Wisely Analyzing Man's Character.

At first reading, Ecclesiastes 7:15-18 seems to advocate being a little bit wicked. But this interpretation would not fit with the rest of Scripture. Instead, Solomon is showing that excessively applying righteousness and piling on wickedness are both dangerous. We should not come to conclusions about a person's character too quickly.

The apparently overly righteous person in verse 16 is selfishly motivated. False righteousness can delude ourselves and others (Proverbs 3:7). 1 Corinthians 11:17-32 describes members of a church who had an inappropriate motive of personal gain. They emphasized form over function, and God brought consequences into their lives. Scripture is full of examples and warnings of being righteous with selfish motives.

Christ's letters to the churches in Revelation 2-3 show that the Lord grows healthy churches and closes ones that are sick (Matthew 16:18). Churches cease to function as God intends when they overemphasize a particular doctrine or avoid preaching even one. Have churches in our context promoted any extra-biblical missions to their own detriment?

Ecclesiastes 7:17 shows that both righteous and wicked extremes destroy themselves. Instead of being content with the state in life God has given, they seek to shape reality to their own desires. It is also possible to avoid both extremes but still live according to our selfish desires.

Iain Provan says that "both in their own way represent a refusal to accept the limitations God sets on mortal beings. The arrogant self-deification in which mortal beings so regularly indulge as they seek to fashion reality after their own liking makes them both guilty of sin; it is indeed self-delusional."

Churches become like their pastors. When a pastor stops following the Great Commission in his own life, the church will follow suit. That local church will lose its influence in the community, and in time, God will remove their light (Revelation 2:4-5). Leaders must not make themselves indispensable to the church; they should train others to continue to pass on the ministry (2 Timothy 2:2).

The attractional model of church that we criticize can seep in to our own approach when we invite people to church "because they might like it." We should be inviting people to Christ because we have a relationship with them long before we invite them to a church service.

Application Points

  • Is it important that you appear to others as righteous? If this is only an external concern for you, examine your motives. There is likely something you are hiding, perhaps even from yourself.
  • How have churches in our context promoted extra-biblical missions to their own detriment? How can we avoid doing this? What is your role in keeping your local church on mission?

  • Are you content with the state in life God has given you? Or do you seek to shape the reality of your life according to your own desires?

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore
  • Matthew 5:20, 6:1-8; Jude 1:12-19, 2 Peter 2:1-3:18, Acts 16:16-21, 20:28-35 – Selfish motives and pursuing righteousness for profit.
  • 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12, 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 – Sharing the Gospel with unselfish motives.
  • Matthew 28:19-20, Acts 1:8 – The Great Commission of the church.
A Hymn to Encourage: "For the Sake of His Name"

Go to the world for the sake of His name;
To every nation His glory proclaim.
Pray that the Spirit wise
Will open darkened eyes,
Granting new life to display Jesus’ fame.

In Jesus’ power, preach Christ to the lost;
For Jesus’ glory, count all else but loss.
Gather from every place
Trophies of sov’reign grace.
Lest life be wasted, exalt Jesus’ cross.

Love the unloved for the sake of His name;
Like Christ, befriend those whose heads hang in shame.
Jesus did not condemn,
But was condemned for them.
Trust gospel pow’r, for we once were the same.

Rescue the lost for the sake of His name;
As Christ commands, snatch them out of the flame.
Tell that when Jesus died
God’s wrath was satisfied.
Urge them to flee to the Lamb who was slain.

Look to the Throne for the sake of His name;
Think of the throng who will share in His reign.
Some for whose souls we pray
Will share our joy that day,
Joining our song for the sake of His name!

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