the weblog of Alan Knox

Replay: Donkeys sleeping in the bathtub

Posted by on May 18, 2013 in community, definition, discipleship, fellowship | 5 comments

Four years ago, I published a post called “Donkeys sleeping in the bathtub.” The post was inspired a commercial that was airing around the time that I wrote the post. The commercial was about crazy laws that were on the books in certain states. It made me think about how there are certain traditions among the church, and how those traditions started, and how those traditions just seem to hang around… whether they are helpful or not.


Donkeys sleeping in the bathtub

According to a commercial on the radio, there is a law in Arizona that makes it illegal to allow a donkey to sleep in your bathtub.

Also, apparently, in Minnesota, there is a law that makes it illegal to cross the Minnesota state line with a duck on your head.

While these laws seem funny and even ridiculous to us, there was probably a good reason for passing the laws in the first place. If we traced the history of these laws, we would probably understand why the laws are on the book. However, while the history may clear things up for us, history will not make the laws make sense today.

Why? Well, most people don’t own donkeys today, much less allow them to sleep in their bathtubs. And, I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone with a duck on their head.

But, of course, once a law is on the books, it is difficult to remove it.

The same thing happens with our traditions and practices and rules in the church. For very good reasons, the church begins doing things and begins doing them in certain ways. Eventually, the reasons disappear, but the practices continue.

Eventually, if we’re not careful, those practices become more important to us than who we are as the family of God in Christ. The way we do things becomes more important than the reason we started doing them in the first place. We become defined by our methods instead of being defined by our relationship with God and with one another.

I think we see this today in many aspects of our lives together as the church. We don’t know why we do the things we do or why we act the way we act or why we’re structured the way we’re structured, but someone must have had a good reason to start doing it this way, and we’re familiar and comfortable with these things, so we just let them continue.

But, the silly laws I mentioned at the beginning of this post – laws against donkeys sleeping in bathtubs and wearing a duck on your head – generally don’t affect people today. For many people, their lives will not be changed if the laws remain or are repealed.

But, it is completely different for the church. The things that we do day after day, week after week, year after year, simply because that’s the ways it’s been done, or the ways we’ve been taught, or the ways that have worked before, or even the ways that seem rational and logical… these things affect us as followers of Jesus Christ. They affect our relationship with God and our relationships with one another.

The things that we do or don’t do, the way that we’re structured or not structured, the way that we speak or don’t speak, all of these things work to either build us up toward maturity in Christ, or they hinder our development in Christ.

Laws against donkeys sleeping in the bathtub seem funny and ridiculous to us. But, I wonder if the way we treat one another as the church, the way we set up hierarchies among believers, the way we abandon our responsibilities toward one another and pay others to carry out our responsibilities… I wonder if these things seem funny to God.


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 5-18-2013

    Just a note to thank you for “replaying” some of these older posts, not having been around the first time. I certainly must say, they make me think! And when it drives me to the Book, that’s a good thing!

  2. 5-19-2013

    How about mandating wearing a 3-piece suit to church or demanding holy silence in the “sanctuary”?

  3. 5-19-2013

    PS, where on Earth do you find your pictures???

  4. 5-19-2013

    Another way being a mom has affected my spiritual journey is having to explain things to our children. When we are intentional about explaining why we do what we do…it really is amazing trying to spit out the words to communicate what people do or why people do what they do.

    Really, everybody needs to get around kids. Getting around new believers isn’t enough….all the unbelievers turned believers I’ve crossed paths with know the system and what Sunday is all about and what it looks like…. so they already have preconceived knowledge or ideas or understanding.

    But children!? the most beautiful blank slate!

    It really helps you understand what is important and what is not…. what is from the Bible and what’s just a tradition not based on any verses in particular.

    I’ve had to stop trying to explain the system/business way of doing things because I just don’t know is usually my answer after all the “why”… “but why”…. “so then why”… round and round.

    So I think that’s my best answer now anytime they ask a question about the church business/institution… “I just don’t know… but here is what God tells us in the Bible we should do no matter what…..”

  5. 5-21-2013


    Thank you. I really appreciate the feedback, especially concerning these “replay” posts.


    I think the suit and silence are scriptural… right? 😉

    Oh, and Google is my best friend when it comes to pics.


    Explaining things to children… oh yes. If we can’t explain it to a child, then we probably don’t understand it ourselves… which should tell us something.