*This is a blog post I wrote two years ago.
In Ecclesiastes 7:16, the wisest man in the Bible – Solomon — is contrasting the topics of wisdom and folly. He includes one tiny little verse that I never noticed before:
Do not be over-righteous, neither be over-wise— why destroy yourself? (NIV)
This morning I was criticizing someone whom I thought was being “overly-wise” – someone whom I think acts religious but doesn’t always show love.
As I was pointing my bony finger and making my case in front of my children, they pointed out how I was doing the very thing I was accusing this other person of.
I struggled to understand what my kids were talking about but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t see it.
It’s typical for me to try harder and harder to prove my case when people don’t understand me.
Around and around we went. To me it was clear.
Exasperated my husband walked out the door and said facetiously, “Bye hon, love you.” I waved him off and continued to argue my side.
Both of my kids raised their voices, and accused me of being hard-hearted. Eventually I gave up. I could feel the pain and loneliness swell up inside of me.
“Why can’t they see?”
I grabbed my cup of coffee and walked away from the volatile scene. I picked up my Bible and scanned a scripture that talked about mankind roaming in the dark while waiting for a savior who is the light. I stepped outside to unplug the Christmas lights and shot up an arrow prayer, Jesus, I can’t see. It’s dark here… can you help me?
I went back in the house and headed towards my daughter’s room. “I’m sorry. I know I’m being ugly. I just can’t see what all of you see… I must be wrong because all of you are saying it. Will you forgive me?” My daughter told me she loved me and said she saw my side too.
Later, I received a text from a friend who knew my situation. Finally, someone who agreed with me. But she said, “Even if this person is acting in a way you think is manipulative and childlike, can you love her anyway?”
There it was again. Overly righteous.
Do not be excessively righteous and do not be overly wise. Why should you ruin yourself? (NASB)
Later, a speaker on the radio pierced me. He said, “Some people lash out in anger, and they will NEVER see they are part of the problem.” Ouch! I had to consider if this was me.
God, I think you’re talking to me today. I think you’re trying to say that maybe it’s both: this person is acting manipulative, BUT I’m acting excessively righteous and overly wise.
Chances are you’ve seen the Church Lady on Saturday Night Live. We laugh because we see what a hypocrite she is. She thinks she is doing exactly what God wants, and drawing people into God’s kingdom, when in reality her self-righteousness keeps people away. It’s easy to laugh at her, but not so easy to see the “church lady” in me.
It doesn’t matter which version of the Old Testament I read, the point is clear. Even if I think I’m right, I’m wrong.
So don’t knock yourself out being good, and don’t go overboard being wise. Believe me, you won’t get anything out of it.
(Ecclesiastes 7:16, The Message)