“So guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock—his church, purchased with his own blood—over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as leaders. (NLT)
Christians are taught it is better to give than receive, to put others’ interests above our own. Which is fair enough, if very difficult. However, there can be a danger lurking in this need to put others first and to make personal sacrifices in doing so.
When Paul farewelled the leaders of the Ephesian church, he told them to guard the people of God in that place. Guard against false teaching, encourage them when persecution came on them. Which is fair enough and only to be expected.
But he also tells them to guard themselves. Church leaders’ primary responsibility is to guard themselves because if they don’t do so they can’t effectively guard the people. Or to put it more simply, unless they are getting nurture and nourishing and encouragement, they can’t be expected to give it. Giving out must be part of their life, but so too must be receiving.
This applies to each of us. Constantly giving out can lead to burn out. Beware of becoming tiresome martyrs who never think of themselves but exhaust themselves in caring for others. It sounds so noble but leads to breakdown or sheer cynicism over time. Many make wonderful sacrifices in caring for others and there is a cost to it. But the cost cannot amount to self-neglect. There has to be a time for taking in as well as giving out.
After all, we can’t give out what we have never taken in.