Ecclesiastes 8:11-17

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, May 18, 2020 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

Do you believe that humans are inherently good, or inherently evil? While I’d like to believe we’re all inherently good, I know that humans are full of sin ever since the Fall. As Psalm 14:1-3 tells us (also quoted by Paul in Romans 3:10-12), there is no one good in this world. It is only through God working through our lives that we’re able to do good.

The Teacher of Ecclesiastes looks at this idea too in today’s passage of Ecclesiastes 8:11-17. In verse 11, we see the idea of being willing to commit crimes if we can get away with it, which clearly shows the sinful and rebellious nature of humankind. If we’re not punished for our crimes, why not just go ahead and commit them? Verse 12 continues that idea, with those who are of God knowing that the evil people in this world will often escape punishment - at least temporarily. We see in verses 12-13 how at that time, they compared long life to being blessed by God.

In verse 14, the Teacher says, “There is something else meaningless that occurs on earth: the righteous who get what the wicked deserve, and the wicked who get what the righteous deserve. This too, I say, is meaningless.” The opening and closing of this verse with the idea of meaninglessness places extra emphasis on it, and shows just how disturbed the Teacher is by this concept. It seems in life that bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people. In spite of knowing that God is just, injustice clearly exists in this world.

It’s hard for our minds to reconcile this concept, of the just God allowing so much injustice in this world. Why are there so many people starving in this world? Why are so many struggling to survive? Why is there so much abuse that happens? Why are there natural disasters and diseases that kill so many? It all seems so unfair in light of a loving God. But the fact of the matter is that God is perfect, and this world (and all of us who live in it) are not. We are sinful human beings, and when the first humans sinned, all of creation was also thrown into sin. Our bad choices often cause evil in this world. When there seems to be no direct choice linked to something evil happening, it’s because all of creation is fallen. But, God is still just! Even if we don’t see His justice playing out in this world, we will see it on Judgment Day.

Fortunately for us, God’s justice also includes His grace. We often think in the context of someone who has wronged us deserving punishment and hoping that they get their just desserts. But have you thought about what it would be like if someone is thinking that about you? There could be someone who is hoping to see you get punished for a sin that you have committed. We like to think of God’s grace for ourselves, but we need to remember that God’s grace is available to all - even to someone who has sinned against you or who you wish would get punished for something they’ve done. Read the story of Jonah (especially the end) to see how God’s grace can play out, and how we often react to His grace being shown to others.

What should we do when we’re struggling to understand the injustice that exists in this world? Enjoy life! “So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun” (verse 15). We should experience pleasure in the good things of life, like eating and drinking, but we should also experience pleasure in the work that we have been given to do, simply because that is what God has ordained for us. God has not created us to be depressed, bogged down by the heavy burdens of this life, but He has created us to experience joy in Him and in the good things He has created for us to enjoy.

Verses 16-17 go on to explain how we cannot understand the ways of God: “When I applied my mind to know wisdom and to observe the labor that is done on earth —people getting no sleep day or night— then I saw all that God has done. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all their efforts to search it out, no one can discover its meaning. Even if the wise claim they know, they cannot really comprehend it.” The Teacher is actively applying his mind to understand how things work in this world, even to the point of losing sleep over it. But, he comes to the conclusion that the human mind cannot understand the things of God. If anyone who claims to know the mind of God, we know they are not being truthful as no human can know God fully. If we could, then He wouldn’t be God anymore; we would be.

We will never be able to understand the things of God, except maybe when we get to heaven with Him. But even then, God will still be greater than us, and He will still deserve all of our worship and praise for all eternity. We humans may be inherently even because of the sinful world we live in, but everything about God is good and just. That is one thing that we truly need to understand and take to heart. No matter what happens with people in this world, no matter what we can fully understand or not, God is good!

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