“Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself? Be not over much wicked, neither be thou foolish: why shouldest thou die before thy time?” (Ecclesiastes 7:16-17)
Is God telling His people not to be very good when He says not to be over righteous? Is God telling His people not to be over wise when He says to be not over wise? Some believe this means not to be overly educated, but that is not what is says. Is God telling us to be a little bit wicked when He says be not over much wicked?
Here is what I think. When God says be not righteous over much, I think it means, what you are doing let it keep up with what you are.
Righteous in the Bible is a state of being. A righteous person is the usage of an adjective, which is modifying the noun with righteous being the adjective modifying the word person being the noun. Righteousness is a noun! Righteous is a state of being. A righteous man is one with holy thoughts and a loving heart. A righteous man is one with proper desires. Righteousness is the outward expression, but being righteous does not always guarantee righteousness.
God is saying on one hand you are righteous, what you are, and on the other hand you have righteousness or your righteous deeds, which is what you do! God is saying be sure that what you do keeps up with what you are. Be not over righteous. The energy of being righteous shall cause you to work righteousness.
Righteous weeps over the lost while righteousness wins the lost! I know people who have a burden for lost people who never lead people to Christ to help the lost escape their lost condition. They have a burden, but never do anything about it. I’ve seen folks shout in church over folks receiving Christ who never personally win a soul to Christ. The truth is it is a genuine burden for the lost by those who shout, but never personally lead a soul to Christ. Righteousness is the act of transferring that burden into the activity of winning the lost to Christ.
We have church members all over America who honestly rejoice when people trust Christ for salvation at church because they are righteous people. You may even pray for God to save souls in the services and even weep at the invitation time and are genuine about it because they are righteous people. However, the truth is they never go soul winning, build a bus route, build a Sunday school class, win a soul, or bring any one down the aisle at the invitation time.
These dear folks are righteous without having righteousness. They have the quality of being something that is good without the quantity of doing that, which is good! They are righteous without having transferred that into righteousness.
Righteous has compassion for the hungry, while righteousness feeds the hungry. Righteous has a burden for the bus kids, while righteousness visits the bus kids every week. Righteous has a compassion for the people of the world, while righteousness gives money to send missionaries to the peoples of the world. Righteous loves their church, while righteousness gives tithes and offerings to keep their church going for Christ. Righteous has a burden for their own children, while righteousness sacrifices and puts them into a Christian school. The righteous are genuine but must transfer that into the activity of righteousness or become righteous over much!
Some of you drive by a poor area and weep but never reach the poor with the gospel. Some of you weep over the starving in Africa, but never feed the hungry in your own hometown. Who you are becomes greater than what you do and thus you become righteous over much. You who weep over the lost, but never win the lost are righteous over much. Righteousness is the transferring of that burden into the activity of soul winning.
You have an honest sincere compassion for the starving, but is the feeding of the hungry that is righteousness. You feel genuine love for people, but you do not express that love in activity. You are righteous, but are not doing righteousness thus you are righteous over much.
The word “charity” and the word “love” can be defined with love being a feeling with a giving and “charity” a giving with a feeling. Loving your husband is the righteous, while the expression of it is righteousness. Loving your wife is the righteous, but the expression of it is righteousness. Righteousness is a state of doing, while righteous is a state of being.
Righteous loves poor children, while righteousness runs the bus route. To have compassion is being righteous, while reaching poor bus kids is righteousness. We are to turn the honest genuine righteous person we are into righteousness.
Take the adjective of righteous that describes who we are and turn it into a righteousness or a noun so that righteousness and righteous are equal. Young people who honestly love their mother, but never express your love to your mother are overly righteous. Young men who genuinely love their dad, but never express that love are overly righteous. You who feel genuine friendship, but never prove that friendship are overly righteous. You who honestly believe the plan of salvation, but never give out the plan of salvation are overly righteous.
Righteous is a state of being and it never accomplishes anything. It is an adjective! Righteousness is a state of doing and is a noun and will stop you from being overly righteous. God is saying here be sure what you are is matched by what you do. Be not righteous over much. Do not be overly righteous.
