Finding Balance

Finding Balance in Life: The Balance of Righteousness
Ecclesiastes 7:15-22
“It is good that you grasp one thing and also not let go of the other, for the one who fears God comes forth with both of them.”

At first glance, the statement of Solomon in these verses seems to contradict the rest of Scripture, for it appears as though he is encouraging us to “practice a little sin now and then.”  However, from the context of the book, we know this is the farthest thing from Solomon’s mind, for he urges his reader to “fear God and keep his commandments” (12:13).  To understand his statement, we must first understand the grammar.  “Do not be overly wise” is reflective and can be translated as “Do not be overly wise to yourself.”  Thus the idea of the verse is to not think of oneself as overly righteous or overly wise. Solomon is not saying that we should not be righteous, but that we should not be focused on religious rituals and performances so that we would become self-righteous and start to regard ourselves as more righteous than others.  Instead, we must recognize that we are still sinful individuals needing God’s grace.  Furthermore, on the other hand, we should also not give free rein to our sinful passions (vs. 17), for this will only result in judgment.

So, what is the proper perspective we are to have?  We are to recognize that we are to pursue righteousness while still acknowledging that we are sinners (vs. 18).  Spiritual maturity is lived within the tension of acknowledging that we are sinners while still pursuing the righteousness of Christ.  We see this illustrated in the life of Paul in Philippians 3 when Paul affirms his unwavering desire to obtain the righteousness of Christ; “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”  Yet he goes on to affirm, “Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.”  Paul understood that positionally, he was righteous in the sight of God because Christ's righteousness was imputed upon him.  However, he also recognized that he was still a sinner needing Christ’s grace and transformation (see also 1 Timothy 1:15-16). This is the point that Solomon is making.  We must always keep in balance the fact that we are declared righteous in the sight of God because of Christ’s work on the cross, but we daily still struggle with sin.  This brings balance to our Christian life, for it avoids the snare of self-righteousness and the pit of self-abasement.  The more mature we become in Christ, the more we realize our sinfulness and the wonder of God’s grace bestowed upon us.  This is the paradox that Solomon is referring to in verse 18.  In our pursuit of righteousness, we must never forget our sinfulness and our need for divine forgiveness and restoration. We are to recognize that both extremes lead to destruction.  On the one hand, to embrace sin and forsake any pursuit of righteousness will only result in our self-destruction.  On the other hand, we must guard against self-righteousness that leads to pride and spiritual arrogance so we no longer see the need for God’s grace and transformation.

So, how do we properly navigate between these two pitfalls?  Solomon provides the answer in verse 18, “The one who fears God comes forth with both of them.”  The fear of God and recognition of His holiness and righteousness confront our sinfulness and point us to His grace.  The fear of God points to the absurdity of self-righteousness and the folly of embracing sin. It provides balance, reminding us to live a life devoted to God while properly enjoying the good things of life (vs. 19).  Living a meaningful life in a broken world where everything is meaningless requires considering both our sinfulness and our righteousness in Christ (vs 20).  Then, like Paul, we will embrace the pursuit of Christ as the goal of our life but recognize that we are in daily need of His grace at work in us.  Are you becoming complacent, thinking that you are righteous because of all the religious activities you perform?  Then, remember your sinful attitudes and actions.  Are you discouraged because of your past failures and see them as a constant anchor in life?  Then, remember God’s grace and forgiveness.  

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