Article: Avoiding Extremes

In times of uncertainty, in times of conflict and in times of evaluation, I turn to this verse…

Do not be over-righteous, 
neither be over-wise— 
why destroy yourself? 

Do not be over-wicked, 
and do not be a fool— 
why die before your time? 

It is good to grasp the one 
and not let go of the other. 
The person who fears God will avoid all extremes.

Ecclesiastes 7:16–18 

I sometimes have a hard time believing that something somebody wrote 3000 years ago can apply to my life today. Then I remember that God’s word is for every generation for a reason: it is timeless and true.

King Solomon wrote this, and he makes an astute observation about human behavior. There are some who are overly dogmatic, unbending, rigid about things. These people see only one way of doing something and their way is the right way. They are quick to point out how everyone else is wrong. Everyone else should change their mindsets and do whatever it is… their way. Solomon refers to them as the “over-righteous.”

Then there are the “fools.” To the “over-righteous” that is everyone else that doesn’t agree with them. However, Solomon defines them as people who do whatever they want. They are only concerned with themselves and they do what they want without regard for others. Or as King Solomon says, they are “over-wicked.”

I don’t want you to miss this, both of these groups have something in common. They both alienate others. They do it by different means, but the result is the same. No one wants to spend time with a selfish person or someone who is always right (and never fails to tell you). 

The questions in the forefront of our minds may be this: Are we doomed to one category or the other? No! King Solomon dispenses some of the sagest wisdom found in the entirety of scripture: The person who fears God will avoid all extremes. Ecclesiastes 7:18

Extremist thinking no matter the position or topic not only alienates people but also falls outside of God’s will.  It doesn’t make any difference if it is religious or political, left wing or right wing… extreme points of view are harmful to community building. 

I understand why King Solomon chose the words, “The person who fears God…” He is reminding us that God is not interested in extremism of any kind. Jesus cares about two things: that we love Him and we love our neighbor. The “over-righteous” and the “over-wicked” tend to love themselves (and their opinions) over genuinely caring for those around them.

If these two ways of living were on a continuum, being in the middle is where it is at. It is the place where all the cool kids hang out. It is where the regular people are. Smack dab in the middle of God’s love. 

For the sake of Solomon, let’s tone down the extreme rhetoric and the selfish careless behavior and meet in the middle so that we can love one another and lift the needs of the community above our own.

God bless,
Pr. Ben  

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