Wisdom to Live in an Unfair World

Luke Morrison • February 27, 2023


“It’s not fair.”

“I never get my way.”

“Why is life so against me?”

These are all things we all have said in our lives, I am sure, at one point or another.

Maybe it is in the evil we see in the world.

Maybe it is in a situation we find ourselves in now.

Maybe it is in the rulers, or leaders we are under.

We see what we call unfairness all over, but as we have seen in this study of Ecclesiastes, we don’t know all that God knows and that means we do not really know what is fair or not.

In the section we will look at today we see that Solomon is teaching wisdom over fear, worry, and folly.

We just learned that tragedy helps us learn wisdom, here we see what it looks like to have wisdom applied and how it will help us Live in an Unfair World.

We will see how it helps us to be obedient to authorities because we are obedient to the ultimate authority, how it helps us through severe difficulties, guides us through corruption, and with it we can rest in God who is THE RULER of all.

We see this in Ecclesiastes 8

1 Who is like the wise? And who knows the interpretation of a thing? A man’s wisdom makes his face shine, and the hardness of his face is changed. 2 I say: Keep the king’s command, because of God’s oath to him. 3 Be not hasty to go from his presence. Do not take your stand in an evil cause, for he does whatever he pleases. 4 For the word of the king is supreme, and who may say to him, “What are you doing?” 5 Whoever keeps a command will know no evil thing, and the wise heart will know the proper time and the just way. 6 For there is a time and a way for everything, although man’s trouble lies heavy on him. 7 For he does not know what is to be, for who can tell him how it will be? 8 No man has power to retain the spirit, or power over the day of death. There is no discharge from war, nor will wickedness deliver those who are given to it. 9 All this I observed while applying my heart to all that is done under the sun, when man had power over man to his hurt. 10 Then I saw the wicked buried. They used to go in and out of the holy place and were praised in the city where they had done such things. This also is vanity. 11 Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil. 12 Though a sinner does evil a hundred times and prolongs his life, yet I know that it will be well with those who fear God, because they fear before him. 13 But it will not be well with the wicked, neither will he prolong his days like a shadow, because he does not fear before God. 14 There is a vanity that takes place on earth, that there are righteous people to whom it happens according to the deeds of the wicked, and there are wicked people to whom it happens according to the deeds of the righteous. I said that this also is vanity. 15 And I commend joy, for man has nothing better under the sun but to eat and drink and be joyful, for this will go with him in his toil through the days of his life that God has given him under the sun. 16 When I applied my heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done on earth, how neither day nor night do one’s eyes see sleep, 17 then I saw all the work of God, that man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. However much man may toil in seeking, he will not find it out. Even though a wise man claims to know, he cannot find it out.

Ecclesiastes 8 ESV

We live in a corrupt and twisted world and this is what Solomon is trying to help us make it through. He does so by teaching us that…

Wisdom Helps us Avoid Trouble

In vv. 1-6 we see this theme in the fact of obedience to the authorities but always in submission to the ultimate authority.

He tells us in the first verse that wisdom makes our faces shine and takes the hardness off. When we are in wisdom we understand things and the things we do not understand we do not let bother us.

We don’t because wisdom teaches us that God is in control and the confusing things are under His control and we need not worry over them. All of this helps us to avoid trouble because we are not poking our noses into things we should not be poking them into.

But more than that we learn…

We Learn When to Follow and When Not to Follow

Here in the first four verses we see that following the king’s command is right because of an oath to God.

This is saying, “keep the command of the king and the word of the oath of God.”

We follow the Lord fully but we also recognize that people are in positions of authority because of the Lord.

God has ordained that authority, even if we do not agree.

They are where they are because God has allowed them to be or placed them there. Sometimes evil and wicked rulers are punishments for sins and failings.

Verse three tells us to not be in a hurry to leave him. We are not to be rash in decisions over a ruler because we may very well end up in evil and be committing sin.

We need to be careful of when we stop following and rebel.

The king, or authority, has authority in his word because of who gave him that authority. We may not like it but we will avoid trouble if we obey.

