In John 10:10 Jesus tells us that he came so that we may have life, and have it to the full. But what does that actually look like? If we focus solely on making sure we read 10 Bible chapters every day, maintain a spotless church attendance, and fill our calendars with ministry activities every day of the week, will that fulfill us? Or should we indulge in the fruits of the world by throwing caution to the wind as we straddle the line between what is spiritually unhealthy and what is outright sinful? Ecclesiastes helps us to understand that either extreme should be avoided. By only pursuing religious endeavors we may work ourselves to the bone in an effort to achieve a false sense of perfection that can lead to burn out. Or pursuing wicked, or risky, behavior that compromises our walk in an effort to experience all that life has to offer can send us to an early grave. That’s why King Solomon, the author of Ecclesiastes, said this in chapter 7, verses 16 through 18:
“Do not be over righteous, 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. The man who fears God will avoid all extremes.”
Ecclesiastes shows us that the key to living life to the full is to avoid both extremes. We shouldn’t destroy ourselves by striving to achieve a righteousness that is unattainable, counter productive, or even dangerously unhealthy. But we are also warned against being overly foolish by playing too close to the fire of sin. If we do, we will get burned. In first Corinthians, Paul tells us that even though some things are permissible, not everything is beneficial. And though we have the right to do some things, we should not be mastered by anything. In Ecclesiastes, Solomon explains that the key to achieving this is to have a healthy fear of God. Because when we do, we will be able to recognize, and avoid, all extremes.
When I give myself to Christian ministry, I always like to see a healthy return on investment. In other words, I don’t mind putting in a lot of ministry work if the spiritual yield is comparable. I don’t mind sacrificing the time and effort it takes to reach souls for Christ if, indeed, souls are being reached. So I choose my ministry opportunities carefully. By seeking God’s guidance, and using this method of discernment, I hope to safeguard myself from being overly righteous and overloaded to my own destruction. But I also like to have fun. I enjoy many pleasures of life that are not in conflict with God’s laws or his character. Even still, I don’t want to spend all of my time on selfish pursuits and waste my life doing things that don’t matter. And I certainly don’t want to drift away from God. Jesus did come so that we may have life and have it to the full. But Ecclesiastes teaches us that this is only accomplished if there is a healthy balance between being overly righteous and overly foolish.