Draining or Filling

  • Steve Hatter
Man spilling glass of water

The Apostle Paul was a truth-teller. His explanations of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, along with his many practical applications regarding how believers are to live each day as redeemed followers of Christ stand today as elegant, profound, and timeless. God spoke through Paul. Therefore, every word of his two-thousand-year-old epistles addressed to the early church proves marvelously relevant today.

Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi represents my personal favorite among all the Pauline epistles. So today, I’d like to offer one of the many reasons why.

Paul utterly nailed the key to every human relationship, past, present, and future, when he called out the disaster of selfishness. Philippians 2:3-4  offers this insight and admonition regarding how we view ourselves considering others:

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

A word study of the Greek word for nothing—μηδείς—leaves little room for wiggling or rationalization about our motives. Quite simply, we are to do “nothing”—literally NO THING—from a motivation rooted in selfishness or any desire for personal gain or self-aggrandizement. Why? Because this is how Jesus lived and taught throughout His miraculous life and ministry walking the earth as the God-man. Jesus Christ perfectly modeled how to have human-to-human relationships, and guess what? It is supposed to be mainly about ALL GIVE AND NO TAKE. 

I call this idea the One Hundred-Zero Rule when I am privileged to give marriage counseling. One-Hundred-Zero means we are to give 100% of our best to our spouse and expect μηδείς—nothing—in return.

Wait, what? Aren’t I supposed to fight for my rights? Aren’t I supposed to be assertive? Aren’t I supposed to “get mine” in my close relationships and generally in life? Is not my short trip through time and space supposed to be all about me? Of course, the culture of today will shout this “me first” philosophy to you as your eyes are drawn to your smartphone or computer. In fact, social media, I would argue, is the epicenter of selfishness. Rarely do people use the many sophisticated digital platforms for Biblical good because they are all literally designed to draw attention to self!

Well, Jesus and Paul tell us the last thing a Christian should be doing is thinking about ourselves and what we want, or what we are owed, or what we desire, apart from pleasing and glorifying God.

One very practical way to test whether you, as a Christian, are following Jesus and Paul in this key area of selfless living, is to give yourself what I call the “filling or draining test.” I believe that every human interaction can be measured in terms of whether we drain or fill as we speak and hear within the moment. All of us need others to pour into us from time to time, but in the aggregate, we should be known as a filler and not a drainer.

I’ve been thinking about this idea for quite some time now and I’m sad to say there are years of my early life that were mostly about me draining the people I loved the most. I was a comparer and a scorekeeper, always looking for my percentage. Those closest poured into me because I demanded it, pretty much all the time.

After becoming a Christian in my early thirties, however, I have really wanted to flip the script on this ego-centric narrative and, with God’s help, become known as a filler, as someone who blesses naturally, as someone who lives the One Hundred-Zero rule like Jesus.

I know some lovely Christians who bless naturally—literally as easy as they breathe—and my wife is one of them. I am pretty sure the “net take” on her life as people speak of her legacy will be all about how she was “always there for me,” or she “would do anything for us,” or “I will miss how good she always seemed to make me feel.”

Fillers draw people to them. Drainers cause people to run and hide from them.

Are you a drainer for a filler? Think about it in light of your personal obedience to Philippians 2.

Am I:

Doing nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility counting others more significant than myself.

Am I:

Looking not only to my own interests, but also to the interests of others?

By the way, I should give you my personal testimony regarding living out the One Hundred-to Zero Rule in my own marriage. When I expect nothing in return while giving selflessly, I’ve seen time and again that God blesses beyond my wildest hopes. By His grace, I get everything in return from Cynthia, not nothing. You see, Christlike behavior rooted in a pure desire to worship God alone both draws people closer and inspires them to imitate what they love seeing in you!