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A Biblical Imbalance

The default topic in Christian leadership circles today is balance.

We need to balance our work and family life. We need to balance ministry in our community with ministry at our church. We need to balance our budget. We need a balanced diet.

Something is wrong in your life? You are out of balance.

And that has me wondering. Is the very concept of balance a Christian concept or an Asian philosophy of Yin and yang?

When I look at the New Testament I see Jesus calling men and women to a holy imbalance. He asked his first disciples, who asked their disciples, to leave everything for the Kingdom of God.

Some Examples of Imbalance Celebrated

  • Luke 5:1-10 – Jesus first asks Peter, James, and John to waste their time fishing in the wrong conditions. Than he asks them to leave their home, business, and everything they knew to follow him. Those nets, that boat, and the business all rotted.
  • Luke 9:23 – “Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.
  • Matthew 26:6-13 – A woman pours expensive perfume on Jesus, his disciples called that a horrible imbalance and Jesus affirmed her. “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me.”
  • Acts 5:1-11 – Dave Ramsey would have affirmed Ananias and Sapphira for their financial wisdom. They held a little back just in case. The Apostles weren’t interested in balanced devotion, they demanded all or nothing.
  • Acts 7 – Stephen had an opportunity to defuse the anger of those in power, you know, balance things out. Instead he threw gasoline on the fire and was stoned.

There are hundreds more examples of this. The New Testament church embraced imbalance! It was celebrated. A call to follow Christ was extreme, never safe, and put your life permanently and joyfully horribly out of balance.

The very concept of balance is an avoidance of extremes. It’s holding something back. In many ways, our avoidance of extremes and calls for balance is the very thing that prevents us from truly experiencing the fullness of the weight of the cross on our shoulders.

If you ask me we need to ask people to count the cost. We need to call people not to a cheap version of discipleship but to one that is extremely out of balance. Jesus didn’t call us to balance. He calls us to pick up the cross– an instrument of death– and daily follow him.

Christianity preaches the infinite worth of that which is seemingly worthless and the infinite worthlessness of that which is seemingly so valued.”

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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9 Responses to A Biblical Imbalance

  1. Jonathan Dashe November 1, 2011 at 7:22 am #

    I always understood the story of Ananias and Sapphira to be about lying to the Holy Spirit… They had every right to keep some back, but the problem was that they said they had given everything to boost their image.

    I still emphatically agree with you that moderation isn’t a fundamental Christian virtue. We easily get lost in the world of in between instead of being world-changers. Though the idea of moderation has a place I think, so does extremism and we often forget that. The key to living the Christian life is not to have everything in moderation, nor to be extreme. It’s to be extremely obedient to Scripture and the Spirit.

    • Adam McLane November 1, 2011 at 11:29 am #

      The text says that they died because they lied. v3. But what they lied about is something we would celebrate today as good stewardship. I think that was my point. :)

      • Michael Halbrook November 1, 2011 at 9:32 pm #

        I’m with Jonathan, it was the lying that got them killed, not the holding back.  It is because they told them that they gave all they earned on the sale that got them in trouble, and some how, I don’t think Dave Ramsey would consider lying a good thing.  

  2. Robbie Mackenzie November 2, 2011 at 5:33 am #

    Thanks for this Adam.  I have been thinking about this for a while as my life with full-time youth ministry, four kids six and under and a host of other responsibilities lends itself to imbalance.  I often wonder why I am such a crappy “balancer” like the other time management gurus.  I mean, I get it and all but it just is not always so simplistic.  Even our theology is difficult to balance because everyone defines balance from their own perspective.  Make sense?   

  3. Joel Mayward November 2, 2011 at 5:58 am #

    Maybe not all balance is created equal.

    If I’m balancing my time devoted to Jesus with my devotion to football, or shopping, or academic success, or financial security, etc. that seems to be an unhealthy balance.

    If I’m balancing my time between my family, my ministry relationships, and taking care of my own soul, that seems to be a kingdom-minded balance. 

    The only way this latter balance works is when Jesus’s presence permeates all areas of my life so that I’m not having to choose whether I’m following Jesus or not in that moment. I’m following Him as I love my family, love my church, love my community, and even love myself.

  4. Jeff Greathouse October 12, 2012 at 7:39 am #

    Adam, this may be a stretch because I have enjoyed a lot of your writing over the many years that our paths have crossed but this may have been one of the best AND one of the elephant in the room topics that people do not like to discuss.

    • Adam McLane October 12, 2012 at 7:43 am #

      Thanks Jeff, the irony is that I keep coming back to this post. It’s a year old… But so important!

      • Jeff Greathouse October 12, 2012 at 7:48 am #

        I know that you have shared and talked about it before and I think that there is a reason that you keep coming back to it and will continue to do so. Because we (in paid ministry – specifically) will continue to fight the thought. We have a discussion going in our synod about balance, ministry time, private time and even separting social media into compartments to keep balance; i am one confuzed person.

        • Adam McLane October 12, 2012 at 7:55 am #

          Yeah, I just think the notion isn’t grounded in what we see in the Bible. I think it has to be about health, balance is not a virtue!

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