Addition Requires Subtraction

Imagine a box full of balls. The size of the box and number of balls are not important; the point is that the box is full.

Addition Requires Subtraction

Around the box there are a number of balls lying in close proximity. It is a static image – nothing is moving.

Now look closer. There are words written on each ball. Lift one out of the box, have a look and then replace it, then another, and another. Now turn your attention to the balls around the box. Notice that there are also words written on these balls.

Imagine that box represents a day in your life. The balls that fill up the box describe the twenty-four hours of your day. The words on the balls will be different for each of us as our days differ, but we will have some words in common. We all sleep, eat, work, travel, read, watch . . . perhaps we will have other words such as walk, run, play, browse, shop and whatever other actions fill the minutes and hours of the day.

The balls lying around the box are your unfulfilled aspirations. These are the things that you want to do, or know that you should do, in any given day. They are never done and so these balls lie close to the box but are never inside.

Putting our imagination aside for a moment, it is a sobering exercise to consider how we spend the hours of our days. The words of an old hymn seem appropriate -

Room for pleasure, room for business,
But for Christ the Crucified,
Not a place that He can enter,
In the heart for which He died?

“So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom”
(Psalm 90:12 KJV).

Now back to our box and imagination.

If I want to take one of the balls that are lying around the box and place it into the box, I need to make room for it. To add one in I need to take one out. In other words, addition requires subtraction.

Likewise in my day. If I am going to take one of my unfulfilled aspirations and make it part of my day, something is going to have to give.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Bible reading plans fail, regular prayer is missing, those acts of kindness are not done, neighbours never hear about the gospel, and any number of other good and profitable aspects of life remain undone. I want to pray, witness, read my Bible, serve others, but am not prepared to stop, in order to start. I am trying to put another ball into a box that is already full.

It is a simple picture, but I cannot add a ball into the box until I take one out. It may be that these good aspirations remain undone because I have not considered what requires to stop before I try to start. For example, I cannot start to regularly read my Bible unless I stop doing something else.

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil”
(Ephesians 5:15-16 ESV).