Why You Need to Know the Rule of Three

Why You Need to Know the Rule of 3

If you’re lucky, you’ve got a few more lazy days of summer left, but it won’t be long before nothing-to-do turns into how-will-I get-it-all-done. As you look ahead to the new school year, you need to know about the Rule of Three.

What Is the Rule of Three?

The "rule of three" is a strategy used by the United States Marines. In a nutshell, the rule is this: each Marine has three things to worry about. Marines are divided into teams of four individual Marines (three team members and one team leader). Teams are divided into squads. Each squad is made up of three teams. Three squads make up a platoon.

The entire Marine organizational chart is made up this way. What’s more, Marines are encouraged to limit their attention to three tasks—three things to worry about. No more. No less.

Several years ago, the Marines experimented with a Rule of Four, and effectiveness plummeted. Marines were stretched too thin. They became overextended and confused. Lives were lost.

What does that have to do with you?

Are You a Good Soldier?

God doesn’t ask you to be involved in every sport and activity. He has a much simpler game plan for your schedule.

You may not be a Marine, but did you know that if you are a Christian, you are a soldier? Cue: "I’m in the Lord’s Army" song. (Yes, sir!)

Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him (2 Tim. 2:3).

God has enlisted you into His army to fight big battles for His kingdom. But most of us are fruitless soldiers, because we are entangled in "civilian pursuits." We are stretched too thin. Overtired. Overextended. Maybe no lives are lost because we’re trying to do it all, but opportunities are . . . relationships are . . . chances to serve others are.

God doesn’t ask you to be involved in every sport and activity. In fact, He has a much simpler game plan for your schedule.

In Matthew 6, Jesus was preaching about the things that tend to stress us out (are you picturing your maxed-out schedule?) when He said these words:

"But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you" (Matt. 6:33).

The Rule of Threes means you can handle putting your effort toward three things. Not five. Not thirteen. Not seven. Three.

God clearly states what the first thing on our list should be. We are to seek God’s kingdom first. We are to organize our schedule, our priorities, our life around what matters most to God.

As you look at your plans for the school year ahead, are you seeking God’s kingdom first? If, instead, your schedule revolves around band or academics or hanging out with friends . . . you’ve got some rearranging to do.

The Twos and Threes

Your relationship with God needs to be your first priority. But what else should you fill your schedule with?

The answer to that question is different for all of us. If you’re in school, that’s one of the things you need to be focusing on. If you’re working, that’s an area of focus for you. Maybe you volunteer with a great not-for-profit or help your mom around the house several hours a week. Those are all great things, but as you plan, keep in mind the Rule of Threes.

You can be involved in Kingdom work, do well in school, and work a part-time job, but you probably can’t do all of that and play basketball and sing in the school musical without crashing and burning. You can volunteer in your church, go to school, and play a sport, but you won’t have bandwidth to also start a Bible study at school and try out for track and be on the leadership team for Fellowship of Christian athletes.

See how that works?

You pick three things and you do them well instead of picking twenty things that you do halfway.

I want to be upfront in saying that the Rule of Three is not a biblical principle. Nowhere in Scripture do we see God forbidding us from dividing our attention four or five ways. But from someone who has run a track meet or two in your shoes, for all the wrong reasons (I hated track, but wanted to impress my friends!), can I just encourage you to think about the wisdom found in a pared-down schedule? The purpose of your life is not to be involved in every club, activity, and sport possible. The purpose of your life is to glorify God and be used by Him. (It says so in Isaiah 43:7.)

As you look to the school year ahead, would you ask these questions?

  • Can I best glorify God if I am burned out and stretched too thin?
  • What/who are the "causalities" when my schedule is too full?
  • What are my top three priorities?
  • What can I let go in order to focus on these three things?

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