The Push-Ups–A Parable

The Push-Ups–A Parable May 15, 2024

Students watch a demonstration of the push-ups of a classmate.
(NASA/Wikimedia Commons)

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, King James Version). As Christians, we cherish this verse. As Christ taught in parables, I will share a parable of the push-ups.

A Puzzling Challenge

As a private Christian high school student, Steve had been kicked out of a few classes. A teacher finally let Steve into his sixth-period class. One day the teacher staged his own parable involving push-ups. He asked Steve how many push-ups he could do. They agreed on 300, scheduling the experience for the last class on Friday.

Friday came, and Steve went to class early and sat in front. When class started, the teacher pulled out a big box of donuts, the big, extra-fancy kind, with cream centers and frosting swirls.

“Cynthia, do you want a donut?” the teacher asked the first girl in the first row.


He turned to Steve. “Would you do ten push-ups so Cynthia can have a donut.”

Steve jumped down from his desk to do a quick ten. Then sat again at his desk. The teacher put a donut on Cynthia’s desk. The push-ups cycle had begun.

The Push-Ups Continue

So it went, down the first aisle, and down the second aisle, until they came to Scott.

“Scott, do you want a donut?”

“Well, can I do my own push-ups?”

“No, Steve has to do them.”                                                               ‘

“Well, I don’t want one then.”

“Would you do ten push-ups so Scott can have a donut he doesn’t want?”

“Hey! I said I didn’t want one!”

“Just leave it on the desk if you don’t want it.” The teacher put a donut on Scott’s desk.

By this time Steve had begun to slow down a little. He just stayed on the floor between sets because it took too much effort to get up and down. Beads of perspiration appeared on his brow. The teacher started down the third row. Now the students were beginning to get a little angry.

            “Jenny, do you want a donut?”


            “Steve, would you do ten push-ups so Jenny can have a donut she doesn’t want?”

Steve did ten, and Jenny got a donut.

Empathy Enters

The students were beginning to say no regularly, and many uneaten donuts sat on desks. Steve was really putting forth a lot of effort to do the push-ups for each donut. Sweat was dripping onto the floor beneath his face. His arms and face were red from the effort.

The teacher said he couldn’t bear to watch all of Steve’s work for those uneaten donuts, so he asked Robert to make sure Steve did the push-ups; he then started down the fourth row. Some students had wandered in and sat along the heaters on the sides of the room. Noticing the increase, the teacher did a quick count—thirty-four! He started to worry if Steve would be able to make it.

At the door, Jason started to enter the room.

“Don’t come in!” the students shouted.

Steve looked up. “No, let him come in.”

“You realize that if Jason comes in you will have to do ten push-ups for him.”

“Yes, let him come in,” Steve continued.

Steve did ten push-ups very slowly and with great effort. Jason, bewildered, was handed a donut and sat down.

Work Finished

The teacher finished the fourth row, then started among those seated on the heaters. Steve’s arms were now shaking with each push-up in a struggle to lift himself against the force of gravity. Sweat was dropping off his face, and there was not a dry eye in the room. The teacher approached the last two girls.

 “Linda, do you want a donut?

“No, thank you,” Linda replied very sadly.

 “Steve, would you do ten push-ups so that Linda can have a donut she doesn’t want?”

Grunting from the effort, Steve did ten very slow push-ups for Linda. Then the teacher turned to the last girl.

“Susan, do you want a donut?”

“Can I help him?” Susan pleaded with tears flowing down her face.

“No, he has to do it alone. Steve, would you do ten push-ups so Susan can have a donut,” the teacher stammered with tears of his own.

As Steve very slowly finished his last push-up, he realized that he had  accomplished all that was required of him; the push-ups were finished—350 of them. His arms buckled beneath him and he fell to the floor.


The teacher turned to his class and said,

And so it was that our Savior, Jesus Christ, prayed, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” With the understanding that Jesus had done everything that was required of Him, He collapsed on the cross and died—even for those who didn’t want His gift. And just like some of us, many chose not to accept the gift that was provided for them.

Reflecting on this parable and its lessons for our lives, do we accept the infinite gift of God’s Only Begotten Son? Have we turned to him for forgiveness? Have we extended forgiveness, kindness, and compassion to those surrounding us? My prayer is that we that we will all accept the infinite gift of God’s Son and share that gift with others!

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