About 150 years ago, there was a prominent lawyer in the city of Chicago by the name of Horatio Spafford. A senior partner in a large established law firm, he was also a good friend and supporter of evangelist Dwight L Moody. In the 1860’s Spafford had invested heavily in real estate in the expanding north end of Chicago. But in October 1871, the great Chicago fire destroyed 3 square miles of the city, left 100,000 people homeless and wiped out most of Spafford’s sizable investment.
2 years later in the fall of 1873, Spafford decided that he and his family would travel to England to be part of DL Moody’s evangelistic campaign there. Because he was delayed by business in Chicago, he sent his wife and 4 daughters ahead by steamship. On Nov 22, while crossing the Atlantic, their ship was struck by another vessel and 226 people lost their lives. His wife survived, but all 4 of his daughters: ages 11, 9, 5 and 2 years old perished at sea.
When we hear stories like this, the question we can't help but ask ourselves sometimes is, "Why does God allow these kinds of things to happen? Why is life so unfair sometimes?" If God really loves us, & he has such a wonderful plan for our lives, then why do so many things happen that seem to be so terribly cruel and unjust and unfair?
Solomon asked these same questions in the book of Eccles. 4: "Again I looked and saw all the oppression (& injustice) that was taking place under the sun..." Solomon is asking: Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do bad people seem to prosper? Why doesn't God do something about the injustice in the world?
And he begins by recognizing the harsh reality that Life is often unfair. Often when our kids were little, and they felt they had been mistreated, they would complain: "But Dad, it's not fair!" My response to them was: Life isn't always fair. That’s just the reality of the world we live in. And here, Solomon gives us a number of different examples of how life doesn’t always treat everyone fairly:
1. Innocent people are oppressed by those who have power.
v1: "I saw the tears of the oppressed-- and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors--" History records over & over again the terrible atrocities that man is capable of inflicting against his fellow man. Throughout history, the rich have oppressed the poor, the powerful have oppressed the powerless, one race or religion has oppressed another, men have oppressed women. It continues on even today. Life is often unfair!
2. Guilty people go unpunished. 8:11- "When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, the hearts of the people are filled with schemes to do wrong." Three thousand years ago, Solomon was complaining about the same thing we complain about today. The courts are bogged down, justice is slow or sometimes non-existent.
3. Good people go unrewarded, while the wicked prosper.
8:14- "Righteous men get what the wicked deserve and wicked men get what the righteous deserve." Often it appears that way doesn't it? Those who try to do the right thing, get taken advantage of by those who don't care about what is right or wrong. They seem to be the ones who are getting ahead, they are the ones who are prospering.
4. Capable people are unsuccessful -- the good guys don't always win.
9:11- "The race is not always to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all."
An athlete may train for years and years to qualify for the Olympics, and then on that one day they have worked so hard for, they get sick or they have a fluke accident, and they are disqualified. It doesn't seem fair.
Or one person works hard to make an honest living, whiie some drug smuggler is living in huge mansion. That doesn't seem right.
Maybe you deserve the promotion, but because of the color of your skin, your gender, or because the boss likes somebody else... you are the best qualified, but you didn't get the promotion.
And so Solomon gives us these examples to say: "Let's admit it. Life isn't always fair." So why doesn't God do something about it? Is it that God is uncaring? Is he indifferent? helpless? No, He's not.
But let me suggest 3 reasons why God allows injustice in the world:
1. Because He wants to allow us the freedom to choose between good & evil. Deut. 11:26 (God says):
"Look, today I am giving you the choice between a blessing and a curse! You will be blessed if you obey the commands of the LORD your God that I am giving you today. But you will be cursed if you reject the commands of the LORD your God and turn away from him.”
And so he gives us the option, of obeying or disobeying, of doing good, or doing evil. I suppose if he had wanted to God could have created a world in which there was no possibility of evil, or any bad things happening. But that would also have required him to take away our ability to make choices. You can't say you have a choice to do good, unless you also have a choice to do bad. God gave us the freedom to choose him, but that required the possibility for us to make the wrong choices, & experience the negative consequences that go with those choices.
2. God's Justice is coming, but it is being delayed to give us opportunity to repent & choose God. Eccl. 3:17: "In due season God will judge everyone, both good and bad, for all their deeds." Yes, there is injustice in the world today, all kinds of terrible evil, but that's not the end of the story. The final chapter has not been written. One day God is going to balance the books, he's going to settle all the accounts.
But it may not be tomorrow, it may not even be next year. But it will happen. Ultimately there is going to be a day of reckoning and each of us are going to give an account of everything we did on this earth.
God is a God of justice. He demands justice. He's much more fair than you are or I am. And because He's a God of justice, one day He's going to settle the score, close the books, balance the accounts.
If I didn't believe that I'd be in absolute despair. There are people getting away with all kinds of things today. But their judgment has not been meted out yet. So why doesn't God judge us now? Why doesn't He bring justice now?
