The Quest for Balance
Recently (against my better judgment) I opened the recent edition of ‘Get It’ magazine; a ‘freebie’ offered to us people of the South. The featured article concerned a lady from Bassonia whose aim is to help housewives to achieve so much more than ‘merely caring for her family.’ She appeals to the need for ‘balance’ in the lives of such women and she assures us that such a woman ‘can have it all.’ Right.
Now, without getting into all of the ‘what abouts’ that invariably arise when speaking of ‘balance’ with regard to homemakers and their need for ‘me-time’ (this is not my purpose in this article) I simply want to use this as an example of what is often an unbiblical, wrong-headed and ultimately selfish quest for self-indulgence. But before looking at this wrong quest for balance let’s first get a handle on biblical balance.
The Bible does speak to the issue of ‘balance’ with some very strong words about a ‘false balance’ in Proverbs 11:1; 16:11 and 20:23. In these verses Solomon warns the reader that ‘a false balance is an abomination to the Lord.’ The immediate intent of this proverbial warning is that we are not to cheat when weighing out goods and/or payment for goods.
In Solomon’s day there was an intrinsic value to money. That is, the value of money was proportional to the weight of its metal (paper money is a recent innovation). When purchasing an item one would use scales on which the required weight of money was offset by its equivalent in the goods desired. For example, 100 grams of silver in exchange for a kilogram of cloth, etc. Thus if one were to ‘tamper with the scales’ then the resultant false balance would result in someone being cheated. Of course this is ultimately a sin against God. And God deems such action as an ‘abomination’, a moral blemish and thus something to be despised.
The disciple of the Lord Jesus must never be guilty of having a ‘false balance’ thereby cheating another. This not only applies in ‘trading’ but in all areas of life. We must never rob God of glory in one area of life by ‘overloading the scales’ of another area of life. We are called upon to exercise much discipline so as to avoid this error. For instance, when it comes to the matter of caring for one’s body it is not wise to constantly ‘burn both ends of the candle.’ There are times when this may be called for but balance would be wisely pursued here. Or, if one has to choose between never taking a day off in order to accomplish more and taking the needed rest at the cost of some loss of outcome then certainly the believer should be ‘balanced’ and take the rest. After all, no one is indispensable; as someone has quipped, the cemetery is filled with indispensable people!
Take another example. Consider the need for biblical balance when it comes to the need to work as well as your responsibilities to your family. Your family needs you and you must be on guard against cheating them by being overly zealous for your career. I am sure that you can supply your own examples. And so we can that there is a need for the occasional adjusting of the ‘scales of our life’ for healthy balance.
Although there are plenty of areas in life in which a proper balance is to be sought, I am persuaded that many times the quest for balance is nothing but a veneered front for the pursuit of self-gratification. And this is often true even in the Church. In much of today’s ‘Christianity’ there seems to be a ubiquitous pursuit of ‘balance’ when it comes to living out our faith. Consider the following examples.
‘I know that I need to spend quality time studying the Word and prioritizing prayer but life is busy, interests are many and after all, certainly Jesus expects for us to be balanced.’ And, ‘Yes, I believe that we must prioritize involvement with our local church but at the same time life is hectic and we must aim for balance in all that we do.’ Again, ‘I know that the Great Commission is important but when it comes to my financial contribution, I also have other obligations and after all, the Lord expects for me to be balanced in my finances.’ Sadly this one is also prevalent, ‘I know that Sunday is the Lord’s Day but there are only so many hours in the week and so I can’t set apart the entirety of Sunday, there is a balance that must be considered.’ Or consider this final example, ‘I understand that ministry is important but so is the need for recreation — we need to be careful of being fanatical; we must strive to be balanced when it comes to our schedules.’ And so I have heard for the past several decades of both my Christian pilgrimage as well as in my pastoral experience. In fact, I have said the same things myself!
How then should we think about balance as a believer?
In his excellent book ‘The Call to Joy and Pain’, Sri Lankan pastor Ajith Fernando insightfully writes, “the balanced life for a Christian is not ‘everything in moderation’ but obedience in every area.’” I find that observation extremely helpful. Only when we are committed to obeying the Lord in every area of life are we then in a position to talk about ‘balance.’
The Lord Jesus Christ was in fact obedient to His heavenly Father in every area. But it is interesting that on more than one occasion his family thought that he was going too far and that He needed a break (see Mark 3:21). Had they lived in our day no doubt they would have cautioned Jesus to be ‘balanced.’ Peter of course thought that the Lord needed his insight into what the balanced life looked like and so he rebuked Jesus for talking about dying on the cross (Matthew 16:21-22) only to be rebuked by the biblically balanced Jesus (Matt 16:23). I could name other examples where the disciples sought to help Jesus to ‘chill’ and to ‘level out’ only to be rebuked. But I trust that you get the point.
Let me simply observe that the last thing that most disciples of Jesus need (at least in our culture) is to be counselled to seek ‘balance’ if what we mean is to give less time to the things of God. Fernando’s definition is a wonderful commentary on our quest for balance; if we are seeking to be obedient to Christ in all areas then this alone is the kind of balance we should pursue. Any other kind will result in a ‘false balance’ which in the end will cheat God of the glory that is His due.