It's almost a national hobby to want a full-on life. this is the person who works an 80+ hour working week; takes a laptop home on weekends and public holidays, cuts sleep to a minimum and crams every moment with some activity. Their favourite text is Eccles 9:10a and their hero is the evangelist Dwight L. Moody. Moody had a heart attack and was advised to take a sea cruise to slow down. He soon fled the ship and flung himself back into ministy with the words: I'd rather burn out than rust out.
How can we argue against zeal, especially if it's for a Christian purpose? When we compare zeal with laziness, zeal wins hands down as a virtue.
But is it so simple?
The Apostle Paul faced a group of Christian zealots in Galatia. They were at the cutting end of zeal, as their non-Jewish men accepted circumcision. They followed a rigorous devotional life of holy days and practices and doubtless intimidated others with their religious fervour.
But there was a problem. They were zealous, but for the wrong thing. In their religious zeal, they undermined the gospel of 'grace alone, faith alone and Jesus alone'. They added in human works to the place that belongs to God's work in Christ. And that produced 'another gospel' which was in fact no 'good news', but a dead-end path of trying to please God by human works.
As Paul writes, zeal is good - but makes sure it's in the right direction (Gal 4: 18). Let's be zealous for God through Christ and not undermind the gospel of what God has done for us in our zeal to do things for him.
Further, the full=on life of zeal is not always good. It can keep us from being 'still' and knowing ourselves and knowing God. Sometimes we just need to do nothing, to remind ourselves that we are dependent creatures and that the world can get along just fine without us. And so DL Moody died aged 62, with his last campaign cut short by exhaustion. How many good years were lost?
How are we going in this area? Are we building up our sense of self-importance by frantic busyness and ignoring pressing needs? Are we zealous - but for the wrong things that take us away from Jesus?