"A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is His delight."
A number of years ago, as our children were growing up and the numerous issues affecting families began to become a reality, we, like many people, often felt overwhelmed by life. Earning a living, providing for the needs of the family, striving to train my children properly, as well as being determined to do all required to be a growing Christian all crowded the plate of my life—to the point of regular and frequent overflow. My wife, as our mainstay at home, also felt this pressure because her life was full too. Even our children encountered periods of being overwhelmed as they grew up.
During a conversation with our minister at the time, I posed to him the question, "What is balance in life?" and asked him for a sermon on this perplexing subject. His response surprised me: He told me "to write it up," and he would gladly speak on it! This declaration revealed that he, too, struggled with the entire subject of how to live a "complete" and "balanced" life.
Over the years, I have often posed this same question to people, and I have received many answers. The common denominator in most people's responses deals with the basic differences in human life. The differences between men and women, between various cultures, in education, finances, social position, childrearing beliefs, and even geography are just a few of the factors that affected how people perceived balance for one person versus another. A superficial perusal of the Bible and commentaries reveals little on the subject of living a godly, balanced life.
The most interesting differences in some church members' perceptions of balance concern God, Christ, and biblical teachings. Most would agree that the Sabbath, holy days, clean and unclean meats, tithing, the Millennium, and God's Kingdom are all basic ideas we believe in, but each individual's conception of them differs based on personal beliefs and past experiences. Even how a person perceives God often derives more from past religious experiences than from actual biblical revelation. Some see God as an almost untouchable, remote Being, while others view Him as a lovable, huggable Teddy bear. Some perceive Him as disinterested and uninvolved, while others see Him as a hip-pocket, good-luck charm.
What can we learn from the pages of the Bible on being balanced as Christians, spouses, children, employees, or any other role we may fill? Is there a one-size-fits-all answer on how to be balanced?
The Bible contains few references to "balance" or similar words. In the Old Testament, "balance" is most often translated from the Hebrew word mo'zen, which refers to a pair of scales or balances. In the New Testament, the Greek word zugos comes from the root of zeugnumi, which means "to join, especially by a yoke." Vine's Expository Dictionary defines zugos as
"a yoke," serving to couple two things together, is used (1) metaphorically, . . . of submission to authority ["take My yoke upon you"]; . . . of bondage ["yoke of bondage"]; . . . of bond service to masters ["under the yoke"]; (2) to denote "a balance."
In biblical times, balances or scales
were not essentially different from the balances now in use. Sometimes they were suspended by a ring, and in other cases the crossbeams turned upon a pin at the summit of an upright pole, each end of the arm terminating in a hook, to which the precious metal to be weighed was attached in small bags. . . . In a figurative sense the balance is employed in Scripture as an emblem of justice and fair dealing. . . . (New Unger's Bible Dictionary).
Various scriptures on balances, such as Leviticus 19:36, speak of God's demands in trade: "You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt." Other references speak of measuring a person's character or integrity, as seen in Job 31:6: "Let me be weighed in a just balance, that God may know my integrity." In Job 6:2, Job uses the metaphor of a balance to complain that God has not properly evaluated his dire situation: "Oh, that my grief were fully weighed, and my calamity laid with it in the balances!"
Perhaps Proverbs 16:11 provides a clear idea of the spiritual intent of living and leading a balanced life: "A just weight and balance are the Lord's; all the weights in the bag are His work." The proverb tells us that all things are God's and that He is and must always be the standard by which we measure everything. He and His character are true balance.
In a figurative balance, God always tips the scales in relation to us; everything about Him outweighs any capability, talent, capacity, or knowledge we have in comparison to Him. Balance is what He determines it to be by the laws and principles He has given to us, which He follows as well. It is a system of justice and fair dealing versus wrong, as seen in Proverbs 11:1: "A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is His delight." As God expects scales and balances to be used with fairness and equity, so too is His way of life.
However, the question remains: What is a balanced way of life? Is there a one-size-fits-all definition of balance, or does God give a certain amount of leeway in how we live as a Christian versus how we live as "normal" human beings? What are His expectations? What should ours be?
A Time for All Things
It seems that the only certainty in life is God. The previous scriptures show God personifies justice, fairness, honesty, and righteousness, just a few traits of his total character. While God is limitless and almighty, He has placed Himself under certain constraints, such as time and His law, so that we can better identify with Him, His way of thinking, and His way of life.
In the words and experiences of man within the pages of the Bible, He has given us a blueprint of how and how not to do things. We see the successes and the failures, the ups and the downs, the heroes and the heathens, all written for our edification and development.
