Are you so heavenly minded that you are no earthy good? Are you so earthly minded that you are no heavenly good?
–Dr. Steven Riser
(A part of what I have written here is inspired by the professor’s article “How to Live a Biblically Balanced Life”).
We live in a world where people live in extremes. But, as is the principle of Eccl. 3:1-8 and Proverbs 19:2, I believe believers ought to live in a healthy balance.
Let me say by word of qualification before I elaborate further that there are areas in a Christian life that need NOT be balanced. We believers ought to kill sin before it kills us, thus the need for extreme measures to achieve it if need be. Love for God is first and foremost before love for fellow men. And refusal to evangelize is tantamount to ingratitude for what Christ has done for us. We have to regard as sin what God regards as sin, and NOT to regard as sin what God does NOT regard as sin (even believers have the tendency to the latter, oftentimes in subtle ways, which is tantamount to adding to the Scriptures and/or despising God’s creation).
However in areas that are neither commanded nor prohibited, neither black nor white, the pursuit of Biblical balance is vital because leaning to one extreme or the other can become (not always immediately is) a heresy. For example, you may want too badly to marry, or maybe you are tempted to be impatient. So what you do to resolve the problem is to view marriage as an abomination (asceticism) and maybe even demonize it, or keep delaying the time to move forward even if the time is right. Just because you’re afraid to kill, does that mean you will never use a knife? Or learn to drive a car? Just because you’re afraid/tempted to get too close or too attached to a brother/sister not your spouse, does it mean you can no longer see him for what he really is: brother/sister in Christ, a friend, treat him as such, (and maybe even develop a healthy close relationship with him if permissible)?
The Pharisees were themselves extremists. They thought what they were doing was right, but actually their religious extremism was displeasing to God, that Jesus openly called them hypocrites (Matthew 23). But we too have that tendency to overreact to things, which comes in response to what someone does, or a guise of repairing a false doctrine.
If a parent is too permissive to a child, another parent can overreact by being too strict. Since many die out of eating too much of roasted pigs, you might overreact by not eating roasted pigs at all–or similar foods for that matter. Since we ought not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers, women can overreact by making it their criteria for their husband to be elder material, when not everyone is gifted (and desirous) for the task. If one church advocates salvation by works, another church, to counter such, can overreact by advocating salvation without works at all. If one church does not preach repentance, one church can overreact by over-impressing upon a person his sins, forgetting that there IS cleansing in Christ who promised rest (Matt. 11:28)–and thus they appear self-righteous and judgmental.
If a society is so carnal because they get too soaked into their work that they don’t have time for God and work has become their idol in their own way, one can also overreact by “over-spiritualizing” many things (if not everything). For example, if you’re a journalist who’s active in non-profit discipleship, and someone who doesn’t know you as much would ask you “What’s your work?”, you can over-spiritualize by answering “God’s work”. Yes it is true, you do God’s work, but what he’s actually asking you is clearly your earthly/secular occupation: a journalist. Or if someone asks you “What’s your source of income?”, you can over-spiritualize by saying “He gives me manna from Heaven”, or something like that. While it’s true that God is the source of everything, you’ve lost sight of–if not reject–the fact that it’s your job, for example, that God uses as a means for provision. Plus it is not usual for God to provide for you directly from Heaven–that’s why it’s called a miracle coz it almost never happens, if ever it does. And while He can work above, without, and against the means, God is a God of means and order. And He intends to stay that way (Genesis 3:17-19). And for some Christians, they over-spiritualize to cover up or compensate for something they know they’re guilty of or lacking in without addressing the issue at hand. Using the same example, if instead of a journalist you have no work, thinking that secular work is worldly, instead of answering “no work” when asked the same question, “God’s work” they say to cover up their overreaction and their guilt of being worse than an unbeliever (1Tim. 5:7-8). Yes there is a spiritual nature to everything, but it in no ways negates the reality of the physical realm.
Thus balance is also vital since, if not pursued, there will always be false doctrines, discord and divisions even within a local church–add to that our tendency to throw the baby out with the bath water. Change not rooted in and consistent with Scripture is not change for the better.
Even in preaching to, teaching, and ministering to others, the emphasis of one point ought not to diminish the importance of another. The need to store treasures in Heaven can be over-emphasized at the expense of legitimate earthly prosperity and the need to diligently work; the duty to give offerings to God, at the expense of responsible and faithful stewardship, and of “[rendering] to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s”.
But Jesus was balanced in every way. For one, it was His purpose for coming to earth to heal souls, yet He took the time to heal the sick, the blind, the paralyzed, and even raise a corpse, without losing focus of His priorities. Luke also says He grew in favor with God and man (Luke 2). He is our perfect example.
So we too have to pursue a Biblically balanced Christian life, and here are some ways to do so: (list is inexhaustive)
- Neither judgmental nor ignorant/oblivious
- Neither slothful nor unrestrained
- Neither carnal nor ascetic
- Neither impatient nor procrastinating
- Knowing when to speak and when not to
- What to say and what not to say
- When to be serious and when to take lightly
- When to overlook and when to confront and forgive
- When to encourage and when to hurt
- Sorrowful yet looking up
- Both a student and a teacher of the Word
- Spiritual and physical health care
- Patient yet importune
- Trusting but diligent
- Careful but not too cautious (unless of course it kills or robs you)
- Generous yet responsible
- Optimistic or pessimistic but realistic
- Protective but not over-protective
- Being at peace with all men, but God-pleasers
- God-, others-centered and personal, private and public prayers
- Needers yet not lovers of money
- Socialising with both believers and unbelievers
- Balance between work, and rest and recreation
And the list can go on and on. And although we cannot attain to that perfect balance, like holiness it is a pursuit that makes us different from the world, neither too liberal nor too conservative, both of heavenly good and of earthy good.