A few days ago I was asked, “How do I maintain balance between my professional and my personal life?”

The question was asked in the context of promotions. Like most good administrations this person’s leadership rewards those who are actively contributing to the success of the organization. It’s a fact of life in the work world that the higher you go, the greater the commitment.

My favorite way of answering this question is with the story of the full jar and it goes something like this: There was a wise old sage who was once asked by a young man how to prioritize his time. The old man didn’t say a word but brought out a one gallon jar and put large rocks inside of it until they reached all the way to the rim.

“Is the jar full?” he asked the young man.

“Yes it’s full,” the young man replied.

Again without a word the old man scooped up handfuls of gravel and poured them into the jar until the gravel, filling in the void spaces around the large rocks that were already inside, reached the rim.

“How about now?” the old man asked.

“Well, I think it’s full,” the young man said with a pinch of doubt in his voice.

Again without a word the old man scooped up handfuls of sand and poured them into the jar until the sand, filling the left over void spaces between the large rocks and the gravel, filled the jar up to the rim.

“Now it’s full,” the old man said. “You see the large rocks represent your relationship with the LORD, the gravel represents your relationship with your family, and the sand represents your work life. If you fill your jar with the sand first then there will be no room for the large rocks and gravel. If you fill your life with work first, then there will be no room for your family and God.”

The young man nodded slowly.

The old man continued, “Make your relationship with the LORD your first priority, then your family, then work. As long as you keep these priorities in order, you can work as much as you like.”

The only thing I would add to this story is that it’s essential to find time to care for your body also because your body is the temple for the Holy Spirit. Your body doesn’t maintain itself. Living a healthy lifestyle makes you more effective for the LORD. (1 Corinthians 6:19)

Beyond that I would also add a few thoughts in order to more completely answer the question, how much of yourself should you give to your employer in order to receive a promotion.

1) If you’re making a decision about a promotion, get into God’s word, go hear the message at church, pray through the issue. Promotions are life changing events, they’re a big deal so pray — I’m talking about seriously intentional prayer here, I’m talking about nose in the carpet kind of praying. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

2) Only take the promotion if you have the full support of your spouse for we’re to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:21)

3) The greater your ambition, the greater your passion, the greater your resolve — the greater your success. The question is what will you be ambitious about?

To be truly great you must be full of ambition for the LORD, and for your family, and for your organization, but not for yourself. It’s a paradox that one of the great keys to success is having at your core both passion and humility. The LORD lifts those up who are bowed down. (Traveler and the Chaplain , Psalm 146:8)

If you have a desire to contribute to your employer so you can get promoted then don’t. Don’t go for the promotion. Good organizations are looking to promote people who are on fire to contribute to the success of the organization for the sake of the organization, not for the sake of their own promotion. (Schwarzkopf)


Relationship with God first, family second, work third — I’ve watched many who have kept these things in order do well in life. And, sadly, I’ve watched those with whom the order becomes confused and their lives eventually unraveled.

Live for Christ first,

family second,

work third.

You won’t regret it.

…seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

Matthew 6:33 (KJV)



Bible Gateway

Blue Letter Bible

Traveler and the Chaplain

Norman Schwarzkopf

Jon Courson

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