Remember not to confuse happiness with getting away with evil

Ecclesiastes 8:1-15

Jerry A Collins



® How do we relate to authority?

® What do you do about wickedness in society?

How do you cope with injustice and unfairness?

I believe all of us would agree that we live in a world that is often confusing and frustrating. There are a certain set of assumptions we make about our world that attribute to this.

(1) We assume a meaningful universe. God has given meaning to it. So things are not just left up to fate, chance or a randomness.

(2) We assume a moral universe. That there are bad things and good people. A standard by which we can measure all of that. Right and wrong. Rom 2:15 says God has written this on our hearts so we are offended when a bad thing happens because God has wired us up that way.

(3) We assume justice always immediately obvious. That bad is going to get it. What would world be like if God immediately wiped out all suffering, wickedness and injustice? If he did he would also have to wipe the cause of it all, that would be you and me. Only God is just.

(4) We assume there are good people. Jesus said noone is good but God Matt 19:17. All have sinned and come short of Gods glory Rom 3:23. I do not deserve Godís goodness, mercy, he alone is good.

(5) We assume bad things happen. I have discovered that I must give things time before judging as good or bad. Here is a Chinese proverb:

A man who bought himself a horse to help plow the fields and plant the seed and everybody in village said thats good...the horse got sick and almost died and everyone in village said thats got better resumed working in fields and everyone in village said thats good...the farmers son rode horse and broke his leg and everyone in village said thats bad...the next day the emperors army rode into the village and enlisted every young fit man they could find to give their lives for their emperor, all except the young son with broken leg...thats good!

Lazarus died and everyone said thats bad...Jesus was sent for and thats good...Jesus did not come rite away thats bad...Jesus decides to come thats good...Lazarus is buried thats bad...Jesus raises him from the dead thats good...Lazarus died sometime later thats bad...Jesus is returning again thats good.

PT..We have to give things time before deciding.

(6) We assume we can tell the difference between good and bad. I have said oh thats bad before or oh thats good only having to change my mind later. So I have to keep living with the long view even with a view all the way to the other side of the grave to keep perspective on so many confusing and confounding things in this world. So Solomon asks a series of questions to help grasp the contemporary problems of society.

Verse 1 introduces us to the need for wisdom in this matter. Who is like a wise one know the explanation of things? This persons enlightenment about things literally changes him from the inside out. Even his facial appearance is altered. You know the look of consternation, confusion, frustration because of a lack of understanding and then the corresponding change when understanding arrives! Here it is understanding gained about the contemporary problems and confusion of society.


This is a good question for today. We have some authority over us--the law of the city, country, state, land. So the advice is:

(1) Obey that authority 2-4. It is difficult to argue for civil disobedience or violence in any form from the Bible. Romans 13 and 2 Peter 2 say Godís system of design builds in the idea of obedience to authority. Our natural tendency is rebellion and revolt not submission vs 3. Joseph is a classic example for us. It was not fair for him to be sold into slavery. Not fair for him to be imprisoned in Egypt. No indication he ever wanted to rebel or break out of the place. He remained under the authority of Pharaoh. He never blamed his brothers. He never blamed Potiphars wife for lying. Why? Because he saw it all as thework of God and so he could obey even when things were unfair.

(2) Use discretion as you relate to authority 5-8. He knows when and how to speak and act. We must learn to work within the system not try to overthrow it. It does not mean we can always agree with the establishment we are under. Daniel was not a rebellious believer in Babylon. He maximized every opportunity o advance himself within the system. Even when caught praying he was not flaunting it in the local city mall but was arrested in the privacy of his own room. He had discretion. Jesus never attempted to overthrow Roman rule nor did he tell his disciples to do so. He worked within the system even tho it was an evil one. He did not practice its evil nor did he approve of it but had the wisdom to work within it as he found it. It is important to have this kind of discretion because no one can escape the consequences of his own wickedness and disobedience to authority vs 8, just as no one is able to control the wind, postpone the day of his death or be discharged while in the middle of battle. Those in authority have the ability to punish you.

(3) Use caution in relation to authority 9-10. When you are the one abused by an authority in your life be careful. What if the situation changes and you become the person with authority? How will you wield that authority over others? The disciples were faced with this since they would be in authority after Jesus left. So Jesus taught them about servanthood authority 101 so they could exemplify spiritual leadership (Matt 13).


(1) When justice is delayed people scheme for more evil 11. That is also true in the family when parents delay discipline, in the church when sinis not repented of. Swift punishment/discipline can remedy evil and rebellion in the heart. Even tho it seems the wicked one prospers and lives longer, in the long run the reasons for such inequity will be taken care of by God v 12-13. He is sure that it will be better with the God-fearing person. God keeps the books and eventually all things will be judged.


Itís not fair. Everyone is not treated the same. Your best effort to do the rite thing may not pay off in this world. If we really try hard it ought to pay off. People ought to take notice. he tells us wait! the world is perverted. Its all fouled up. Distorted justice vs 14. The wicked gets what the righteous deserves, the righteous what the wicked deserves. In lite of all of this injustice, he adivises us to find enjoylemt in the life we have been given by God. We cannot escape these injustices and we can expect to be the recipient of some of it. Accept it and move on. Do not spend your time and energy trying to fix all of it, avoid most of it, or change some of it. Receive each dayís joys as Godís good gifts to you and rejoice in them whatever you deternine them to be.

(1) Live by faith. It is not heaven yet when all justice will be known.

(2) Live with long view and endure in joy.