by Denny Petrillo
The store sign said, “Open 24/7/365.” My first thought was, “I wouldn’t want to work for that company!” Seriously? They never close? I remember growing up when you couldn’t find anything open on Sundays. Today, it’s tough to find much of anything that is closed. I also remember stores closing up at 5:00 or 6:00 p.m. during the week. Now it is not unusual to find stores open until 10:00 or later, with fast food restaurants open 24/7 and “superstores” that are always open.
If we think about it, we live in an unbalanced world. Things around us are continually demonstrating how our priorities are really, really messed up. God’s people have sadly been caught up in this world.
Ok, before we dive too deeply into the “consequences” of an unbalanced life, perhaps it would be helpful to define what an unbalanced life is. To me, it is where one’s priorities are out of whack. Minors have become majors, and molehills have turned into mountains. It is where one no longer has a clear vision of what is truly important compared to that which is far less important.
There are many texts in the Bible that discuss an unbalanced life. There are many people in the Bible that illustrate how an unbalanced life impacts them spiritually. But in this short article, let’s consider one text: Eccles. 4:4-6. Here Solomon identifies three consequences of having an unbalanced life:
First, the unbalanced life is frequently the result of rivalry (v. 6). Solomon observed that far too often men develop skills for all the wrong reasons. They do it because they are trying to “one up” someone else, to top a competitor, or to “keep up with the Joneses.” Rather than develop a skill to further the kingdom of God, or to hone a craft for the goal of supporting his family, he is continually in need of out-doing someone else. How messed up is that? Solomon says how messed up it is: “This too is vanity and striving after wind.” It is a complete waste of time and effort (vanity) and is completely unproductive (like trying to capture the wind).
Second, the unbalanced life can be seen in laziness. In v. 5, Solomon describes the lazy man. He “folds his hands,” that is, he is stretching out on his bed and taking yet another nap. No work has been done when there is much work to be done. But this sloth isn’t interested in getting to work. He is the perfect example of an unbalanced life. He’s counting on others to take care of him, but he is clearly identified as “the fool.” His foolishness is seen in that he “consumes his own flesh.” On one level Solomon is saying that he’ll die of starvation (I guess the welfare system wasn’t so hot in ancient times!). But his consuming of his own flesh could refer to the fact that his muscles will grow weak and his skill will be lost over time. Then if he ever gets off his lazy-couch, it will be too late.
Third, the unbalanced life can be seen in the workaholic. In v. 6, Solomon mentions “two fists full of labor and striving after wind.” This has reference to the person whose life is so out of balance that work is his/her number one priority. Many today can relate to this imbalance. It is not uncommon for one to far surpass the 40-hour work-week. There are far too many dads who are woefully out of balance when it comes to juggling work, church, and family. Equally working moms find it difficult to meet the demands of God and home. Most of the time, work wins and the church and family suffer. This is a horrible and unfortunate imbalance. This is bad enough, but rest assured the kids are seeing this poor example and will, in all likelihood, imitate it.
In our text, Solomon identifies the balanced life. In v. 6, he mentions “one hand full of rest.” This is in contrast to the workaholic who has “two fists full of labor.” The “one-hand-full-of-rest” person is the balanced person. He/she has established a boundary for work, and insists that there be some “down time” (the one hand full of rest). He/she has priorities in place, where there is more to life than work. The rested hand is the hand of worship, the hand of fun, the hand of love for mate and children. Such is a biblical example of the balanced life. God knows we need to work. He commands us to work. But he never intended for us to go to the extreme of the lazy man (v. 5) or the workaholic (v. 6b).
Denny Petrillo is president of the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.