All things in moderation. Eat well-balanced meals. Live a balanced life. We’re familiar with these common sayings about balance.
There’s sense to these sayings and the principle of balance. After all, no one’s interested in living an imbalanced life.
When we are young, physical balance is a handy and underappreciated trait. A 6-year-old can lose her balance, fall over and spring back to her feet without consequence. Such a fall is not so straightforward for a 76-year-old.
Similarly, being emotionally and mentally balanced means that we don’t rush from one perspective or reaction extreme to another. Instead, we thoughtfully consider alternative perspectives before pursuing a reasoned response. If only it were as easy to live that wise counsel as it is to write it!
At the same time, continuing this idea of balance leads to interesting questions.
Should we balance work and family? Sounds sensible. Too much work time will impact family time, and conversely, work would be affected if we decided to spend most of our days with our family rather than at the office. Admittedly, that is a fun problem to consider!
What about balance from a Biblical perspective?
a balanced scale is not an effective metaphor from sin’s perspective
The word balance occurs around fifteen times in the King James Version of Scripture, and each time it’s within the context of measuring with a fair and balanced scale.
From a literal perspective, this means:
“Dishonest scales are an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is His delight.” (Prov 11:1 KJV). From an abstract perspective, this means weighing up multiple positions before making a decision:
In our world, whether it be a pair of balanced scales or the image of Lady Justice herself, honest scales are a powerful metaphor for impartial justice.
While recognizing that we all seek justice and truth in those matters of judgment affecting us, we are wise to remember that a balanced scale is not an effective metaphor from sin’s perspective. If God placed us on a balance scale with our righteousness on one pan and our sins on the other, the weight of our sins would crash that pan lopsidedly down. Despite our best efforts, our sins far outweigh our righteousness.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” And yet, despite the weight of our sins, we are “justified freely by [God’s] grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 3:23-24).
Thankfully, God does not judge us with a perfect balance, instead offering a gift we don’t deserve– forgiveness.
From the context of balance, in considering the gracious reality that God forgives the sins of those who are “in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1), we are left with another question. If the balance in all things is a wise principle, can we find a balance between the two opposing forces of our world, good and evil? And can we find a balance between righteousness and sin?
Right about now, you have started vigorously shaking your head and mouthing, “No!” And you’d be right. This is the very argument that the Apostle Paul addressed in Romans 6:1-4. Balancing righteousness and sin are not possible. A body cannot be both dead and alive simultaneously. If we die to sin, we cannot also live to sin. We can only live as new men and new women in Christ Jesus.
Here, we come to the dichotomy of balance. Balance is a reasonable and thoughtful characteristic, but not a principle that can effectively guide decision-making in every scenario.
As few single words or definitions can encompass all aspects of a principle, it’s time for another concept to enter our consideration of balance: engagement.
How do we balance life’s needs?
Balancing work, home, and the Ecclesia is an imperfect exercise. All three aspects of life need attention and focus. We need to engage in each. None should consume the other. However, there are times when legitimate work/school deadlines, an upcoming family celebration, or preparing for a Bible School all require a few late nights. And this is ok. Investing more time in all three events and activities is periodically necessary and acceptable.
We must focus on doing our job effectively at work or school. Why? So that in our diligence and attitude, God’s light might shine.
When we are at home, we need to strive to give our energy and enthusiasm to our family. Why? So that our home might be a place of godliness, safety, and pleasure.
When we are with our ecclesial brothers and sisters, we should engage and serve actively. Why? So that our ecclesial family might be a place of spiritual encouragement, love, and support.
With our desire to be actively engaged in the task at hand, you will rightly ask: How do we avoid overemphasizing one task over another? And here comes that word again: How do we balance life’s needs?
Balance and Hierarchies
When balancing and actively engaging in life’s demands, it may be helpful to remember a simple Scriptural hierarchy: first God, then family, then ecclesia.
God is our priority (1 Tim 1:17; Matt 22:37-38). Serving and caring for the needs of our nuclear family comes second, and serving and caring for our spiritual family comes next.
a simple Scriptural hierarchy: first God, then family, then ecclesia.
By loving God and His principles with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30), we will not overemphasize our nuclear family at the expense of our spiritual family. At the same time, we will follow Christ’s example and sanctify and cleanse our physical families with God’s word. We do the same with our spiritual family. With God as our ultimate guide, we will give our best effort to work or school without allowing it to consume our hearts or minds.
When we are at home, engage with home. Be present. There’s little value in spending a vacation day worrying about work or school. Jesus’ wise advice was to not worry about tomorrow but instead trust in God’s care for us. The results are positive spiritual and mental health outcomes (Matt 6:25-34).
