In order to understand justice more fully, we must also understand equality and fairness. Those of us who have grown up in western cultures might generally assume that equality and fairness is obtainable and should be defended. The truth is that neither equality or fairness is possible.
Equality and Fairness
Equality of opportunity means that opportunities to succeed in society should be granted to everyone. While this is a laudatory and desirable aspiration, physical and mental handicaps, personal behaviors such as crime and laziness, and social and economic conditions limit opportunity. Equality of outcome is a liberal progressive notion that demands government intrusion—taxation takes funds from the wealthy and distributes it equally to the masses. Eventually, the result of this “equality” is a wealthy government class and a poor lower class that cannot find enough jobs to meet their needs, much less their wants. The poor then, at some point, rise up and attack the rich to resolve the social crisis; a new rich class is established and another group of poor suffer beneath them, and on and on. The point is that equality of outcome produces inequality. Equality is a false narrative. The struggle for equality results in a desperate and endless struggle for an elusive state of being that disrespects and diminishes individual gifts, talents, interests, and stamina.
Fairness is a fantasy. You can strive toward it, but fairness is elusive due to many factors. We create rules for the workplace, sports, and games to makes things as fair as possible. However, superior intelligence and ability always give an edge in competition—they tip the results. A game can be played within the rules, but greater talent, mental and physical acuity, and sometimes but seldom a “lucky bounce” win the day. This is life. God did not create each person as equal and He never guaranteed that life would be fair. Some people have access to more money, some have greater intellects, others have superior talents, some have tireless tenacity, and others have the right connections. Denial of this reality leads to self-pity, depression, anger, resentment, debilitating laws, and violence.
To be mentally and physically healthy, people must know their limitations and learn to work as hard as they can within those natural limitations. People can be successful doing the things and working a job that is compatible with their talents and skills. Only then will well-earned experience lead to more fulfilling opportunities, if these are desired. Every job, even the most challenging, can be a good job, whether you wear a suit, dress, or a uniform of some kind. Some jobs make you sweat while others can be mentally draining. Expecting equality and fairness to get you where you want to go makes you dependent on others, lazy, and unsatisfied. You might even find yourself demanding that others help pay your way through life. The truth is that nobody owes you anything except that which you earn.
Biblically, we are asked to love God and our neighbors, hence we don’t lie, injure others intentionally, covet the wealth of others, disrespect our parents (protect the institution of the family), violate the marriage contract, or steal (we are to earn what we have) or murder a human being (life is valued and protected; Exodus 20:1-17).
The writers of the United States Declaration of Independence guarantee its citizens the protection of their lives, freedom from unnecessary government intrusion, and the pursuit of happiness through ethical and moral means. Note that happiness is not protected; only its pursuit. Americans are given the right to pursue their individual interests. There is no mention of equality of opportunity and outcomes or fairness. (Note that Americans are not given the right to healthcare. We are responsible for how we live our lives, what we eat, how we play and how we work. If healthcare is a right, then the government has the responsibility or obligation or right to tell us what we can do, eat, and pursue.)
We have these responsibilities to help us avoid falling into a state of complete corruption; therefore, the Ten Commandments provide all of humanity with the behaviors that will guarantee as much equality and fairness as a people can have in a fallen world. We ignore them at our peril. The Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution are based on Judeo-Christian mores and outline protections that support a society in which equality and fairness can best thrive, though imperfectly as noted above.
As we look at justice, remain cautiously aware that the more human beings (especially in this context politicians, defense and prosecuting attorneys, and judges) are detached from a universally moral foundation, the less they act in a just and righteous manner. The last thing I ever want to experience is to be taken to court, for any reason whatsoever. To leave my fate in the hands of individuals who don’t know or care about me is terrifying, especially if some of those on a jury, the judge, or the attorneys dismiss my faith and despise my values.
Is there justice in the world or is it more subjective than we would want? My contention is that justice can only be defined and administered by God; therefore, justice in any country depends wholly on how committed its people are to the triune God of Christianity. I also believe that Judaism can be more just than other religions and philosophies the more dependent it is on the God of the Old Testament. Less of God parallels less justice and everything that accompanies justice: less mercy, less grace, and fewer convictions that represent the degree to which God views behavior.
