On being "overly righteous"

Vaclav's picture

Ecclesiastes 7:16a

English Standard Version - "Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. Why should you destroy yourself?"

King James Version - "Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself ?"

Here are some of the faithful commentators of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

Jamieson, Fausett & Brown - "Be not righteous over much," may be taken as Solomon's words, forbidding a self-made righteousness of outward performances, which would wrest salvation from God, instead of receiving it as the gift of His grace. It is a fanatical, pharisaical righteousness, separated from God; for the "fear of God" is in antithesis to it".

Matthew Henry - "Note, there may be overdoing in well doing".

Matthew Poole - "Be not righteous over much" - "by being too severe in observing, censuring and punishing the faults of others beyond the rules of equity, without giving any allowance for human infirmity, extraordinary temptations, the state of times and other circumstances."

I find that most christian friendships, relationships and our own life falls apart, because we do not listen to the wise teachers, e.g. Solomon in Ecclesiastes, Paul in Romans, and God's faithful expositors.

When we don't take God's provision of the the righteousness of Christ as a free gift to us, we go on ignorantly establishing our own righteousness (Romans 10:3). And being zealous like the Jews of old we push away, cross, cut down, and kill everything and everyone that stands in our way in accomplishing our own righteousness. The reason for it is that we feel we must prove to God, before others (usually fellow Christians) and to ourselves that we are righteous and acceptable. It is right to want to be righteous before God, but this is the wrong way.

Paul says in Romans 5:17, "For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ." It is these ones that receive "the abundance and the free gift of righteousness" that will "reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ" as kings - victorious over their their selfishness, pride, stubbornness and rebellion that is in our heart by nature. Let's pause and ponder on this truth. We can reign in life, now, this is God's provision in Christ Jesus. But are we? What is the reason for us not reigning victorious over our sin through Christ? Perhaps, e.g. the truth of Romans 5:17 and Ecclesiastes 7:16 is not heeded.

Let's hear Paul again, "Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead." (Philippians 3:8-11) The result? - "...becoming like him in his death", dead to self and alive to God, "not my will, but yours be done". Why has Paul written his letters to different churches? Yes, to encourage and strengthen the believers in Christ, but also to correct wrong teaching and lifestyle.

Let's seek to study God's word, seek his Spirit's understanding, and replace the lies with the truth in our minds, "...as the truth is in Jesus." (Ephesians 4:21b). Good fruit will be inevitable.


"...becoming like him in his death"

7thBlessing's picture

One of my favorite passages just became more precious. "...that I may be found in Him" is the highest aspiration; the one uniquely able to equip us to properly value all things; to "...count all things (else) loss that I may win Christ." Anchoring, discernment-imparting words if ever there were. However, I had to-date entirely missed the meaning of the somewhat cryptic "...being made conformable unto His death..." until finding it quoted in your blog from a different version as "...becoming like him in his death". Powerful. Death is liberation. Only, though, do we see it as liberation when the indulgence of self has made such wreckage of our lives as to usher out love of self, and usher in loathing of self. Now we see the value, the liberation, the release found in "...becoming like him in his death".

overly righteous

Over-righteousness is sin, which is destroyer of relationships.
I think that when one is in this false-religiosity, one becomes even more zealos because of ones self-imposed isolation. It's easy to create one's own fantasy world in isolation, and to live as one wishes (for the good or bad) without the imput of Christian community. Thus, the overly-righteous may think he is doing right, and continue in his this way and become very passionate about it, thinking he "has arrived", when really he is all alone for friends and even God turns his face at his pride.
For sin inhibits true relationships, and especially over-righteousness. For this facade hinders true communication as one put up walls of protection around ones self from others for two reasons 1. to avoid letting others know the true self (sinner) 2. in pride to purport the false self (not sinner). Overly righteous envisions ones self as GOOD and as obtaining GOODNESS from one's own works outside of Christ. When really, if this were true - we wouldn't need Christ. We'd be the Christ - which is pride. Contending for supremacy with the holy one.

Thank you

The Doctor's picture

I love how you explained everything to the T. Thoroughly enjoyed your exposition to the 'On being "overly righteous". IA lot of us never fully appreciate what the Lord has done for us, until we are brought to our knees and realize just who we are without the Lord. Thanks for this, my friend. Your friend, Chris