by Jeffrey W. Hamilton
Text: Ecclesiastes 7:11-22
I. In March, 2000, Mona Charen wrote an article that appeared in the Omaha World Herald under the title “Nation With No Sin”
A. In it she made the point that while the nation for the most part believes in God and believes religion is important, at the same time we have become a society that is very reluctant to make moral judgments
B. Even popular conservative religious leaders focus on worldly standards
1. James Dobson focuses on building and maintaining self-esteem
2. Kenneth Erickson focuses on “building self-esteem, understanding one’s ‘inner child’ and eschewing ‘perfectionism and shame-based morality.’
C. Among denominations
1. In a pamphlet for young people, published by the United Churches of Christ: “Loving myself is at the heart of living, loving, and growing. ... To love oneself is holy.”
2. Presbyterians have stated that they “reject ‘handing out absolutes,’ for these can be ‘a disservice to youth.’”
3. A rabbi for the Reformed branch of Judaism stated, “Sin isn’t one of our issues. My guess is that in 12 years of religious school, our kids will never hear the word.”
4. A principal of a Catholic school concerning sin said, “Oh no, that kind of language would not relate to them anyway. When I was growing up, I personally might have responded to someone if they said ‘Hey, this is a sin.’ Today though I don’t think that young people would respond to that. The most you can say to them is ‘That is not allowed.’”
II. We have lost a standard of righteous absolutes
A. In its place we have substituted other standards: our opinions, our conscience, avoiding imagined offenses (the politically correct crowd), and psychology
B. Oh, but we still think of ourselves as religious and righteous
1. Look at the fervor of the PETA group. They constantly use terms of morality and ethics, they claim justification in the Bible, but when their flawed reasoning is exposed, well it doesn’t matter, they “know” they are right.
2. Chanting that “love” is the standard, activist groups have been pushing acceptance of homosexuality and winning the hearts of society. It is “the right thing to do.”
C. There is a passage dealing with making moral decisions that often confuses people - Ecclesiastes 7:15-22
1. How can a person be overly righteous? Is that our aim, to be righteous before God? So how can a person over do what he is supposed to do?
2. And overly wicked. Does that imply that you can have some wickedness? Should it say don’t be wicked period?
III. Overly Righteous - Ecclesiastes 7:15-16
A. No forgiveness of sins in self or others
1. A person who sets up for himself a goal of living a perfect, sinless life is setting himself up for failure.
2. Don’t think too highly of self - Romans 12:3
a. An example - Luke 18:12
3. We don’t accept the fact that even good people sin - Ecclesiastes 7:20
4. A denial of sin is a denial of reality - I John 1:8-10
B. More restrictive than God
1. Some strive so hard not to sin that they become afraid of doing anything.
a. Like the man with one talent - Matthew 25:24-25
b. In trying not to commit sin, they sin by omission - James 4:17
2. Paul was righteous and wrong - Philippians 3:6
a. He followed the law, but he ignored the change it predicted.
3. Focusing on only part of the law - Matthew 23:23
a. Getting one part down really well, but to the neglect of the rest
4. The Jews tried so hard to please God that they made rules to make sure they followed God’s laws.
a. Making more requirements than God - Matthew 9:14
b. Fasting was required in the Old Testament, but the Jews required it more often than God and for the wrong reasons.
C. Using our opinions as law
1. Don’t think beyond what is written - I Corinthians 4:6
2. The Jews were guilty putting man’s opinions above God’s - Romans 10:2-3
3. Don’t be wise in your own opinions - Romans 12:16
a. A sin of the Jews - Romans 11:25
D. People placing heavy burdens on others - Matthew 23:4
1. An example, binding good rules beyond their purpose - Matthew 15:2-9
E. Others place too heavy a burden on themselves.
1. They become overly critical of everything that they do - Ecclesiastes 7:20
2. To the point that there is no room for peace in their lives
3. God is the author of peace - I Corinthians 14:33
4. Become complete - II Corinthians 13:11
F. Being religious for show
1. For some, being religious is what others see - Matthew 6:1-7
a. An example of this is the prayer around the flag-pole that many advocate
2. A false humility - Colossians 2:18
3. An appearance of religion - Colossians 2:21-23
IV. Overly Wicked - Ecclesiastes 7:17
A. No attempt to battle sin
1. Giving in to an overflow of wickedness - James 1:21
2. Go on sinning because God will cover it - Romans 6:1
B. Self decision that sin is all right - Proverbs 3:7
C. I John 3:7-10 - Though poorly translated, the point of this passage is that a righteous person does not stay in sin, just as a wicked person is unable to stay in righteousness.
D. The reason Solomon did not say “don’t be wicked” is that it is an impossibility.
1. Admitting that we all sin at times is facing truth - Romans 3:23
2. But because we sin, it doesn’t mean we don’t give effort
3. We cannot allow ourselves to be come careless
V. Holding on to both ideas - Ecclesiastes 7:18
A. Don’t give in to sin because that route leads to death
B. Don’t set standards of righteousness beyond what God has established.
1. Don’t expect more from yourself or others than is humanly possible to give.
2. Will I make mistakes and sin? Most likely.
a. I might condemn myself, but God is the greater, more accurate judge - I John 3:20-22
C. It always comes down to following the authority God has laid out for us to follow