After living for more than 60 years, I have experienced three American conflicts (Vietnam War 1965-1975, Iraq War 1991, War on Terrorism 2001-present); Timothy Leary’s LSD culture; free love in the Hippie movement in the 60s and 70s; student rebellions on college campuses in the 60s, and then again in 2016 to the present; the assassinations of John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King; President Johnson’s Great Welfare Society that has demolished the Black American family; the elimination of prayer at public schools and public sporting events; the push to teach young people that evolution is a fact when it is nothing more than a theory, and a poor one at that; abortion on demand, which has murdered 60,000,000 Americans; the Democrat Party moving slowly but surely away from God, morality, and republicanism and towards pure democracy (mobocracy), socialism and communism; the push for globalism; the blindness of diversity and multiculturalism; the Republican Party becoming more elitist and committed to lobbyists’ deep pockets; immigration battles from the 80s to the present and the terrible cost of human life and property that has accompanied blatant violations of law by selfish politicians; capital punishment being abandoned for the most part; KKK, White Supremacists, Nazi Groups, Weather Underground, Black Panthers, Black Lives Matter, Acorn, Occupy Movement, Antifa, and other destructive far left groups; the destruction of the institution of marriage; the destruction of gender and the emasculation of men; the abdication or diminishment of Scripture by much of Christendom; the cover-up of sexual abuse by Catholics in the military and in the Roman Catholic Church overall due to the spread of homosexuality and pedophilia; and so much more. We have discouraged cigarette smoking, but we are now encouraging legal recreational marijuana use (I do not have a problem with its use in “end of life” situations). And over the past week (Sept. 22-29), I have witnessed democrat senators ignoring the rule of law in order to rid themselves of Judge Bret Kavanaugh because they believe he might vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. When an accusation of sexual abuse equals a guilty verdict, justice no longer exists. And, to my surprise, I now find out that I am a white male with rape tendencies in my DNA and that I have a special “white privilege” that other American do not have. All that I have achieved in life is due to my skin color rather than my character and own effort. Friends, equality, and fairness are not reachable in this present culture and justice is what feminists, the political elites, and their educational institutions, and the media and its entertainment divisions decide.
The Troubling Questions
Because of these violations of natural law, morality, and decency, justice has become a human construct devoid of divine influence. So, what are some of the questions that so many people pose? Here is a short list.
Where is God in all this? I pray for His intervention. Why is He apparently silent? Where is His judgment against those who defame and ignore Him? Why does He appear to be letting His children suffer at the hands of evil men and women? How does He remain patient while women murder their unborn children at abominable rates for selfish reasons? Why are so many court judgments so unjust? Why do the most wicked among the people prosper? His commandments are mocked around the globe, His Son is dismissed as a fable or a fraud yet He remains quiet. People curse and dismiss Him over the loss of a job or a child or due to a disease—why does He allow so much sadness, pain, and loss into my life? Why does He tolerate evil in the world? Why do the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper? Why does He tolerate religions and philosophies that mock and dismiss Him? Will there ever be lasting justice? So many questions to which there is an excellent life-changing answer.
The Unseen Hand of God
Before looking at Solomon’s advice on how to live in an unjust world, we need to consider evidence of God’s justice that takes place each day of our lives. Sin is always being dealt with justly. Below you will see that the nations of the earth, believers, and unbelievers are experiencing divine justice continually.
- A cursory reading of the Old Testament makes it crystal clear that God is intimately involved in the oversight of the nations: Israel, Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and others. He controls the extent of their powers and their survival. There is no reason to think that He is less involved today than He was yesterday. The Lord is sovereign and His plans for Israel and His Church cannot be thwarted. The perpetual chaos among the nations of the earth is a reflection of humanity’s resistance to a divine plan that began with Adam and Eve and will end with God’s promised Kingdom on earth; ultimately a new heaven and a new earth will be created (Revelation 19-22), wherein the people of God thrive in peace and fellowship to God’s eternal glory. Trust in God is the remedy.
- The justice of God not only takes place daily through God’s oversight of the nations, but it also takes place in the heart of every soul who, through repentance and faith, transfers the burdens and consequences of his or her sin upon the shoulders of God’s Lamb and our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Each day the judgment of God is passed from a repentant sinner onto the Son of God Who bears the penalty of death for him or her (Romans 3:9-8:39; Ephesians 1:3-2:22). Never forget the wondrous work of God, accomplished through the death of Christ, that forever unites the believer with his Creator. We, who willfully sin and therefore deserve eternal death, are given life because the Lord Himself, who committed no sin, chose to experience death on our behalf. In the midst of our own personal experience, our eternal family grows every day. The struggles of a moment or a lifetime don’t outweigh the prospects and wonders of eternal joy (1 Peter 1:3-12).
