16 Do not be overrighteous, neither be overwise—why destroy yourself?
17 Do not be overwicked, and do not be a fool— why die before your time?
18 It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. The man who fears God will avoid all extremes.
If you haven't read the other bits of writing I've attempted to pen on this bottomless subject, it might be good for you to snag some context before taking these isolated sound-bytes and forming an opinion. Contextualization is critical when it comes to exploring theological truth.
If you were looking at this passage even superficially you would notice that the most repeated word/prefix is "over". I think the author is trying to make a point using these words (that we've already established don't exist in the dictionary) to stir up the stew a little bit. We get familiar with our Theological "cow path", and without knowing it, we mindlessly move about walking right past truth on our way to the destination of our self-fulfilled prophecy, or in this case, self-fulfilled theology.
Self-fulfilled theology goes something like this. We are creatures that resist the "unknown". We want to ascertain answers and assemble a belief system so badly that we, unconsciously, bury the hatchet on issues that aren't substantiated with air tight argumentation. This is where "self-fulfilled theology" comes in. Because we need clarity so badly and the security that comes with it, we lock into a belief system and somehow, beautifully I might add, everything in life seems to align with what we already believe. "We see what we believe" rather than "believing what we see". Our personalities affect what belief system makes the most sense unfortunately, because we not only like reality to align with our theology, we love, even more, when it dovetails with our personality type. Our views on politics, relationships, money, humanity, culture, etc. all get strained through our filter getting compared to our impeccable template of truth.
In an effort to not digress, let's return to the word "over". When you over-"anything" you run a much greater risk of "self-fulfilled theology". Moderation and temperance is chucked out the window leading to a stiff dogmatism that refuses to converse with the human spirit or the Holy Spirit. When the cement cures on "grey areas" turning them into "black and white absolutes", I think it is the Holy Spirit who is grieved most deeply, because His Counsel isn't needed anymore and that is why he was sent, "to guide us into all truth" and to be "Our Counselor". We are commanded to "keep in step with Him" and to "commune with Him". This is impossible when you reduce a relationship with God to inflexible knowns instead of seeking his advice on all the areas that seem to require tact and timing along with truth.
Tact and Timing? Yes. Truth doesn't change, but it's application does. You don't always "witness to people on the streets". You also shouldn't say, "I will never participate in street evangelism." You don't alway have to read your Bible in the morning just because the Psalmist said, "I will seek you in the morning..." And you should never say "never" as it relates to "daily devotions". You don't always speak when someone asks you for the truth (aka - Jesus and Pilate), but you must "always" be ready to give an answer when someone asks you of the hope that is within you, but do so with gentleness and respect. (I Peter 3:15-16) Never and always statements are for "fools", especially as it relates to undeniably hazy and murky issues of biblical truth. Again, I believe in the fundamentals and the Bible is crystal clear on what it's crystal clear about leaving no shadow of doubt. But the Bible is also as clear as mud on other issues, and I think for our own good. It keeps us grappling, wrestling, churning and stirring. It makes us consider not just truth, but tact and timing as well.
Well, I was going to talk about something completely different in this post, but I got off the "cow path" and onto a "rabbit trail". Both can be good, both can be bad...it just depends on the day and the hour. Oh, boy here we go again!