“To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” Ecclesiastes 2:26
Verse 26 reminds us that there is a moral government in the universe. God honors those who honor Him (1 Samuel 2:30), and He judges those who sin against Him. The casual reader may skip right over the particular judgment Solomon has in mind. He suggests that the wicked store up wealth to give it to the righteous. This is a startling thought. It implies a number of interesting ideas, including the idea that sinners are just as much under God’s ultimate control as the righteous. When we sing “He’s got the whole world in His hands,” we don’t usually think about sinners being in His hands, but they are.
Beyond that, we may also say that God orders events so that the righteous will often profit from the work of sinners. Proverbs 13:22 states the same truth in a different context: “A good man leaves an inheritance for his children’s children, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous.” And Proverbs 28:8 offers a similar statement: “He who increases his wealth by exorbitant interest amasses it for another, who will be kind to the poor.” Matthew Henry suggests that God “tantalizes” sinners by giving them wealth only to take it away later and give it to the righteous. God does it by an “overruling providence” so that the ungodly are compelled to yield their riches to the children of God. He offers as an example how the Canaanites kept the good land until God gave it to the children of Israel. We might also think of Mordecai receiving the king’s signet ring after the death of Haman (Esther 8:2). Mordecai ends up receiving the estate of wicked Haman, who plotted against the Lord’s people.
Several questions might be asked at this point, chief among them being, Why doesn’t this happen all the time? The basic answer is we do not know; but I confess that I find much comfort in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.: “The arm of the universe is long but it bends toward justice.”
We will never understand the inequities of life when we take a short-term view. Bad things do happen to good people and bad people sometimes get away with murder. One man gets cancer and dies at forty-two; another lives for ninety-five years-but the first man was godly and the second was not. How can this be? The person of faith must assume that there are other factors that go beyond what we can see.
However, if we take the long-term view our vision becomes much clearer. There truly is a moral order to the universe. God does honor those who honor Him. He judges sinners and rewards the righteous. The reward often comes in this life, but if not God has an eternity to set right what has gone wrong. In the end no one will ever regret serving the Lord.
Lord, I do not ask that you be on my side, only that I be on yours. Amen.
Ray Pritchard pastored in Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago. Married to Marlene for 38 years, he enjoys being a husband, a father and a grandfather, riding his bike, and playing with Dudley and Gary, beloved basset hounds.