Open Your Bible
Ecclesiastes 7:1-22, Matthew 9:13, James 1:19-21
I was living in Santiago with two of my closest friends for a semester abroad when I earned my college nickname: Kellen. It was one of those dear friends who coined the term, after witnessing me declare that getting ice cubes out of the ice tray was “literally the hardest thing I have ever done in my entire life.” She softly sighed and said, “Ah, Kellen.” And thus my new name was born, and it’s stuck, apparently, given that some of my friends still call me some form of Kellen, Kel, or Kellie more than five years later.
When we returned to school in the states, others asked what had inspired my new nickname. My friend explained that it happened because, as usual, I was living a life of emotional extremes. My friends have always described me this way, that I’m either having the best day of my life or the worst—there’s not really much room for anything in between.
Living a life of extremes is exactly what the author of Ecclesiastes is cautioning against in today’s reading. Although one of the major themes throughout the book of Ecclesiastes is the pursuit of wisdom, and King Solomon (to whom many scholars attribute Ecclesiastes) asked God specifically for wisdom (1Kings 3:9–12), he still cautions the reader to not be excessive in their pursuit of it.
Have you ever heard the phrase “too much of a good thing”? I’ve often heard it used in reference to a delicious meal or dessert, when the decadence of the meal has caused a person to feel stuffed to the point of being uncomfortable. This is what the author of Ecclesiastes seems to be saying in this passage; there can be too much of a good thing. One’s pursuit of righteousness and wisdom can get to the point where it is excessive and no longer helpful, in the same way that a pursuit of foolishness can also be excessive. Instead, we are instructed to not be excessively righteous or overly wise (Ecclesiastes 7:16).
The key here seems to be the need for balance. Like we read in Ecclesiastes 1, when it comes to the pursuit of knowledge, we must be content with not knowing everything. There will always be more to learn, more to discover, and more ways to be wise. Our contentment can be found not in the extremes of pursuing all knowledge or in casting all wisdom aside for foolishness, but in fearing God while we are on earth, knowing that a greater glory awaits us.