Every text says something. No text says everything. Our task is to preach the text’s something in a way that is faithful to the Bible’s “everything”. Our task is not to preach everything from this text’s something.
Balance – you don’t want to preach something that on its own is faithful to the preaching text, but distorts the message of the Bible. So we have to think about balancing it. For example, Psalm 1. This passage is saying that lasting blessing comes to those who live according to the Word of God, rather than the words of the wicked. However, this does not mean that simply obeying the Bible’s ethical instruction leads to eternal life. Psalm 1 may need balance to avoid misunderstanding or misapplication.
Balance the balance – we need to be careful though. It is easy to be so excessive in balancing that we end up blunting the force of the passage at hand. It is possible to always preach a vague biblical message without ever allowing the text through in its power. So how to know how much to balance?
1. Remember your goal in this message is to preach this text, not the whole canon in one shot.
2. Consider your listeners (preaching Psalm 1 to a group with non-Christians will require more balancing from beyond the passage than preaching Psalm 1 to a group of Christians at a conference).
3. Consider if this is a one-shot, or part of a process? People at an evangelistic event may only come once, but people in a church get more messages to balance each other. However, even with evangelism we don’t have to give them the whole deal every time we get them in (but that’s an evangelistic issue).
4. Decide the extent of balance needed (is the message slightly incomplete, or significantly risky?) Is the main thought of this message biblically true, or is it heretical if misunderstood (especially if easily misunderstood).
There is not a one-size fits all solution. But I offer these thoughts as a prompt to consider carefully the balancing we do in our messages – not too little, but not too much either.