One man, Solomon—a man who lived at both extremes of life—gives us in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes many lessons he learned, both good and bad. Ecclesiastes 3 begins with the familiar lines, "To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven." Verses 2-8 lists pairs of human experiences that most people face at various times and circumstances:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to gain, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
People often have multiple things coming at them at various times and with different intensities. It is for this very reason that God has placed us on this earth, to see how we will deal with the many matters that can befall us throughout a lifetime. This does not mean that He does not give us a great deal of help through prayer, study, fasting, meditating, fellowship, etc. In actuality, He is weighing or measuring us to see how we handle the opportunities and obstacles that we face. In essence, He wants to see how we prioritize and how will we handle circumstances—whether we use godly scales or human ones.
When we examine life from this perspective, the idea of balance becomes clearer. God's way must be our priority versus the worldly approach that minimizes or negates true justice, righteousness, and godliness. There is a time to do most things, but they must always be done by God's standards and not the world's. While God wants us to provide for our families, being a workaholic and failing as a mate or parent is not being balanced. God wants us to study His Word but not to the exclusion of everything else, especially one's other important responsibilities. There is a time to have fun but not when it affects more important personal, family, or spiritual needs. Balance is an aspect of godly love, as shown in Philippians 2:3-4: "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others."
One Size Fits All?
Within certain parameters, there are definitive aspects of balance as it pertains to our lives. This is especially true from lessons we can learn from God's Word. However, there are additional aspects that we should examine about the "total" concept of balance.
The Webster's New World Dictionary adds these definitions to the concept of balance: "a state of equilibrium or equipurpose; equality in amount, weight, value or importance, as between two things or the parts of a thing." It is "a mental or emotional stability, a harmonious proportion and a pleasing harmony of various elements in any given situation."
If life consisted of only God and us individually, we could view many things we do from a one-size-fits-all perspective. Of course, this is not the case; life is full of interconnected relationships. We must then take other people, events, and things into account without sacrificing our personal relationship with God.
Consider marriage, for instance. God places two sometimes very different people, who look at life from different perspectives, in a relationship, expecting them to live harmoniously together. From the world's success—or failure—rate, many couples do not find the balance it takes to make a marriage truly work. Frequently, harmony is lacking. Sometimes, mental or emotional stability just does not exist, even within the marriages of God's people. When this is the case, something or somebody is out of kilter, throwing matters into disarray and disharmony, affecting the marriage and often each mate's relationship with God.
From God's perspective, marriage is a lesson in learning balance. Marriage is combining the godly characteristics of a man with the complementary godly characteristics of a woman to produce one flesh and one spirit (see Genesis 2:24; Ephesians 5:22-33; I Corinthians 7:2-4). It is combining each spouse's efforts harmoniously, first between themselves and later adding children to the mix. We can perceive it as though God has placed the husband on one side of the balance and the wife on the other, asking them to balance each other, not only alone but also when other factors are added, such as children. God desires us to do this, not just for the good of the marriage and each spouse's relationship with God, but also to display the proper example to the children and others.
We have all heard it said, "We must live in the world without becoming a part of it." This is a real tightrope for us because we naturally desire to belong, to fit in, and not to be different. It requires us balancing our lives. We must live among those God has not called, work for unconverted bosses to provide for our families, send our children to the world's educational facilities without sacrificing our relationship with God and our efforts to build strong marriages and raise godly children, while also remaining unspotted from this world (James 1:27).
God realizes that none of us will ever approach His level as humans. In certain areas, we will fail to reach the spiritual maturity of others in the church. Thus, He exhorts us through the apostle Paul, "We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification" (Romans 15:1-2). God uses this formula toward us, as one who is strong and willing to bear our weaknesses. He wants us to learn this too, within our own little worlds, so we will share in the responsibility when the rest of humanity will need to learn about balancing their own lives with God's. He is telling us to take His yoke upon ourselves, learn from Him, experience His way of life, so that we can teach it to others (Matthew 11:28-30).
Colossians 3 helps us define our priorities, giving us a blueprint to help us in our efforts to gain (or regain) a balanced life. Real balance starts out with our relationship with God and Christ (verses 1-4), and then it is paramount that we put away the old self (verses 3-9), or it will drag us back to our sinful, pre-conversion life. Of course, we must replace it with Christ's righteous character (verse10-11), and we do this slowly and methodically throughout our remaining time of conversion.
Then Paul delineates the character of this new man:
Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. (verses 11-17).
He finishes by giving us specific areas to work on:
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them. Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. . . . Masters, give your bondservants what is just and fair, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven. (verses 18-22; 4:1)
None of us is the same. We have different backgrounds, education, and experiences, but God overcomes these differences. Balance is putting into action those things that are God-centered and God-inspired and refusing to do those that are selfish and unhelpful. We come to balance when we understand, accept, and fulfill our God-given roles in life. When we realize that God is the final, just, and faithful Standard and Arbiter of all things—that His way is the balanced way of life—we have found Christian balance, and we will consistently make proper, godly decisions.