Emptying the Cup

empty your cup“Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” (Proverbs 26:12, ESV)

Not measuring up to our own expectations and potential is disappointing … not measuring up to God’s expectations is the most costly of all! Ben Herbster wrote, “the greatest waste in the world is the difference between what we are and what we can become.”

Each of us has been given talents and abilities in this life and we are accountable to our Maker if we fail to realize them, develop them and use them in a good way. One can read the Parable of the Talents recorded in Matthew 25:14-30 to gain a better understanding of the Lord’s expectations of mankind. How many names could be recorded through the annals of time that wasted their talents and abilities, and who wasted their minds and even their very lives? We see it most often academically and even in the lives of those who could be considered gifted musicians, athletes, etc. who just didn’t feel the need to be taught, coached, or guided by someone who knew more and who had already experienced more than them?

God, our Creator, understands “our frame” (Psalm 103:14)! He knows who we are, what we possess and what our potential in life can be because He made us and He has placed “eternity in our hearts” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). We must be very careful not to become one of those the Bible speaks of who “… are destroyed because of a lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6).

Our attitude toward learning … toward gaining knowledge … toward refining our talents and abilities is of paramount importance! Consider the insight of Dr. Scott Baker, a psychologist, which he learned from many years of teaching martial arts:

The student’s attitude is the most significant aspect of their nature which contributes to either their success or failure in learning this complex system of skills. Attitude has a greater impact upon a student’s success than natural ability, and physical capacity. One can build capacity and endurance, and one can teach skills and abilities even to the untalented, but one cannot teach the un-teachable!

There is an old Taoist story about a student who comes to a master and asks him to teach him. The master invites the student to sit with him and have tea. While they are sitting, the master starts to converse with the eager young student. But every time the master starts to explain a point, the student would interrupt him and say, “Oh, I know that, I do this when that happens, or I don’t have that problem because. . . .” Soon the master stopped talking and picked up the teapot. He began pouring tea into the student’s cup. As the cup filled, he continued pouring until the cup overflowed and spilled out. The student shouted, “Stop! It is enough! My cup is full!” With that, the old master smiled and replied, “Yes, your cup is full, therefore I can teach you nothing until you empty your cup.”

What is the moral to this short but relevant story? What is the take-away for each of us to learn? Very simply we must ALWAYS BE AND REMAIN TEACHABLE! This student chose not to listen to his master martial arts teacher … but chose to show his teacher how much he already knew! Are you giving thought to these words? Consider this:

  • He wasn’t really open to learning anything new or that could enable him to be more successful in his martial arts pursuit!
  • He wasn’t really open to learning more perfectly because he thought he already knew all he needed to know!
  • This student’s cup of knowledge was full!
  • Before he could learn anything else from his master teacher, he had to first empty his cup!

One doesn’t have to forget everything they have already learned … but one must have an open mind and a teachable heart! Possessing a teachable heart in this life with all of its duties, responsibilities and relationships is of great significance! But more importantly, we must possess the right attitude expressed by the Psalmist David when he wrote, Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.” (Psalm 25:4).

Is our cup empty, or do we know so much that we say by our attitude what was said by the Lord through the Apostle John when he penned the letter to the early church located in Laodicea, “I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing”((Revelation 3:17)? We must approach learning from a humble and meek disposition. Have we put what we think we know aside long enough for God to put His instruction in? Are we really teachable?

Bill Fairchild, Jr.


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