that matter most, and you will be driven to achieve all you need to accomplish in your day. Prioritize prayer, and you will find inspiration to tackle the most challenging tasks. Make time for family, and you will find the fulfillment to sustain you throughout the rigors of the workday. Put first things first, and all things will follow. As Christ said, “Strive first for the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”


For a free copy of The Christophers’ BE GOD’S HANDS AND HEART, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail:

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