Christians make terrible rules

Growing up, my family was in church every time the doors were open. Sunday morning, Sunday school, followed by church. Go home for a pot roast and an afternoon of rest. Return to church for evening

service, or as we got older, youth group. Wednesday night AWANA. We liked church.

Pouring Water

J – Jesus first

O – Others second

Y – Yourself last

Pastors and Sunday School teachers love acrostics.

Always a fan of all things “joy”, I took this on as my motto. I scribbled it on my notebooks, wrote it on my book covers, and did whatever I could to train myself to put Jesus first, Others second, and myself last.

Today, after nearly thirty years in the Church, a college degree, and five years of studying the word “boundaries”, I’ve got to say that… this rule is just terrible.

Before you Sunday school teachers get defensive, hear me out.

I understand where the idea comes from. I lived it for years so I’ve got a decent handle on the perspective. To love Jesus well, is to follow him and place him before anything else. Before country, before family, before personal wants. Jesus is to be worshipped before all other. So place him first.

“Love your neighbor as yourself, this is the greatest commandment”. Okay, so we need to love others. We need to “turn the other cheek”, forgive “seventy times seven”, and “go into all the world and make disciples”. (Please don’t make me link references to all of those. No one owns rights to printing the Bible, right?) To be a good Christian is to give of ourselves to others.

So that leaves us.

According to the JOY rule, we’ve put Jesus first, friends and enemies second, and then we have to fall somewhere so we’ll place last. “The last will be first and the first will be last” or “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble” or the famous verse that throws in both selfishness AND humility “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves” (Phil 2:3).

I want to point out that there is nothing wrong with these thoughts in and of themselves. They are words and ideas to live by. I mean, they’re in the Bible of all places, it’s not like some theologian just made them up. Worship Jesus with all you have. Give to others. Be humble.

The danger, and what I want to speak against, is the creating of a false sense of humility and a passive-aggressive lifestyle.

If you don’t take care of yourself first, you cannot take care of someone else.


If you don’t take care of yourself first, you cannot take care of someone else.

I could give you examples of this all day long, but the one I’m going with is a water pitcher. As long as the pitcher is full of water, it can pour out and fill glasses. As soon as that pitcher become empty, it is useless, until it has been re-filled. If you are trying to fill glasses at a banquet table with an empty water pitcher, all anyone will get is really thirsty.

I’m convinced that Jesus, son of the Most High, never poured from an empty pitcher. Nor was he a doormat, constantly letting everyone go first so that he could be walked on and abused. Jesus somehow managed to love relentlessly and radically, while still being assertive and taking care of himself.

Jesus never said to love others and not yourself. He said to love others as yourself. Love yourself first. Fill your pitcher overflowing with water. When you are full, then you are not only free but completely able to let that real joy overflow to everyone you meet. You have no need to be selfish with what you have to give, because you have so much of it. Your pitcher of water will NEVER go empty.

If you say that you’re a Christian, a follower of Jesus, try practicing placing yourself first. This doesn’t mean placing Jesus second. This means purposefully spending time growing in life with Jesus, letting Jesus do what he came and wants to do – fill you up with living water.

Once you are filled to the brim, let that living water overflow to everyone you meet. Beware: if you pour out of the pitcher, you must keep refilling it or you will once again, will be empty and have nothing to give.

If you don’t take care of yourself first, you cannot take care of someone else.

Now go, fill yourself with love and good things, and then go from there and love your neighbor.


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#theology #Christianity #encourage #change #opinion #thoughts #life #truth #bible

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