Can zeal be bad?

“Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.” ~Romans 10:1-2

The passage shows that is it possible to have zeal without having knowledge. We have to have zeal that is based on knowledge of God’s word. This knowledge is not referring to pure ‘head knowledge’, but rather a true understanding of God’s word that comes from knowledge. If we do not have the correct understanding, then we run the risk of establishing our own standard of righteousness, instead of submitting to God’s righteousness.

Jesus prophesied that at the time of his return there would still be people whose zeal would not be based on knowledge. Matthew 7:21-23

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”

Only believers would call Jesus “Lord”, yet these ‘believers’ do not have faith and deeds that are based on God’s word or His will. Only those who do the will of God will enter the kingdom of heaven, but we can only do God’s will if we know what it is. For this we need knowledge, and true understanding.

Proverbs 19:2 says, “It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way.” Who was “the Way” at the time of the first coming? Jesus (Jn 14:6). We must make sure we have zeal that is based on knowledge and true understanding so that we do not “miss the way,” and so that we are not those whom Jesus prophesied about in Matthew 7.

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Have you ever been really zealous about something? 

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12 thoughts on “Can zeal be bad?

  1. Yes, being zealous could get you through objectives which could benefit others. When I taught before, I was almost like obsessed doing tutorials in Physics, that I spent reasonable time after school, gathering kids who were performing bad in the subject. And it has become like a mission to me, well teaching generally has become a vocation which i pray and hope i’ll be doing again in the near future. My deep enthusiasm now is to have my own free tutorial center in my area in the Philippines catering to poor kids who could not afford the tuition of private tutorial centers.
    Does that make me too zealous?
    I like your article.

    • Wow Earlie, that is amazing.
      You see, the difference between you and those I was talking about in my post is that you definitely have knowledge (a lot of knowledge) about the subject you are zealous about. That kind of zeal is great! The problem comes when there is someone who does not have knowledge (or thinks they have knowledge, but actually don’t) and is still extremely zealous. Those kinds of people can do more harm than good.

      I hope that your dream to start your own free tutorial center comes to fruition…soon! That would be so amazing. You have a good and kind heart!

  2. Interesting. It’s so true that people can be over zealous without knowing enough about the thing they are ranting about. I am definitely guilty of this at times. It’s so easy to get caught up in the excitement of something, without questioning why. But, luckily, we live and we learn. Hopefully… ;)

    • Hi Flameheart :)
      Yea, I think I have been guilty of knowledge-less zeal before as well – we tend to jump on a band wagon and just keep going without asking questions…in all areas of life.
      Thanks for stopping by, always good to hear from you!

  3. Another great post HL.

    I have to say that I, too, am guilty about being over zealous of things without giving them proper thought (i.e. the knowledge part). Definitely learning that way is the wrong way!

    • Thanks Jon :)
      Yea, “jumping on bandwagons” seems to be a common pastime… And most people are actually just happy to stay on the bandwagon and go for a ride. I really wonder when people will decide to wake up and start thinking for themselves, instead of listening to (and going along with) all the other nonsense that is out there.
      Zeal can be powerful when combined with knowledge and understanding…otherwise it is just the ‘blind leading the blind’

  4. Zeal is so important, but it is so true that zeal without knowledge can be just as damaging as zeal with knowledge can be constructive! As a Christian it really bothers me when fellow ‘Christians’ are zealous but have no knowledge about what Christianity is all about. For that reason I am zealous about equipping Christians with knowledge.

    • Hi Matthew, I completely are with you, and from you blog I can tell that you are zealous about equipping Christians with knowledge.
      Good to hear from you, glad you are back to blogging :)

  5. Hi Healing Leaf,

    I’ve just awarded you a Sunshine Award for your interesting and thought-provoking blog. Well done! :)
    You can collect it at my latest post (Wednesday, 8 June).

    Have a great week!

  6. I realize this article is old but I really hope you respond to my question. I have been looking all over the net and have not yet found an answer. I was a zealot for God that was based in knowledge. I was so ready to take off and do what God called me to do and help anyone and anywhere I could. The problem is my zeal seemed to become agonizing to the point where I would be brought to tears and feel physically ill. It kinda felt like being love sick and it scared me so I started to suppress it until it went away. I don’t know why something that was such a joy for me turned into something so painful that I basically ran away from it. It this a normal feelings that zealous people have if not, why do you think this happened to me. I am really confused and very desperate for some answers. .

    • Hi Stephanie,
      Thanks for reaching out to us. I would love to chat to you more about what you have felt and struggled with, maybe you could send me an email. What kind of things made you feel physically ill? Wanting to carry out God’s work with all your heart is great, so what is it that made you feel uncomfortable or sick to your stomach?
      The email address is healingleaf84@gmail.com (you can also find it on the contact page)
      Thanks again for reaching out, looking forward to chatting further.

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