Day 7: Injustice in the world (3:22)
“Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?” (3:22).
We end yesterday’s reflection with the positive and negative consequences of “whatever happens or can happen has already happened before” (3:15 GNT). The Preacher continues, noting: “that in this world you find wickedness where justice and right ought to be” (3:16 GNT). When you think about it, this is a pretty damming statement, especially if you live in a country that purports to uphold the rule of law. The reality is something that the Psalmist observed – not only does wickedness happen when there ought to be justice and right, but often the wicked appear to get away with it, scot-free, and this can happen anywhere, including in places where the Preacher was the king! We may console ourselves with thoughts that are only valid if there is more than what goes on under the sun: “God is going to judge the righteous and the evil alike” (3:17 GNT) and “that God is testing us, to show us that we are no better than animals” (3:18 GNT) but it is naturally worrying to think what happens, if all there is, is life under the sun.
How many times we have heard these words from the Order of Burial Service from the 1662 Prayer Book … “Forasmuch as it hath pleased Almighty God of his great mercy to take unto himself the soul of our dear brother here departed, we therefore commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ …”? The first part reiterates what the Preacher said: “All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again” (3:20), but not the rest. He asks the question that reveals how meaningless life truly is, which in this instance is about unrequited injustice: “Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?” (3:21). Given this and taking God out of the equation (although the wisdom may apply even if He is put back in), we come to today’s text as a modus operandi in coming to terms with life under the sun: “So I realized then that the best thing we can do is enjoy what we have worked for. There is nothing else we can do. There is no way for us to know what will happen after we die”. We who trust in Jesus know what will happen after we die, but to work for the right things with the right motives and enjoying the fruits of our labours is something we can do and enjoy.
Prayer: we confess Lord we are perplexed when we find wickedness where justice and right ought to be but we know all men will have to give an account of their actions on the Day of Judgement. Thank you we can rejoice in our own works and know that you are a just, all powerful God, who does all things well.