The Most Important Thing?

I recently heard a story about a young boy who lived at the turn of the last century.  His family were farmers making their living off the land, planting, harvesting and selling the crops all by hand and with crude instruments.  Sometimes when we think of that period of history, before the age of computers and all our modern technology, we can mistakingly think how simple life must have been; however, it was a time when work days lasted from sun up to sun down, working diligently by the sweat of one’s brow.

The story goes that in one such farm the young son didn’t like helping with the chores.  He complained when it was time to milk the cow in the early frosty mornings of winter.  He labored with deliberate slowness when it was time to chop a store of wood.  He saw no real importance in plowing straight lines.   All he wanted to do was find ways to get out of as much work as possible.

One day his father was toiling long and hard.  He was hot and tired but he worked on.  The mother noticed her son not helping.  She went outside, telling her son that he needed to help his father.  She named the chores to be done:  chop more wood, fetch more water for the kitchen, clean the horse stalls, and relieve his father in the plowing.

The boy thought for a moment and then asked with a clever grin, “what’s the most important thing to do?”  His cunning indicated that he would find out the most important thing, get it done, leaving the less important things for someone else to do.  He thought his question witty but the answer he received rather stunned him.  His mother said,”The most important thing?  The one thing that brings personal feelings of achievement?  The one thing that keeps your heart at peace?  The one thing that crowns you with success and brings to you a healthy pride in your work?  Is that what you want to know?”  He slowly nodded his head.  She answered him with a verse found in I Corinthians 10:31, “Whether therefore you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

The boy’s mother turned to take her dried laundry into the house.  The boy watched her carrying the heavy load but for the first time, he also saw the look of satisfaction and peace in her eyes.  He looked across the field at his father and saw him wipe his sweaty forehead with a cloth, but noticed for the first time the look of contentment on his face.

The advice he received, and more importantly, took to heart that day, changed him from being a boy to a man.  His daily goal, to work hard, play hard, eat hard, sleep hard, all to the best of his ability and to the glory of God, became his aim for the rest of his life.  He was heard saying in later years as he was speaking to a group of children, “whatever you do, do it as if Jesus is right there watching you, waiting to reward you with His own peace and joy, because the fact is — that’s exactly what He is doing — watching, rewarding, encouraging you in your journey, providing peace and strength and joy.  There’s nothing as fulfilling as living out — the most important thing.


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