Do not be over-righteous,(Eccl. 7:16-18 NIV)
neither be overwise –
why destroy yourself?
Do not be overwicked,
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.
Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes.
We looked yesterday at the issue of overrighteousness and being overwise. Today I want to think about the term overwicked and what the Preacher says we should grasp and what we should not let go.
Again, we have an issue to think about because when it says don’t be overwicked, we naturally ask the question does that mean we can be a bit wicked?
The Preacher wants us to have spiritual perspective on life. Wickedness is spiritually destructive. The Preacher is not saying that sin in moderation is acceptable, because that would be contrary to the rest of the teaching of scripture. With God, any wickedness is too much wickedness.
In the previous meditation we looked at the extreme of self-righteousness. That position failed to recognise the reality of sin in our lives. Once we recognise sin in our lives there is the possibility that we stop caring about sin. Because sin is always there some will say well let’s not worry about sin, let’s just accept is as a fact of life and if we sin, so what! Some Christian groups developed a theology that permits sin. They reasoned that since the body is evil and the spirit is good then any sin done in the body doesn’t matter, because the body is evil anyway and salvation’s goal is to escape the body. There was another group that reasoned against the apostle Paul in Romans arguing that the implication of Paul’s teaching was that if grace abounded where sin abounded, then the more we sin the more grace will abound. In Corinth they had what theologians call an over realised eschatology (they thought the kingdom had come in its fulness), they felt that they were above sin and they had immunity from it.
The human heart has always devised ways to excuse sin.
At the time of the Reformation, Melanchthon was troubled because of the temptations that he faced. He shared his concern with Luther and Luther advised him to sin boldly. That seems like an Ecc ‘shocker’. What Luther meant was when you are tempted to sin, reason out how exactly you are going to sin. Be open about it, plan in detail how you are going to indulge in sin and then go for it with all your zeal and energy. What Luther intended to show was that if you set your contemplated sinning out in all its detail, and openly describe what you are going to do, then you will realise that you shouldn’t do this. Our problem is that we suspend our conscience and let ourselves drift into sin without thinking about it.
In v18 the Preacher tells us to grasp the concept of overrighteousness and see how wrong that is. Truthfully acknowledge your sin before God, but don’t allow yourself to drift into overwickedness.
Lord God we are so apt to swing from one extreme to the other. Give us true wisdom to recognise that we are sinful, but keep us from despair, because of our sinfulness, and help us not to sin against You, because we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.