Eccl. 7: 15-18.
All things have I seen in the days of my vanity: there is a just man that perisheth in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man that prolongeth his life in his wickedness.
Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself?
Be not over much wicked, neither be thou foolish: why shouldest thou die before thy time?
It is good that thou shouldest take hold of this; yea, also from this withdraw not thine hand: for he that feareth God shall come forth of them all.
In 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.(ESV)
Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. Why should you destroy yourself?
Be not overly wicked, neither be a fool. Why should you die before your time?
It 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.
This was a difficult passage for me. I chose to use both the KJV and the ESV (English Standard Version) to gain some clarity, but the most help was from a commentator I’ve come to appreciate. David Guzik offers this explanation of these four verses, which I have condensed and put into my own words:
Solomon complained that in his own empty life he has seen good men suffer and wicked men prosper, and it just isn’t fair.
Solomon rather cynically suggests that we be righteous, but not too righteous; be wise, wicked, or foolish–just don’t overdo it. He was suggesting that we do whatever works best, not going too far in any direction. I suppose he would have considered this to be a balanced way to live.
It is important that we remember Solomon’s perspective here was still that of living “under the sun,” from the human perspective. What he suggests here is actually a pragmatic approach: Do what gets you the best results. Don’t go too far, or people will think you are unbalanced. In v. 18, he seems to suddenly remember that God is actually in charge, and that we should keep that in mind.
It is a good thing to seek balance in our lives, but we must not forsake biblical righteousness in order to attain what seems to the world to be balanced. Think of the Apostle Paul. He was considered a fanatic, an unbalanced lunatic, by the world to which he ministered.
So was Jesus. After all, He spent most of His time with sinners, the poor, needy, sick, and forsaken. Not balanced at all.
I am reminded of a quote from Dr. Bob Jones, Sr, when he preached, “Do right, Do right, Do right till the stars fall, Do right.”
We learn what is right, and how to do it, from a consistent, faithful, humble study of God’s Word.