At the halfway point of the Bible, there’s a lesser-known book called Ecclesiastes. Supposedly, it’s about the lamentations of King David’s son, whose Latinized name is the same as the book’s title. Ecclesiastes bemoans that however much wisdom one procures in life, however much they toil, however just or wicked they may be, they will all reach the same destination: Dust.
Problem of Evil
In today’s postmodernist generation, much criticism has been levied against the Bible. One popular point is the “problem of evil.”
“Why does God allow evilness to happen?”
“Why are the wicked allowed to roam free?”
The Bible, being over a thousand pages long, pre-emptively addresses criticisms pertaining to, not only God’s existence, but his alleged “omnibenevolence.” In these pages are ample exhortations as to what constitutes “wickedness” and how judgement can find the sinner when they least expect it. Postmodernist skeptics would, of course, know this if they took the time to read Scripture!
Book of Job
A popular response to the so-called Problem of Evil is the Book of Job. Everyone knows about Job and the little wager Satan makes with God. Job faced various maladies and illnesses, for no explicable reason. In the end, Job wallows in self-pity before God comes storming out of the clouds and gives him a Rebuke that has echoed across generations:
“GIRD UP YOUR LOINS LIKE A MAN!”
And gird them up he did.
God is powerful enough to create the cosmos and all the heavenly bodies, down to the minute details. He bestowed nature with beauty and uniqueness in lifeforms. One small alteration in these details, and human kind would be finished, wiped out.
God is on top of everything, and he always has been.
He knows why we go through these hardships. Who was Job to question him for putting him through these hardships? Job did not possess God’s inifinite wisdom and vision. So, Job girded up his loins like a man and pressed on. Not only did Job get back everything he lost, he got them in even greater abundance. The greater the struggles, the richer the harvest, and the greater the rewards.
Ecclesiastes and Evil
Ecclesiastes takes a much-less dramatic route with addressing the Problem of Evil. There is no God or Satan making an appearance, nor are there heavenly battles or wars. Rather, it’s a “Teacher” recalling the words of Ecclesiastes, the son of the great King David of Israel.
Ecclesiastes laments how the wicked can prosper and the righteous are cut down by the actions of the wicked. Where is God in all this? His proposition is to find pleasure in this one life you have.
Find pleasure in your labors. Eat and drink in moderation. Indulge in pleasures at your own discretion. You will return to dust anyway, so what does it matter? It may sound like he’s prescribing an overt adherence to several Deadly Sins (Gluttony, and maybe Lust), but some nuance is definitely present.
How this Book Differs from the Others…
This Book stands out in the way that the titular character doesn’t act as an agent of God, let alone a Prophet. No, he’s simply a flawed, questioning human observing the frequent unfair application of God’s Law during his lifetime. By that token, we are like Ecclesiastes. We are NOT agents or God, nor are we Prophets.
Ecclesiastes’ voice is our voice. His problem with the existence of Evil is our problem, too.
This is what balances the Bible’s teachings between absolute principles and subjective exceptions. The reader can apply the Book’s writings at their own discretion.
But the reason Ecclesiastes laments the existence of Evil, to begin with, is that he only lived one lifetime. He did not see the ultimate consequences of all the Evil acts he witnessed. The Roman Empire lasted for a thousand years, committing untold atrocities. The people living during that era, especially in Judea, wondered when it would all end.
Unseen Consequences of Evil
Lo and behold, the Empire collapsed and humanity learned their lesson. No longer do the world’s great powers apply the ghastly method of crucifixion. No longer does the West oppress free speech through State power.
Humanity needed the existence of the Roman Empire to learn and apply these lessons. People like Ecclesiastes did not understand this because they only lived one life.
He also did not see the private consequences of those engaging in Evil. Engaging in wicked acts deprives one of their physical and mental health. It ends meaningful and fruitful relationships.
These are consequences that cannot be seen from a distance. God is punishing the wicked when you don’t realize it. And it’s okay, you don’t have to know what the wicked are going through. It’s between them and God.
And the consequences for your wickedness are between you and God. Come a thousand years, no one else may know of them.
“Fear God, and keep his commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone. For God will bring every deed into judgement, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.”-Ecclesiastes 12:13
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