Jump directly to the content

sermon illustrations

home > find sermon illustrations

sermon illustration

'White Elephant' Gifts Distract Us from Serving God

Average Rating:  [see ratings/reviews]

Gordon MacDonald shares the following story:

In ancient days when the king of Siam had an enemy he wanted to torment and destroy, he would send that enemy a unique gift, a white elephant, a live, albino elephant. These animals were considered sacred in the culture of that day. So the recipient of that elephant had no choice but to intentionally care for the gift. This elephant would take an inordinate amount of the enemy's time, resources, energy, emotions, and finances. Over time the enemy would destroy himself because of the extremely burdensome process of caring for the gift.

Our spiritual enemy uses the same strategy on us …. Let's say you buy season tickets to [your favorite sports team], but because you still have a lot of games to go to, you no longer have time to serve in some area of ministry. Or let's say you buy a summer cottage, but now you miss most weekend worship services between the beginning of May and the end of September. Or let's say you buy a health club membership to get in shape. You used to get up early in the morning to read your Bible and pray, but now you don't have time because you're working out before you go to work. Or let's say you buy a spot for one of your kids on a traveling sports team, and now you're too busy to join our community impact ministry as we serve the poor.

Are there white elephants in your life? Are you spending money on things that take your time away from God? The money isn't the problem; the activities aren't necessarily the problem; the problem is a white elephant "gift" that has pulled you away from God-honoring pursuits.

rating & reviews

Average User Rating:

Displaying 1–5 of 7 comments


December 13, 2012  4:26pm

Sometimes we are prone to glorify the gift, or worse, glorify ourselves rather than glorifying God with the gifts we receive from Him. Unlike the king of Siam, whose "white elephant" gift was motivated by hatred, God's gifts are motivated by His love and concern for us, and with the one condition that we use that gift to glorify Him, and to bless others. Unfortunately, our egos often get inflated with the talents we receive from God (e.g. music, hospitality, etc.,) and we tend to use them to glorify ourselves through them. Every time we use our God-given gifts, we must remember that they are to be used only to honor, glorify, and worship the "Giver of every good and perfect gift." Chris Ederesinghe

Report Abuse


December 12, 2012  2:02pm

tahk you Siam Sam. I interpret this: God gives everything we need to take care of the privileges & responsibilities he gives.

Report Abuse

Siam Sam

December 12, 2012  12:56am

Living in Thailand, I know this story is true, but only half true. If the king wanted to curse his enemies, he would do as described above. However, if he wanted to bless his enemies, he would give the same gift: a white elephant. However, he would then provide the land, money, manpower, and all the necessary resources to take care of it. I'm sure there's another sermon illustration in there in contrast to the first option....perhaps something about God's direction and provision?

Report Abuse


December 11, 2012  6:39am

Thanks for this message. It was meant for me.

Report Abuse


December 10, 2012  5:50pm

This sermon illustration is captivating, and brings out the point that is ever so true. This is an everyday encouraging and inspiring Word from God, which taken seriously, would bring about changes for the better in a person's life. Thanks for sharing this message.

Report Abuse

Review and Rate this Article: *



1000 character limit

* Comments may be edited for tone and clarity.

related sermon illustrations

Boy Skips National Spelling Bee for God

Elliot Huck, a 14-year-old from Bloomington, Indiana, decided to skip a preliminary to the National Spelling Bee. Though he placed 45th out of more than 250 spellers in last year's ...

[ read more ]

Michael Jordan Shreds Gear

If any athlete was known for focus, it was Michael Jordan. In Jordan's book, Driven from Within, Fred Whitfield, president and chief operating officer of the NBA's Charlotte Bobcats ...

[ read more ]

more sermon illustrations ...

related videos

There are currently no related videos.

more videos ...

editor's update

Matt Woodley

Francis Chan: What We Have Backwards

October 27, 2014

archives | read more ...