In the 1960’s Swedish film director Ingmar Bergman was being interviewed about his masterpiece of cinema, “The Magician.”  In discussing the film’s interpretation he told a Chinese parable that resonates with me deeply, and is the one message for 2014 I hope to take most deeply to heart.  It is also the message I hope my friends and family will consider as we approach a new year.

The parable, retold in my own words:

In ancient china there was a word worker who was skilled but not well known.  Surprisingly the Emperor chose him to make a new bell stand for the temple bells.  This was a very honored assignment.

The wood worker worked diligently, thinking of the reputation he would earn by creating a bell stand worth admiration.  This piece would make him famous in all of China.  Except that when he was finished, he had failed.  The bell stand was a mess, and he would have to start over.

As he began a second time, he was excited to consider all of the money that would come with being the successful maker of a bell stand commissioned by the Emperor.  He thought of the riches and the way his life would change.  However, there was a problem.  When the bell stand was finished, he had failed.  It was another mess.  

The third time, he was lost in hopes of becoming a legend.  His name would always be remembered as the carver of the great bell stand of the temple.  However, once again, he failed.  The bell stand came out quite poorly.

The wood worker grew angry, and knew he needed to get this right.  However, this time he simply set out to craft a bell stand worthy of the bells.  In so doing, he succeeded in crafting a masterpiece, and earned a reputation, riches, and became a legend in China.


To see this parable as teaching that if we do not desire riches and fame we will eventually receive it would be to miss the point terribly.  The parable is about our hearts and motivations.  This year, I hope to serve Christ, not to the recognition of my own name, but the glory of his.  I hope to be a good husband, not so that my wife will sing my praises, but because she deserves my best.  I hope to continue to grow as a father, not because I’m trying to win praise as a good one, but because my kids are worthy of my love, guidance, care, and adoration.  I hope to be a good friend, because of all people I know that they’re hard to come by.  I pray we all live this year with this in mind.