Feel Free to Say “No!”
by Amy Ruiz
“Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’” –Matthew 5:37 (GNB)
Between family, friends, work, and church commitments, I often find myself being asked to take on more and more on an already full plate. If you are like me and many others I know, it can be hard to say no when you see the need is great. You feel you will be letting people down by not saying yes and/or you think it is expected for you to do something.
I used to feel guilty for not helping with children’s ministry, especially since I have children benefitting from the programs. But when I reflected that it really wasn’t my area of gifting—it stressed me out, and it was not a good use of my time and energy—I began to feel okay with saying no. I still probably say yes to too many requests, but I am working on learning what things are within God’s will for me and what things I can say no to doing.
I think many of us almost associate saying yes and helping with everything that comes our way (especially in the church) as the “Christian” thing to do. But Matthew 5:37 tells us: “Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’” This verse doesn’t just stop with the “Yes, I will”—it also gives us the option for “No, I won’t.” We are just asked to be clear and honest with our answer. We have permission to say, “No!”
Consider the example Jesus himself set for us after feeding the five thousand. John 6:15 reports that, “When Jesus saw that they were ready to force Him to be their king, He slipped away into the hills by himself.” Jesus needed time by himself. He did this often. He worked hard and ministered to many people, but He also made sure to spend time with God.
Jesus was in perfect communion with God—since He is God and He is the exact image of God—but He still needed time when He could simply concentrate on that relationship. If Jesus, who was perfect, benefited from time alone with God and rest, how much do we benefit from this practice? Why are so many of us quick to say yes to every favor asked of us and spread ourselves much too thin in the name of Jesus, when Jesus didn’t say yes to every request made of Him and understood the importance of His own spiritual life and physical well-being.
The world may look at us with awe when we work our fingers to the bone for others, but there is no honor and glory for God in those situations. It is us getting the glory. And if we do not understand when to say no, we can contribute to someone’s detriment or take away the blessings someone else might have experienced by doing the work God intended for them. We are members of the Body of Christ working together, which means we don’t have to say yes to the job of the nose when we are the ear.
Dear God, please show us what things You want us to say yes to, and to what You want us to say no. May we find freedom in only doing what You’ve called us to do. Amen.