Why Avoid Extremes?
JEHOVAH is the epitome of balance. “Perfect is his activity,” and his justice is never harsh, since it always incorporates mercy. (Deuteronomy 32:4) His love is never unprincipled, because he acts in line with perfect laws. (Psalm 89:14; 103:13, 14) Our first parents were created balanced in all respects. They were not inclined to any extremes. The introduction of sin, however, brought a “defect”—imperfection—resulting in the loss of that balance.—Deuteronomy 32:5.
To illustrate: Have you ever ridden in a car or on a bicycle that had a tire with a large bulge? The deformity no doubt made the ride rather bumpy as well as unsafe. Such a tire needs to be repaired before it gets worse or goes flat. Similarly, our imperfect personalities are prone to irregularities. If we allow those “bulges” to grow, our journey through life can be very bumpy, even dangerous.
Sometimes our good qualities, our strengths, can be carried to an extreme. For instance, though the Mosaic Law required the Israelites to wear fringes on their skirts, the Pharisees in Jesus’ day, wanting to stand out from the crowd, ‘enlarged the fringes of their garments’ to an extreme degree. Their motive was to look holier than their fellow men.—Matthew 23:5; Numbers 15:38-40.
Today some people try to get attention by any possible means, even by shocking others. This may actually be a desperate cry: “Notice me! I too am an individual!” But going to extremes in dress, attitude, and actions will not satisfy a Christian’s real needs.
A Balanced Attitude Toward Work
Whoever we are and wherever we live, wholesome work is one thing that helps to make our life meaningful. We were created to find satisfaction in such work. (Genesis 2:15) Accordingly, the Bible condemns laziness. The apostle Paul pointedly said: “If anyone does not want to work, neither let him eat.” (2 Thessalonians 3:10) Indeed, a lax attitude toward work may bring not only poverty and dissatisfaction but also God’s disfavor.
Many go to the opposite extreme, becoming workaholics, voluntary slaves to their work. Leaving home early in the morning and coming back late, they may reason that their work is in their families’ best interests. Yet, their families may actually be victims of such devotion to work. Says one housewife whose husband often spends extra hours at his job: “I would gladly trade all the things in this luxurious house for the chance to have my husband here with me and our children.” Those who choose to overwork should give serious thought to King Solomon’s personal experience: “I, even I, turned toward all the works of mine that my hands had done and toward the hard work that I had worked hard to accomplish, and, look! everything was vanity and a striving after wind.”—Ecclesiastes 2:11.
Yes, regarding work, we must avoid both extremes. We can be diligent workers, while remembering that becoming a slave to work will rob us of happiness and perhaps of much more.—Ecclesiastes 4:5, 6.
Avoid Extreme Views of Pleasure
The Bible foretold for our time: “Men will be . . . lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God.” (2 Timothy 3:2, 4) The pursuit of pleasures has become one of Satan’s most effective tools to lure people away from God. Indulgence in recreation and entertainment, such as in extreme or “adrenaline” sports, is flourishing. The list of such activities is constantly getting longer, and the number of those participating in them, greater. Why such popularity? Many people, unsatisfied with their daily lives, search for ever greater excitement. But to maintain such excitement requires increasing levels of risk. Conscientious Christians avoid risky sports out of respect for the gift of life and for its Giver.—Psalm 36:9.
When God created the first human pair, where did he put them? In the garden of Eden, which means “Pleasure,” or “Delight.” (Genesis 2:8, footnote) Obviously, a pleasurable, delightful life was part of Jehovah’s purpose for humans.
Jesus left us a perfect example of a balanced view of pleasure. He was fully devoted to accomplishing Jehovah’s will, and he never took a break from living by God’s laws and principles. He took time for those in need, even when he was tired. (Matthew 14:13, 14) Yes, Jesus accepted invitations to meals and made room in his life for rest and refreshment. He was aware, of course, that some enemies regarded him with a critical eye because of his doing these things. They said of him: “Look! A man gluttonous and given to drinking wine.” (Luke 7:34; 10:38; 11:37) But Jesus did not believe that true devotion excludes all pleasure from life.
Clearly, we are wise to avoid any extreme in regard to recreation. Making pleasure and entertainment the main thing in life can never bring real happiness. It can result in our neglecting more important things, including our relationship with God. Still, we should not deny ourselves all pleasure nor become critical of others who enjoy life in a balanced way.—Ecclesiastes 2:24; 3:1-4.
Find Happiness in a Balanced Life
The disciple James wrote: “We all stumble many times.” (James 3:2) We may find this to be true in our case as we endeavor to avoid extremes. What can help us to keep our balance? Well, we need to recognize our own strengths and weaknesses. Such objectivity is not easy. We could be moving toward some extreme without being aware of it. We are wise, then, to stay close to other mature Christians and to listen to balanced advice. (Galatians 6:1) We might ask a trusted friend or an experienced elder in the congregation for such. Along with the Scriptures themselves, such Bible-based counsel can serve as “a mirror” for us to check how we really appear before Jehovah.—James 1:22-25.
Happily, we need not resign ourselves to a life of unavoidable extremes. With determined effort and Jehovah’s blessing, we can become balanced and therefore happy individuals. Our relationships with our Christian brothers and sisters may thus improve, and we can become even better examples for those to whom we preach. Above all, we will imitate more closely our balanced and loving God, Jehovah.—Ephesians 5:1.
[Picture Credit Line on page 28]
©Greg Epperson/age fotostock