09 February 2010

Righteous Over Much

"Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise: why shouldst thou destroy thyself?" Ecclesiastes 7:16

I had a nice conversation the other day about the problem of those whose standards are so high they find it hard to get along with anyone. Horrifying as it may seem for many Christians, it is possible to be too principled and have too-high standards. Here is a great passage on this very subject from the book Joy at the End of the Tether: the Inscrutable Wisdom of Ecclesiastes.

"What does it mean to be overly righteous? Of course God is perfectly righteous; this does not mean He has taken it to an extreme. Clearly Solomon here is not addressing genuine piety, righteousness, or wisdom. He is speaking of what all too often passes for it. So what does this mean? Not to put too fine a point on it, it means...Nice Christian. Priggish Christian. Sanctimonious Christian. Tight-shoes Christian. Pursed lips Christian. Stickler Christian. Insufferable Christian. Prudish Christian. Doctrinally correct Christian. Know-it-all Christian. Ostentatious Christian. Quiet-time-every-day-or-I'll-go-to-Hell Christian. Conceited Christian. Orthodox Christian unChristian Christian." -Douglas Wilson

Chesterton had another way of communicating the same idea:

"Angels can fly because they can take themselves lightly...Seriousness is not a virtue. It would be a heresy, but a much more sensible heresy, to say that seriousness is a vice. It is really a natural trend or lapse into taking one's self gravely, because it is the easiest thing to do. It is much easier to write a good Times leading article than a good joke in Punch. For solemnity flows out of men naturally; but laughter is a leap. It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light. Satan fell by the force of gravity." -G. K. Chesterton

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