Now, this again is not saying to follow the wicked and evil orders. It just says that we will not face trouble if we obey.

Sometimes as faithful followers of Christ we must rebel. In Acts 5 Peter and John told the authorities when they had been ordered to not preach Christ, “We must obey God rather than men.” (5:29).

We must be ready for punishment when we disobey and with wisdom from the Lord we will know when to act and when not to act.

We Will Know the Proper Time to Act

The end of verse 5 and verse 6 tell us this.

We will know the proper time to act and when not to act if we have wisdom.

In wisdom we will not let emotions run high.

We will have control of our emotions.

Think of it like this, when training as a fighter or anything else where you will need to be able to take someone else down, trainers work very hard at getting those they train to not allow anger to cloud their abilities. If you fight out of anger, you are not in control and you will do something foolish. You will react to something when you should just act and overwhelm.

This is what not having wisdom will do to us, we will react and become foolish rather than being surgical and working out the problem by acting at the right time.

With wisdom we will learn and know that there is a time and a place for everything and when that time and place is.

When we know this then…

Wisdom Guides us Through Difficulties

In vv. 7-8 we see that wisdom will guide us through life’s difficulties.

We will be able to walk tall regardless the situations.

One thing that we learn when we grow in wisdom is that there are limits to wisdom.

In these two verses we learn again that there are just some things we do not know and that with that it is okay because wisdom also keeps us clear minded in all circumstances.

We Learn to Live Without Fear of Death

Why should we fear the things that we do not know when they will happen.

Verse 7 says this very thing when it says if no one knows when something will happen, who will tell him?

The answer is no one because only God knows our day and hour.

We are not given privy of that time so we should not be so concerned with that day that we fail to live.

Just like when Gus was laying on the bed with one leg already amputated and the doctor telling Call that he needed to remove both but Gus would not let him.

Call comes over and sits by him and they talk of various things and Gus asks Call if he told Newt he was his son yet. Call says no but I gave him my horse.

In this conversation Call begins to talk about death and Gus looks at him and says “It ain’t dying I am talking about! It’s living.”

Living is what we should talk about, not in avoiding death or pretending we will not die, but so we will live life.

If we are always afraid we will die, we will not live and serve God as we should.

We saw this in the pandemic when everyone was so concerned with staying alive they quit living. Sometimes staying alive is not living but is worse than death.

We do not know the hour we will go so do not fear the unknown because we have the God who knows it all on our side.

Into verse 8 we see that death comes like war we may try and resist but eventually it will consume and devour.

Just as we do not allow the fear of war to wreck our lives, we must not let fear of death wreck us.

So we see that we will each face this battle one day and that is certain. So wisdom dictates that we do not fear this and it also dictates that…

We Learn Wickedness Helps No One

We may see, as we will see in a moment, that the wicked continue to live and thrive when many who are not wicked die.

We cannot let this make us become wicked because wickedness does not help anyone, not even the one who is performing wickedness.

It leads to death and misery and it will not add to your days.

So, stop looking at the wealth and glory of those who are evil in God’s sight.

Stop fawning over the goods that the evil people of the world have.

The old saying the good die young may have some truth to it, but the evil people of the world who seem to be living high and mighty and have it all, will one day face the same foe as the righteous.

But the only difference is the righteous have the Lord with them while the wicked do not.

Looking ahead into verses 9-14 we see that this is so true.

The evil man though he does evil a hundred times over, he will not lengthen his life, as verse 12 tells us.

Many times the evil and wicked will become more and more wicked because they see other wicked people thriving.

This is because they have no fear of God. They do not have true wisdom or insight into life.

They are selfish and only concerned with what they want.

This type of living will not be well for the wicked man verse 13 tells us.

The wicked will be punished regardless how good they have it here now, they will be in terror and misery when you who are righteous in God’s sight through Jesus Christ will be in glory.

That is why verse 14 says it is futility.

The wicked live on a course that will send them to misery thinking they are living it up and think they will forever.

It is futile for us to desire the things of the wicked. It is not good to want what they have.

