AN EMPTY SACK CAN’T STAND UP; A FULL SACK CANNOT BEND. This proverb from the Virgin Islands can easily be applied to religious zeal, being too morally self-righteous, too zealous with our good deeds. That does fit the image of a “sack” that is too full. Too much self-purpose in what we do, and too many willful judgments on what others should do, becomes a sure road to hypocrisy, not righteousness. Human beings, flawed as we are, easily tip over under the weight of such pretentious virtue. I know I have.
But the other extreme, being empty of purpose and good intent, is flawed as well and just as selfish. We might avoid the risk of doing the wrong thing. But we avoid any good we might accomplish as well—for ourselves or for anyone else.
Which leads me to a sermon by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, who served for many years as minister of Westminster Chapel in London. Admitting that the Christian life can appear “self-contradictory,” he found that the life of a Christian is “a matter of balance,” one that avoids “extremes.” And so he said: “It is a delicate life, it is a sensitive life; but if we approach it in the right way, and under the leading of the Holy Spirit, the balance can be maintained.” (Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, Vol. II, 12-13).