3. He wants to show us our need for a Saviour. Eccles 7:20 " For there is not one truly righteous person on the earth who continually does good and never sins." This means we're all in trouble. We've all been unkind, cruel, unfair. We're all in the same boat. The reason why the world is unjust is because it's full of unjust people. Like me! Like you! We want to believe that we're good and that we're unselfish and that we always think of other people. So God tests us. He lets the world go on, to see what the natural consequences of our human nature are. When you see bad things going on in the world you shouldn't be surprised about it; it just shows what the human race is really like on the inside. Injustice just reveals human nature.
The sad truth is that, given the right circumstances, you & I are capable of anything. The humanist says, man is basically good and he basically does the right thing. But a quick survey of the last century would indicate otherwise. How do we explain Auschwitz and Rwanda and ISIS and all of the terrible things that we read about in the news everyday? That’s why the world needs a Saviour.
We all have the freedom to choose, and there is going to be a judgment one day for our choices. But He's delaying that judgment so you & I can recognize our need for a savior before that day comes.
Before we cry out for God to deliver justice, we better ask ourselves the question: Am I sure I want God’s justice? If God gave you what you deserve right now, where would you be? Jesus Christ did not deserve to die on the cross. He was perfect, sinless -- He was God. But the Bible says that He came and died, took the penalty for you and me, the just for the unjust that He might bring us to God. He took my penalty. I need to accept Him as my Savior, so that He can start transforming that sinful human nature inside me.
So What is our response to all of this? Some of you may feel you've been dealt a bad hand and what you're facing right now just isn't fair. You didn't deserve it. So what do you do when life is unfair?
1. Need to face the fact that we do live in a world where life is often unfair. John 16:33, Jesus said, "In this world you are going to have trouble." Jesus had a realistic perspective about life. That's why he said in this world you're going to have trouble.
If you don't get God's perspective on this, you're going to go through life, cynical and bitter and resentful and disillusioned, saying "Why is this happening to me? Why is this happening to my family?" Although you cannot control the circumstances in your life, you can control your reaction to them. That's what God is watching: how you respond to the injustices of life, how you respond when life is unfair.
2. Do the right thing anyway. Isaiah 1:17 " Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows." Even when the world is unfair, you maintain your own integrity. You do the right thing anyway. God has called us to do what we can to gain justice for others, to fight for human rights, for the oppressed, and seek to correct wrongs and the injustices in life.
Romans 12:21: "Don't be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." In other words, don't become resentful, don't retaliate, don't take matters into your own hands, let God judge others: "Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, "I will take revenge; I will pay them back," says the Lord." -- and He can do a far better job than you can.
Sometimes we look at the world and see people doing all kinds of wrong things, and we're tempted to say, "Everybody's doing it! Therefore it must be OK." But the Bible says, “Don't conform to the world. Don't follow the crowd in doing wrong.” You think, "They're getting away with it. Maybe I can do it and I can get away with it too."
But don’t fall into that trap. You do the right thing, even when other people are doing the wrong thing. You need to remember that each of us one day will stand before God and give an account of our lives. At that point it won't matter if you say, "Well, he did it! Everybody did it!" But God will say, "What about you?"
3. Wait for God's reward. 2 Cor 4:17 " For our present troubles are small and won't last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!."
God is faithful and God is going to reward you for doing the right thing. One day God is going to wipe away every tear, He's going to balance the books, he's going to settle the injustices. You do the right thing and you will be rewarded. How do I get these rewards?
1) I need to admit that I am as unjust as anybody else. I've been unfair, self-centered. I need to ask forgiveness and I need Jesus to be my Savior.
2) Follow the example of Jesus. If anyone was treated unfairly it was Jesus. He never did anything to deserve the punishment he received.
But the Bible says: “He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly… For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.”
At the beginning of this message, I told you the story of Horatio Spafford, but I didn’t tell you the whole story. After the terrible news of about his daughters reached him in Chicago, Spafford then sailed to England to be with his grieving wife. And as his ship reached the same spot on the Atlantic where his 4 daughters had been lost at sea, we’re told that he wrote these words: “When peace like a river attendeth my way. When sorrows like sea billows roll. What ever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well, with my soul.”
Some of you may be going through a particularly tough time right now and you’re thinking, "It's just not fair. I didn't deserve this!"
Everybody has their story of injustice. Everybody does! We're not going to get an explanation from God for every bad thing that happens. You don't need an explanation. Neither do I! All we need to know is this:
1) God loves you & wants the very best for you.
2) God sees what is happening right now in your life. He knows when things are unfair. He wants to see how you will respond.
Let's Pray: Father, when we look at what’s happening around us Sometimes we wonder why life is so unfair. But we thank You, Father, that You don't give us what we deserve, or none of us would be here. Thank You that You're not only a God of justice but also a God of mercy & grace. Thank You for sending Jesus Christ to be our Savior. This morning, I pray, that even as we close, there will be people here that will say Yes to You and say, "Jesus, I know I have treated others unfairly, I have sinned and I need you to forgive me, to be my Savior. I want to follow You. Help me to do the right thing, and wait for Your reward. In Jesus' name. Amen.