Don’t try and be wiser than God

“Do not become excessively righteous nor inordinately wise. Why should you be brought to ruin? Do not become excessively wicked nor a fool. Why should you die when it is not your time? It is good for you to grasp this and also from the other to not let your hand rest. For he who fears God will come out from all of them.”

(Ecclesiastes 7:16-18)

Some might suggest that Solomon is establishing a kind of “Golden Mean” here in the text — don’t be too wise and don’t be too wicked, etc… kind of find a middle ground. Yet, in light of Solomon’s purpose in this book and in light of his writings elsewhere, that interpretation misses the thrust of Solomon’s intent. When he is using words like “excessive” and “inordinate” he is pointing to a state of mind that many people have which would suggest that they are not only wiser than all the people around them but that they are wiser than God as well.

You might be tempted to say, “How could someone really think themselves wiser than God?” Yet, when they hear the word of God preached or read the Word of God and they choose to do something different than that which the Word teaches, are they not considering themselves wiser than God? Either practice is self-destructive: picking and choosing from God’s word, essentially believing that you know better than He — or playing the fool and acting as if God does not exist by the way you behave and live out your life. They bring destruction and death.

The final phrase that Solomon gives us does not translate well into English, but the idea before us is to put one hand on righteousness and the other on wisdom. Seek them out and strive for them, but know that in neither of them will you be greater than God. Know too that in both of them there will be others who will exceed you. Don’t grow proud in your righteousness or wisdom, fear the Lord for he will order your steps.

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