A man was carrying a bucket full of sand. He had been carrying it for a long time. He used to have a lot of fun at the beach, and every time he went to the beach, he picked up some sand and put it in his bucket. The bucket of sand used to make him smile. It represented happy memories of happy times in happy places. But lately, he was tired. The beach wasn’t so much fun. And the bucket of sand had become a burden.
His pockets were full of sand, too. This was because he ran out of room in the bucket. When the bucket was full of sand, he picked up some more sand, and – put it in his pocket. He couldn’t stop picking up sand… so many happy memories of the beach, you know. So he got into the habit of going to the beach, picking up some sand, looking at the full bucket, and stuffing some more sand in his pocket. Then, the next pocket, and the next, and the next, until every pocket was as full of sand as the bucket.
When he went home, he would accidentally spill some sand on the carpet. His wife complained about it, but he didn’t think it was any big deal. She would just vacuum it up. Sometimes, he even vacuumed up the spilled sand himself. In fact, it was better if he could clean up the sand before his wife even noticed it. That saved some trouble. No point getting in trouble over sand.
Sometimes, though, the sand spilled on the hardwood floor. That was kind of a big deal. If he didn’t clean it up in time, someone would walk on the sand, and it would permanently scratch the floor. It always left a mark. Even when he cleaned it up and polished the floor, if you looked real close you could always see the scar left by the sand.
He would spill some sand at work sometimes, too. It would fall off the top of the bucket, or slide out through a hole in his pocket. Sand got in the gears and fouled up a few things. Sand got on his co-workers’ desks, too, and they complained about having to clean up his mess.
After a while it got really bad at home and at work. Finally, his boss said, “If I see any more of your sand, you’re fired.” His wife said, “If I see any more of your sand, I’m leaving you.”
The man admitted that it would make sense to dump the sand. It was creating a lot of problems. He reminded himself that he was tired, the beach wasn’t so much fun, and the sand had become a burden. But still – he had carried the sand for so long that he couldn’t imagine himself without it. In fact, when he tried to think of life without the sand, it kind of made him shiver. It was – well – frightening, actually. Life without sand…
One day, as he was walking on the beach, he found a pearl. He had never seen one before. He had heard about them, but he had never actually found one. It was beautiful! And he knew it was worth a lot of money, too. There was just one problem – he couldn’t pick it up. He had both hands full of sand.
Right then he made a decision. He dropped the sand and picked up the pearl. He was really happy. A pearl. He had a pearl!
Can you imagine his delight and surprise when he saw a second pearl? There was no hesitation this time. He knew exactly what to do, and he did it. He dumped some sand out of his pocket to make room for the second pearl. In fact, he dumped a lot of sand out of his pocket, so he could stick the pearl in deep. He didn’t want it to fall out on the way to the jewelry store before he ever had a chance to sell it. He got rid of a lot of sand to make room for that one pearl in his pocket. He kept holding the first pearl tightly in his hand. Then he went to the jewelry store and sold them both.
The next day he couldn’t wait to walk back to the beach. He hoped maybe he’d be able to find another pearl or two. Well, something had changed. Something wonderful had happened. The man had learned how to see pearls, where before he only saw the sand. He didn’t just find one or two pearls; he found lots of pearls. Some of the pearls were buried beneath the sand, and only a glimmer was showing. The man swept the sand away to expose those pearls, and then he picked them up. He picked up the pearls – not the sand.
He dumped sand out of his pockets, and put pearls in. Then, his pockets were full of pearls! Do you know what he did? He dumped the sand out of his bucket. All of it. Then he kept looking for the next pearl, and when he found it, he dropped that one, beautiful pearl in the empty bucket. He liked the sound it made when it bounced on the bottom. And the bucket was so light!
He kept finding pearls, and he put them in the bucket. At the end of the day, he took the pearls to the jewelry store and sold them. Day after day he did this. He made a lot of money selling pearls. He had money left over after he paid all his bills.
Then he saw a family that needed help, and so he used some of the extra money to buy them some groceries. On another occasion, he saw a man walking barefoot, so he bought him a pair of shoes.
Then one day he sat on the beach, looking at the sunrise, and thought about the way his life had changed. “I hoarded the sand, and it became a burden. I sell the pearls, and that’s how they become a blessing. I held onto something of no value, and it kept me from managing the things of real value.”
The story of the man with the burden of sand is over.
But what about you? What about your burden?
Here is the explanation of the parable. We think that life without our addiction would be frightening. We think it would be life with an empty bucket and empty pockets. But – I’m telling you the truth – it is just the opposite. Without your addiction, your bucket is immediately filled with other things – things of far greater value to you – pearls! Your addiction isn’t filling your life. It is preventing your life from being filled.
This is the word of God to you: “Don’t be afraid. Empty your hand, and I the Lord will fill it. Take hold of me, and I will take hold of you.”