AVOIDING EXTREMES

 The story of Icarus from Greek mythology is used to teach the importance of avoiding extremes and practice moderation. Icarus and his talented inventor-father, Daedalus were imprisoned by King Minos and Daedalus created wings made of feathers and wax for himself and his son to escape the king. Daedalus warned Icarus to neither fly too close to the water lest the feathers get wet, nor fly too high, lest the wax melt as they flew away to their escape. However as they began their successful flight, Icarus got carried away by the thrill of flying and went very high and got too close to the sun. The wax melted and the wings failed Icarus, who fell to his death.

Solomon, writing about life in the Ecclesiastes, warns his listeners to avoid all extremes.

It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes. (Ecclesiastes 7:18)

Consider work- a person might be so lazy that he does not demonstrate the discipline, accountability or perseverance needed to sustain his work. No one would be surprised if such a person experiences no success. He struggles through life, has no motivation, gets carried away by distractions at every turn and produces practically no output. The Bible warns us against laziness, ‘Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in slave labor’ (Proverbs 12:24).

On the other hand a person can decide to work so hard that he might end up becoming the top executive in his company or win a Nobel prize or get himself an entry in the Guinness book of world records. However, he likely will end up losing many valuable things along the way- his health, his family and at times his mind. Pushing for excellence at all costs or to be the very best, is often a reflection of the deep dissatisfaction a person has with his life and his lot. The identity of such a person is dependent on success rather than his intrinsic value as a person before God.

Avoiding extremes is relevant for many other aspects of man’s life. Seeking comfort and pleasure needs to be moderated. Being righteous to the extent of condemning others is no righteousness at all. Doctrinal extremes like hyper-Calvinism, which preaches sovereignty to the ridiculous extreme of doing away with man’s responsibility is an example of how even Christian teaching needs to be critically evaluated for extremes.

Fearing God and making a practice of submitting to Him is synonymous with avoiding extremes. When a person revers God and has a primary relationship with Him, he finds satisfaction in the day-to-day aspects of his life. He holds on to God, lives his life by faith, and acknowledges that his finiteness and the variability in this world prevent viability of extremes.

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