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A Commentary on Ecclesiastes 8:9-17 - Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

I have thought deeply about all that goes on here under the sun, where people have the -power to hurt each other. I have seen wicked people buried with honor. Yet they were the very ones who frequented the Temple and are now praised in the same city where they committed their crimes! This, too, is meaningless. When a crime is not punished quickly, people feel it is safe to do wrong. But even though a person sins a hundred times and still lives a long time, I know that those who fear God will be better off. The wicked will not prosper, for they do not fear God. Their days will never grow long like the evening shadows.

And this is not all that is meaningless in our world. In this life, good people are often treated as though they were wicked, and wicked people are often treated as though they were good. This is so meaningless!

So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun.

In my search for wisdom and in my observation of people’s burdens here on earth, I discovered that there is ceaseless activity, day and night. I realized that no one can discover everything God is doing under the sun. Not even the wisest people discover everything, no matter what they claim. - Ecclesiastes 8:9-17

Why do bad things happen to good people?

How often have you heard that question? Probably pretty often. You might have even asked it yourself before. In fact, many people use it as an excuse as to why they don't believe in God - how could a loving God turn a blind eye to good people?

We see bad things happening to good people all the time in this world. And we see the opposite as true as well: good things happening to bad people. But is this question worth worrying about or doubting God over?

Through the entire Bible, life is often equated as a "fading breath." Job talks about it during his despair in Job 7:16. David mentions it several times in the Psalms, but specifically in Psalm 39:11. And Solomon, the wisest person on earth according to God, mentions it many times throughout the book of Ecclesiastes.

Solomon argues that life spans compared to eternity are practically nothing.. which makes complete sense. The average person lives for 75 years. 75 years compared to eternity really would be similar to a "breath." So when Solomon continually mentions this fact in Ecclesiastes, he wasn't saying it to depress his readers! He was explaining to people about the awesomeness of eternity and the fleetingness of earthly life "under the sun."

This is why Ecclesiastes 8:9-14 is such a fascinating passage. Solomon explains how fleeting life is and how many of the things we worry about are really, really, really not worth worrying about. Most of the things we worry about don't matter in the long run.

That's right.

For example, Ecclesiastes 8:14 says,

And this is not all that is meaningless in our world. In this life, good people are often treated as though they were wicked, and wicked people are often treated as though they were good. This is so meaningless!

In other words, asking questions like, "Why do bad things happen to good people?" is a question not worth your time. Because in the end, God and His people always win. God is the one watching out for all of us. God is the only One who truly knows if a person is "good" or "evil" or what people deserve. He allows trials to come, but He also allows blessings to come. He is in control of every situation on earth. We can only see a slim part of the picture, but God sees the entire picture from start to finish. After all, "No one can discover everything God is doing under the sun." - Ecclesiastes 8:17

On top of this, Solomon expresses that worrying about evil people receiving honor is a worthless pastime. Why? Because evil people will get exactly what they deserve, even if it comes later on. From verses 9-13, Solomon declares that even if a horridly evil person is buried with honor and glory, don't worry about it! It is meaningless to do so, because they are about to face God and He will judge them for their actions. Once again, God and His people win.

All in all, the theme of Ecclesiastes is "Don't Worry, Be Happy." (Take the advice of the singing fish.) It really is excellent advice! Can you imagine how much happier and fulfilled we would be if we stopped worrying about things outside of our control? What if we solely focused on people who we are really able to help and stopped reading the news about problems happening across the globe that we can do nothing to control?

In conclusion, help the people you can, but then give your worry, fear, anger, and resentment to God. He is the only one in control of every situation. And if you do this, He will give a you and all His people a fulfilling, joyful life while we wait for the wonderful glory to come in the future.

"Don't worry. Be happy."

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