15In my vain life I have seen everything. There is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his evildoing. 16Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. Why should you destroy yourself? 17Be not overly wicked, neither be a fool. Why should you die before your time? 18It is good that you should take hold of this, and from that withhold not your hand, for the one who fears God shall come out from both of them.
(Ecclesiastes 7:15-18 ESV)
In his empty (vain) life King Solomon had seen everything. Isn’t it interesting that Solomon, who had incredible wealthy, tremendous knowledge, and countless possessions felt that his life was empty? Not only that, but what he saw in life left him frustrated.
Today we say “now I’ve seen everything” when we see something that we are surprised to see and can’t explain. Solomon felt the same way when he looked around and saw that the righteous perish while doing good and the wicked live longer despite their evildoing. It didn’t make sense.
Here we must keep the context of these passages in mind. Yesterday we were warned not to question God and not to try to “correct” what we perceive to be His mistakes.
We all expect that those who do good will be rewarded with longer life – people of the Old Testament believed this. But that is not always the case. Likewise, evil people often live longer and prosper more than we’d think they should.
But there may be a very good reason for this. God may be giving them more time to live so they have more time to come to know Him and repent and be saved from the penalty of their sins.
The bottom line is that life doesn’t always go the way we would like to see. And we shouldn’t expect it to.
In light of this Solomon warns us not to be overly righteous, overly wicked, or a fool. Both behaviors are self-destructive. We might destroy ourself or die before our time. Here it may seem that God is telling us that it’s okay to be a little wicked but to be “too” wicked is bad. But this is a wrong interpretation. They key is the reflexive verb in verse 16.
We are warned to not make yourself too wise. God is telling us not to be too righteous or wise in our own estimation. We should be humble, keeping in mind that we are all sinners. None of us are good [Romans 3:10].
But we are to avoid the other extreme as well. We are not to sin more just because we’ve sinned already. It’s easy to think that since we’ve already lied a bunch of times, one more won’t make a difference. Or looking at one more pornography site. The fact that we aren’t perfect should not lead into more sin but towards God and His righteousness which He will impart to us [2 Corinthians 5:21].
This is a truth that we should take hold of. The only way to live is with a healthy fear of God who can bring people out of their life of self-righteousness or self-indulgence.
Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.