- But what about the wicked who distort the truth for the sake of power? What about those who mock and persecute believers? What about those who live for themselves at the expense of others? Though I pray that many of these lost and troubled souls will come to Christ, I am aware that the gate through which believers in Christ will enter eternity is quite narrow (Matthew 7:13-14). Each day God’s judgment falls on those who pass from this life into eternity. Because they have no relationship with Christ, they must pay their debt to God. Because they are immortal (a beginning without an end), their souls must be kept away from the righteous in Christ. Therefore, God justly transports their souls to Hades (Luke 16:19-31) where they will abide until the final judgment (Revelation 20:11-15).
Solomon’s Sage Advice
Please read the following passage carefully, paying particular attention to the highlighted words. These words depict life on the earth and how believers are to live their lives amidst futility.
10 So then, I have seen the wicked buried, those who used to go in and out from the holy place, and they are soon forgotten in the city where they did thus. This too is futility. 11 Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil.12 Although a sinner does evil a hundred times and may lengthen his life, still I know that it will be well for those who fear God, who fear Him openly. 13 But it will not be well for the evil man and he will not lengthen his days like a shadow, because he does not fear God.
14 There is futility which is done on the earth, that is, there are righteous men to whom it happens according to the deeds of the wicked. On the other hand, there are evil men to whom it happens according to the deeds of the righteous. I say that this too is futility. 15 So I commended pleasure, for there is nothing good for a man under the sun except to eat and to drink and to be merry, and this will stand by him in his toils throughout the days of his life which God has given him under the sun.
16 When I gave my heart to know wisdom and to see the task which has been done on the earth (even though one should never sleep day or night), 17 and I saw every work of God, I concluded that man cannot discover the work which has been done under the sun. Even though man should seek laboriously, he will not discover; and though the wise man should say, “I know,” he cannot discover (NASB).
“This Too Is Futile” (3 times)
Corrupt religiosity is everywhere you look. It is a natural corollary of wickedness or fallenness. Wicked people naturally corrupt everything that they touch, including religion. However, they too come and go like the wind across time. They frustrate us with a false understanding of God and destroy those who disagree with them whether by slander or the sword. And where this false religion is left unchallenged, it does not merely remain false, it becomes more and more corrupt and potentially hostile, depending, of course, on the freedom it has to expand. Bad to worse—this is the way of evil and it does lead to perpetual futility, emptiness, purposelessness, and vanity.
Wickedness is fully inclusive. Not only does it destroy the lives of the wicked, but it also destroys the righteous as well. Into whatever era we are born, we experience the calamities of the time. Into whatever nation you are born, life is determined by the degree of righteousness or wickedness at that point and time. You have absolutely no say in the timing and place of your birth. Being rich or poor is not determined by one’s skill set or lack thereof; it depends on the politics and economics into which you are born. You don’t have the choice of a mother or father, brothers or sisters. Often you are not given the choice in the god you serve. This dear Christian friend is the definition of futility, emptiness, purposelessness, and vanity.
Some people have the good fortune to be born into a society, the laws of which value life and liberty. These societies are founded upon divine principles that originate in the mind of the one true God. In these cultures, truth and righteous behavior protect life, opportunity, pleasure, worship of the true God without persecution, and offer peace and prosperity. However, in a fallen world, this type of society is always at risk of falling prey to the natural human tendency for power, moral bankruptcy, and self-identification. These inborn tendencies reject the God of Scripture and ultimately either create gods of their own liking or eliminate the divine altogether. Every day is a struggle to maintain some sense of sanity, to fight against the encroachment of wicked and dangerous philosophies that ultimately turn a decent culture into a deceitful one, and to protect the family, wholesome tradition and a moral infrastructure that resists an untold amount of selfishness, injustice, and unrighteousness. This downward trend is entrenched in the human condition and constantly weighs upon the righteous, many of whom do not have the spiritual fortitude to live a life in conflict with it, hence good societies fall prey to the wicked. This too is the very definition of futility, emptiness, purposelessness, and vanity. Simply put, the scarcity of justice is the abundance of futility.
Solomon’s Exceptional Advice (8:12b-13, 15-17)
- Fear God (8:12b-13)
Initially, the reality of the fallen world demands something of believers. If we are to live above the fray and with strength, confidence, composure, and sustainment so that the light always shines in dark places, we must have a constant. To those whom God has chosen to be His children, those taken from darkness (unrighteousness) into light (righteousness), a constant attitude is required that produces and preserves personal growth, divine reflection, fullness of purpose, love, patience, kindness, gentleness, meekness, fortitude, and all else that reflects the character of God. This constant attitude is the fear of God, which respects God’s authority over all His creation, regards His mind in all things (commits to a study of the Word of God), reflects upon His power as it is made clear in the wondrous things that He has made, and reveres Him before others.
