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Are Boundaries Biblical?

Thoughts about boundaries compiled by Cynthia Gill MA, LMFT.

"It's more blessed to give than receive,” quote many Christians, who think they are being selfish by setting boundaries. After all, it tells us to give liberally in the Bible (Act 20:35, Luke 6:38) they argue while suffering from lack of self-care. Let’s look at some verses that bring balance to our lives. “Boundaries verses,” I call them.

Galatians 6:2 and 5 are the first ones. ''Bear one another's burdens," we are exhorted by Paul. But he follows up quickly with the admonition “For each shall carry his own load.” It is understood that the first verse means to help others carry burdens that are too heavy for them: say when someone dies, or is very sick, or is moving. But to take responsibility for someone else, the things that he/she should carry himself? That is neither good nor wise. An example is the adult child living at home, leeching off his parents. In rare situations the parent can help out, but how will he/she ever learn responsibility if the parents meet every need the (adult) child has? It works for them, so they’ll continue with an irresponsible lifestyle!

Matthew 25:1-13, the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, is a clear indication we are to set boundaries and stick to them. “The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there many not be enough for both of us…’” Jesus doesn’t encourage them to give up themselves, to sacrifice what is precious to them for the foolishness of the others. Rather, he applauds them for being wise. This passage very clearly speaks to us that boundaries are a Godly thing to have.

In Matthew 11: 28-39 Jesus bids us come to Him if we are weary and heavily loaded down. If we are carrying too many burdens, we are not going to be able to enjoy the rest that he has for us. Other verses that speak to this are Hebrews 4:3-4, 9-11. "There remains therefore a rest for the children of God..." The Sabbath (referred to in the passage) is a boundary, set in place because God doesn't want us to be workaholics! It's His intention that we lead a balanced life.

How many of us rest one day a week? I bet those who do see a remarkable reward in the family relationships. But the person who is caretaking her mentally ill friend, and managing her own 4 young children, and still volunteers to feed the homeless 3 times a is that a light and easy yoke?

Psalm 131 is a precious psalm that describes a mother and her weaned child, quieting himself. What a beautiful picture of boundaries. The person doesn't overextend himself/herself taking on more things than he/she can handle. "My heart is not proud (vs.1)" it says.

Romans 12:3 expresses the same thing." Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought to think." Somehow, we perceive of ourselves as able to bake 4 different batches of cookies for the bazaar, volunteer to clean the church basement, trim all the bushes in the community park, run for the school board, and still have enough energy left for our own family. What are we thinking? Of course, our family is the one who gets the short end of the stick.

We say "Yes" because we feel pressured to please everyone, and that Is from our own shame. Psychologists tell us that we need to care for ourselves, to be assertive enough to say NO sometimes. In Titus, it says "For the grace of God...has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say NO to ungodliness... and live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives." (Tit. 2:11,12) How can we dove others if we don't love ourselves? (Mark 12:30-31, Matt. 22:39). The 10 commandments contain boundaries. "You must not steal," indicates that God respects private property. Not socialism promoted by force. By free will (as in Acts 4:32-35), yes, but free will is the guideline. "You must not commit murder" is an obvious boundary, as is "you must not covet."

In my experience, the people who are most critical of others are many times doing the most. Perhaps they are a little self-righteous. Perhaps they feel empty because they are so busy serving that they don’t have time to sit and build relationships. Sound like Martha? (Luke 10:38-42). They come to me with depression and anxiety, stemming largely from the lack of healthy self-love that allows you to be gentle and patient with yourself.

And thus gentle. and patient with others.

Set good! boundaries. _A boundary is simply a limit, it means saying "enough." Get help if you can't say no or can't seem to set good limits. Perhaps there's some co- dependency that you need to deal with. There are many more verses in the Bible that point to a balanced life (Prov.11:1). Jesus is not a harsh taskmaster, who asks us to give beyond our means. He is meek and lowly of heart and wants us to rest. To only “do the good works that He has prepared for us to walk in (Eph. 2:10).” After all, everything has a season, it might be the season to enjoy your little ones, or some such thing (Ecc. 3:1-10). “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” The fruit of the spirit will flourish in a life that is well cultivated with balance and boundaries.

Let's glorify God by resting in Him!

For further assistance, please call 763-566-0088 and speak to our Client Services Coordinator or stop by the NewPath Mental Health Services office at 8401 Wayzata Blvd., Suite 340, Golden Valley, MN 55426 to find out about services you are interested in.


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