Surely Daniel was a notable example of balance and engagement. With God’s blessing, Daniel was a brilliant administrator and chief minister in the extensive kingdoms of Babylon, Media, and Persia. He was wise, thoughtful, and reliable in all-consuming roles filled with constant mental and emotional demands. When Daniel was at work, he was fully engaged. And yet, by keeping God as the priority, his engagement at work and faithful integrity drove all his decisions.
God’s light shone on Daniel at work and home, as we are commanded to do by our Lord. (Matt 5:16) His adversaries could only observe that he had “an excellent spirit within him.” They could find “none occasion nor fault” in his daily work. (Dan 6:3-4 KJV).
To balance the many needs of life while actively staying engaged with priorities, we sometimes have to say “no.” Sure, we generally want to be “yes” people, giving and sharing ourselves with others. However, it’s quite okay and sometimes even necessary, to say “no.” Saying “no” to some things means we can devote our energy and time to things of consequence: God, our family, and our ecclesia.
It takes a lifetime to develop balance and recognize imbalance. In his book Principles and Proverbs, Bro. Islip Collyer (1876-1953) observes, with humor, that “We all need a little introspective care in this matter [balance and imbalance]. If a man is not conscious of ever having been at all unbalanced, it is probable that he has never been anything else.”2
There are many ways we can become imbalanced in our lives: how we spend our time, where or with whom we expend our energy, what and how much food or other substance we may indulge in, emphasis we may place on certain aspects of Scripture (e.g., prophecy versus practical), pet peeves or scruples we may focus on at the expense of more important principles. Imbalance is a constant challenge in all aspects of our lives.
God has placed sin, temptation, changing life circumstances and human nature into our lives to help us consider and monitor our imbalance and to develop skills that help us become more balanced.
The Book of Proverbs helps us identify a key source of imbalance in our lives. The writer observes, “A just balance and scales are the Lord’s: all the weights of the bag are his work.” (Pro 16:11 KJV). This verse tells us God is and must always be the standard by which we measure everything. He and His character are true balance. Therefore, our characters need to be balanced, like God’s. When our attributes do not closely match God’s character, we may be out of balance.
Moses learned that God’s character was incredibly balanced and that He wants us to mirror this balance. It was “full of compassion and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy and truth; keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity… and that will by no means clear the guilty.” (Exod 34:6-7).
How does our persona match this description of God’s character? Is it as balanced as God’s character? At work, at home, in our ecclesia and in our individual lives? Do we show compassion, as Joseph did to his brothers? Can we be a “hot-head” and quick to anger like Cain? Are we harsh, surly, and ungracious like Nabal, or more balanced like his wife, Abigail? Do we stand up for truth, but bolster and balance this with mercy and forgiveness like Christ?
The prophet Micah asks God what He requires as a sacrifice. God’s answer draws on aspects of His character revealed to Moses. His reply is a heart-searching appeal and challenge to seek balance as part of our sacrifice to Him: “And what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Mic 6:8 ESV).
We can easily become unbalanced by emphasizing one of these three characteristics over the other. If we are all about justice and being “right,” we ignore love and humility. If we are totally focused on love, we can undervalue truth and justice. And if we forget the importance of humility in our characters, we may not be walking with God! God’s appeal to Micah is a life-long challenge to develop our skills at being balanced.
And what are the consequences of being unbalanced? The propellers or turbo-fins of an airplane are an example. Each blade is precisely balanced to match the weight of the surrounding blades. When they rotate, they spin efficiently, quietly and without damage to the engine or plane. If the blades become even the slightest bit unbalanced, their high speeds create a great deal of noise, and the vibration will transfer to bearings, seals, and other finely tuned instruments throughout the plane. Eventually, imbalances cause the engine to blow apart and lead to a deadly accident.
In other words, if we counteract the imbalance in the various propellers of our lives, it can lead to dire consequences in our work, home, or ecclesia. Severe imbalance in our individual lives can be catastrophic to both us and our loved ones around us.
Balance. Engagement. God first, our physical family second, and our spiritual family next. Simply put, when we are at work or school, we must do the job well. At home, we must focus on our physical and spiritual family. Love the brotherhood. Monitor our characters for imbalance and develop skills to balance them after the example of our Father. All the while living, moving and having our very being under the guidance of the Lord of heaven and earth (1 Pet 2:17; Acts 17:24, 28).
(Livonia Ecclesia, MI)
1 All Scriptural citations taken from the New King James Version, unless specifically noted. 2 Collyer, Islip, Principles and Proverbs, The Christadelphian, 4040 Shaftmoor Lane, Hall Green, Birmingham, UK, 1966, chapter 2, page 9.