This fear of God will serve the believer well while the lack of fear leaves the unbeliever searching for a meaning through a tenuous power, which only a few can obtain at the expense of the rest—in the end, the wicked die without hope and live in an eternal state of despair. The futility of the one who fears God is temporary and can be rewarding and full, even in cultures that despise the Lord. Though the fear of God can and does result in persecution, pain, sorrow, and various degrees of discord, it never entertains despair because genuine fear of God makes each person aware of the wonder of our triune God (Psalm 1:7) and of an eternal existence that is imperishable and certain, about which we express glorious anticipation (1 Peter 1:1-9).
- Eat, Drink, and Be Merry (8:15)
The lack of justice, equality, and basic fairness in the world leave the most faithful among God’s children longing for some kind of escape from the stress and conflict in the real world. If God’s children never get away from the world’s threats, deceptions, connivances, and hostility, life becomes depressing and demeaning, i.e., futile. The solution to futility is rather simple: seek pleasure through fellowship with family and friends. As Solomon puts it: eat, drink and be merry. These pleasures are basic human needs and they are meant to reduce isolation and bring needed relief and comfort. Gluttony, drunkenness, and debauchery promote isolation and more futility; they are the opposite of what these words hope to address. The cares of the world need to be set aside from time to time to address our basic need for what is common among us: sustenance or nourishment and joy or entertainment.
Be faithful to God and represent Him without compromise; however, these two actions alone will, over time, drain you and leave you parched spiritually and physically. “A joyful heart is a good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22). Isolate yourself to your own peril. The most faithful of saints sometimes ignore this wisdom only to find themselves angry at the world and alone in their negative thoughts. Have fun with others, go on a hike with friends, ride bikes with your spouse, eat together with fellow saints or with family as often as you can. Go to a sporting event, see a good movie or a play. Laugh loudly and often. Keep yourself prepared to confront the world when it intrudes into your life from time to time.
- Seek Wisdom (8:16-17 and 13:9-12)
Arduously seek wisdom, but with the understanding that you will never fully grasp or understand all the goods and evils that surround you. The more I have learned in this life leaves me more aware of what I do not know. In addition to learning the Scriptures, spend your time learning much about a few things and little time learning about the rest. There is an endless number of books written, but searching them too broadly is harmful to one’s wellbeing (Ecclesiastes 12:11-12). Focus on a major interest or two and be as proficient as you can, but never think that you have learned everything you can in your proficiencies. In this way, wisdom keeps you humble and relatable to others with whom you need to create a functional society. The advice: study your profession well, develop a few skills, learn from and respect others, practice your profession as faithfully as possible and then spend good time laughing, eating and drinking with your fellow saints, friends, and family.
Trust God to use you as He sees fit among the people where you have been placed. Only God can and will change this world, and He is working on a timeline that only He knows. You can experience spiritual stability (Ecclesiastes 12:11) and a high degree of peace (Proverbs 3:1-2; Philippians 4:4-9) by accepting this fact.
Judgment is All-inclusive (13:13-14)
Every believer who fears God should also obey His commandments, which, by the way, is the responsibility of both the righteous and the wicked. Every person born to this earth is held accountable for the degree to which he or she obeys the Lord. Every person, believer, and unbeliever alike, who has worked to extend futility in this world has been a purveyor of injustice and, therefore, stands guilty before God who “will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or bad” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). Believers will stand at the Judgment Seat of Christ (1 Corinthians 3:1-17; 2 Corinthians 5:10) and unbelievers will, upon death, be subjected to Hades until their final deposition to Gehenna or Hell at the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-15).
If you think that you are going to change the world for the better, you are going to find yourself more disappointed, possibly frustrated or angry at God, discouraged and quite possibly alone in your own frustration and feelings of futility. To avoid this condition, study Scripture regularly, talk to God as often as you can throughout the day (He is always listening—He doesn’t require a designated time each day, but be sure to greet Him when you wake up), live faithfully where God has placed you, work hard at your profession, craft or job, love God, love your parents, love your immediate family, your friends and neighbors as best you can (sometimes people make loving them a challenge), and fellowship with the saints. Eat with them, drink with them and have a great time enjoying one another during get-togethers, vacations, parties, fellowships, whatever. No matter our circumstance, we are children of the King and He loves a joyful heart. Futility defines the state of the world; it does not have to define you.
 In the Old Testament (OT) period, there were two compartments in Hades/Sheol, one for believers and one for unbelievers. At the resurrection of Christ, OT saints were raised with Christ from Hades to Heaven. Unbelievers remained in Hades, where they will stay until the Great White Throne Judgment, which takes place after the Millennial Kingdom and before the creation of the New Heaven and Earth.
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