As much as you grow you should go! You learn and you grow as a righteous person then you do and give righteousness. You become more righteous then do something.
God is simply saying the purpose of being righteous is to do righteousness. The purpose of a car is to run. The purpose of fuel is to run the car. The purpose of love is to express that love. The purpose of friendship is to express that friendship. The purpose of loyalty is to express that loyalty. The purpose of compassion is to express that compassion. The purpose of a burden is to express that burden.
Being good is being righteous. Doing good is having righteousness. The average church auditorium on a Sunday is full of people who are good people, righteous people, decent people, loving people, kind people, burdened people, and courteous people, who do little or nothing with their love, kindness, burden, courteousness, or compassion. They are overly righteous!
So, we are being instructed by God to narrow the gap between the doing of righteousness and the being of righteous. Be not over righteous. The response should be that we are going to start doing what we are!
The people in the average church in America are the finest people in the world and the truth is if they are given an opportunity to do righteousness will do it. The problem is they are not seeking it, because it has to seek you!
Some of you are righteous and do a little bit with it. God is saying don’t do less than who you are. Do all that you are! There are a lot of generous people who don’t have generosity. A lot of people with a generous heart and when you are pressed with an opportunity you will give. Generosity is matching how generous you are.
I know people who are forgiving, but never think to forgive unless it’s forced upon them. Some possess the quality of being kind. Kind is a quality you possess. You are a kind person and that is an adjective. You do kindness and that is a noun. So, God wants you to bring up your generosity to match you being generous. The same with kindness and being kind! The same with forgiving and forgiveness!
There are a lot of people who have a heart to help the needy. They are benevolent or a in a state of being, but only when they are confronted do they do benevolence. God is saying raise you’re doing to the being.
A nation will not be saved or spared by what folks are, but by what folks do. You who sit on the pews of the finest churches in America and love souls, weep over souls, burdened for souls, concerned about souls, compassionate, and pray for the lost will not save a nation unless your state of doing matches your state of being. Someone has to go tell the lost about the Saviour. God is saying, “I want an equality between the doing of righteousness and the being of righteous.
Some of you have become a big barn or storehouse of Bible truth and you are building bigger barns, but one day God will say, “Thou fool this night thy soul shall be required of thee, then whose shall those things be?” You know how to win souls, but don’t do it unless you are confronted! God says you are overly wise. God wants your doing of righteousness to rise to you being righteous. God wants your teaching of truth to rise to your being of wise.
It is not enough to be righteous we must do righteousness. God does not want us to be overly righteous or overly wise! Psalm 126:6 says, “He that goeth forth and weapeth bearing precious seed.” He did not say, “He that goeth forth and weapeth collecting precious seed, or storing precious seed, or examining precious seed, or exegete precious seed, or watching precious seed, but rather “bearing precious seed.” Is the seed yet in the barn?
Being overly wise is your doing not matching up to your being. Many of the folks sitting in the pews of our churches in America are good people and wise people, but are not good Christians because they are overly righteous and overly wise. I would rather have someone doing more than he or she knows than some of these charter church members who in their sedate, calm, stayed, mature, and solid Christians who know more than they do.
So God says for us not to be overly righteous, overly wise, and then overly wicked. It doesn’t mean you can be wicked a little bit. NO! It means how are you living with what you know. You know its wrong to smoke, but you do any way. You know its wrong to go to the tavern, but you go any way. You know its wrong to go to movies, but you go any way. You know its wrong to gossip, but you do any way. God is saying bring your living to what you know is right. You know what is wrong but your life doesn’t match what you know is wrong.
You know liquor is wrong, dope is wrong, premarital sex is wrong, movies are wrong, nudity is wrong, and cursing is wrong. You know dirty prime time TV is as rotten as Hell itself. God is saying live what you know. Not one of you reading this would say that prime time TV is glorifying to God. It is wicked so bring your living up to what you know is wicked. Be not overly righteous, overly wise, or overly wicked!