What Does Eating an Elephant One Bite at a Time Mean?

Eating Something That Big Takes Real Determination

Most of us have heard the saying, “Eat an elephant one bite at a time.” At first glance, this phrase seems a little far out there for those of us in the middle of the United States. It’s not like there’s a lot of elephants around to eat.

This phrase is used when referring to how we can accomplish a large daunting goal through a series of smaller tasks.

A normal serving size of meat is between a half pound and three quarters of a pound. As we all have different sized mouths, it’s hard to know exactly how many bites are in a serving, but 10-15 bites are considered a good serving. In Africa the forest elephants are normally between 5,000 – 6,000 pounds of meat. (Thank you Skyler)

This means to eat an average-sized elephant it will take around…154,000 bites.

We are all faced with large, overwhelming undertakings, some bigger than others. Sonia shared a story about a large endeavor in the children’s message. She told me about a bicycle padlock that her brother had when they were kids. The problem was…nobody in the family knew the combination.

She said there were 10,000 options to finding the right combination with a four number padlock. She started in and after 4500 tries she got it. This was a pretty big elephant and a lot of bites.

This was some real determination.

The key to accomplishing any big task is determination and taking the first step.

This is what Paul was doing in Acts as he continually went from town to town sharing God’s message. It was a big and dangerous undertaking, but he was determined to eat the next bite.

In Acts 20:17-24 he told the people in Ephesus, “You know everything I did during the time I was with you when I first came to Asia. Some of the Jews plotted against me and caused me a lot of sorrow and trouble. But I served the Lord and was humble. When I preached in public or taught in your homes, I didn’t hold back from telling anything that would help you. I told Jews and Gentiles to turn to God and have faith in our Lord Jesus.

I don’t know what will happen to me in Jerusalem, but I must obey God’s Spirit and go there. In every city I visit, I am told by the Holy Spirit that I will be put in jail and will be in trouble in Jerusalem. But I don’t care what happens to me, as long as I finish the work the Lord Jesus gave me to do. And this work is to tell the good news about God’s gift of undeserved grace.”

Like Paul we all have a purpose. It may not be preaching like Paul’s but is just as important. It may be the way we treat co-workers and customers; it may be in raising our children; it may be community service. Whatever it is that we’ve been put here to do…

We need to stay the course and keep eating the elephant one bite after another. Start chewing.