The righteous will die many times while the wicked thrive.

We see this with people who are awful parents. They desire drugs over the child. They abandon the child or children. They abuse the children. They use their children to get things they want. Then they have more and more kids while people who would be wonderful parents cannot have kids.

This is a wicked and twisted aspect of this world.

It is brutal and it happens and it is frustrating.

But with wisdom we will go and seek to help others because of the wicked like this we see.

Back in verse 9 it says there are those who have exercised authority over another to their hurt. That is wickedness working out its evil deeds on others.

We who have godly wisdom need to see this and not become like them but stand firm with the Lord as our shelter and strength and fight against this wickedness.

Many people cannot do this and we can if we will just do it instead of thinking how unfair life has been to us.

Life is not fair, this is what this section is clearly telling us. Life is hard and brutal and it will devour you if you will let it.

But with wisdom and trust in God we can overcome the unfair brutalness of the world.

We can because…

Wisdom Allows us to Rest in God

In vv. 15-17 we see that resting in the Lord is the key to everything.

With wisdom we find this rest in Him because if we are not wise we try and do it all and we find out we can’t and then we are restless and miserable.

Resting in God is not a Que Sera Sera life where we just say “Whatever will be, will be.” We are not removing ourselves from life and difficulties.

We are trusting in Him in all these areas. We are letting Him fight for us as we see Him telling Moses in Ex. 14:14 “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

He is our strength and shelter and when we rest in Him we engage the world but we have comfort and power behind us.

Not only this but when we have godly wisdom…

We Learn to Enjoy Life

Solomon says that since life is not fair, we are all going to die, evil people seem to live lives of joy and pleasure, that we should enjoy life and have pleasure.

He says this because life is hard and it can be miserable. If all we do is worry over the unfairness or misery of life we will be miserable.

When we are resting in the Lord we will be able to have joy and that joy will be with us in all areas of life.

Having joy in what you have and what is going on in your life is something that will go with you into all areas.

We may be in misery over some evil that has happened to us.

We are because we only focus on the evil rather than what the evil impacted.

If an evil occured it means there must have been a good for evil to hit.

If you had something good and evil hit it, then stop letting the evil wreck your joy and remember the joy that was that the evil hit.

I am not saying live in the past to avoid the evil, but I am saying know that there was and can still be a good as long as we do not let the evil that hit wreck us completely.

When we let the evil done to us to wreck us we are allowing Satan and his minions a victory over us.

We may hurt and maybe we are down but we serve and have the Risen Christ as our companion through it all.

Look to Him in all situations and when the evil hits, you will still have your eyes fixed firmly on Him and He will carry you through because you are resting in Him alone and the joys He has gifted you with.

When we do this…

We Learn to Sleep and Not Worry

In verses 16-17 we see that Solomon found that many do not sleep because they are too worried with what is going on in everything.

They stress and worry about life and never rest.

They struggle over what they do not know and that evil is present.

There are some things in life that we will just not ever fully understand.

Evil is one of them. It is tough to grasp how evil people can thrive while the righteous suffer.

I see this as God’s grace working.

How? I do because the evil are given a long time to come to faith in Christ before they die. They are given grace upon grace and when and if they reject it, they will be condemned by the ultimate just judge of all.

But even with this, we need to be content that there are some things we will never know.

We will rest better when we say “that is interesting and confusing and I do not understand it but I know who is in control and I know He knows what it is, and because of that I can rest.”

Satan wants us to never sleep and be miserable and grouchy and bitter and angry so we act foolishly instead of acting in wisdom.

He wants us to be fools instead of wise, he wants us to be bad witnesses for Christ instead of faithful servants.

Rest in the Lord and know you can sleep and make it through anything before you because you have the God of creation with you.

You have the ultimate power that is over everything with you.

Rest in Him and know that you are fighting from a place of victory not a place seeking victory.

Trust in the Lord our God and savior Jesus Christ and you will have His peace surround you and the guidance of the Spirit to direct you.

When we do this we will have Wisdom to Live in an Unfair World.