“Keep the king’s command, because of God’s oath to him. Be not hasty to go from his presence. Do not take your stand in an evil cause, for he does whatever he pleases. For the word of the king is supreme, and who may say to him, ‘What are you doing?’ Whoever keeps a command will know no evil thing, and the wise heart will know the proper time and the just way” (Ecclesiastes 8:2-5, ESV).
Sometimes a biblical text reveals some insight into God’s nature. Sometimes a text provides a spiritual admonition. And, sometimes a biblical text just offers some practical advice, which seems to be the case with these verses.
The way we would state the sentiment expressed in these verses in modern vernacular would be “picking your battle” or “choosing which hill to die on.” That is, use wisdom and not passion to determine what cause is worth fighting for.
But, the causes we choose to defend are often meaningless causes–or as the Preacher says in this verse from Ecclesiastes, “an evil cause.”
Here’s how we become confused about which cause to defend. Most Christians believe they must abide by certain standards of behavior or belief. But, sometimes they’re not clear exactly what those standards are because the Bible doesn’t provide biblical standards in the form of an easy-to-use checklist.
The counsel of these verses is to keep the king’s command and do not take a stand in an evil cause. These verses advise that if you obey the king’s command you will know when and how to take a stand. In other words, if you are an obedient servant of the king, you won’t take a stand in every cause, you will take a stand for the right cause–a cause that reinforces the king’s commands.
Too quick and too often we draw lines in the sand to defend a cause that is based on ill-conceived notions of what we think the Bible says.
Though we claim a cause is just, we are really trying to convince or coerce people to believe or behave the way we think they should rather than having confidence that God (our King) will work things out (God’s Sovereignty).
We over-react or under-react because we’re not clear as to what the King’s commands are; namely, we haven’t sufficiently studied our King’s commands, the Bible. So, we haven’t internalized the commands adequately and thus we don’t externalize them appropriately!
Then, the stand we take creates unnecessary conflict or unintended controversy because it is ill-conceived. It’s an evil cause.
Sometimes when we take a stand we act like we’re trying to clean up God’s messes. If everyone would just behave or believe like I do, then all would be well.
But God is supremely capable of taking care of His creation.
So, our apologetics should consist primarily of trying to persuade people to trust and obey God, not our standards.
If we will be obedient to God–that is, be led by His Spirit, then God’s Spirit will guide and direct us to know how and when to take a stand for God’s Cause.
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (Romans 8:14, ESV)