Wisdom Addresses the Inequity in Human Government.

Ecclesiastes 8:12-17 are addressed primarily to the wise employee of a despotic king. Though we are not all government employees, all of God's people can learn a wise disposition while we live under human government from these verses.

Wisdom is always to be lived out by God's people. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we show God's character.

Live Peacefully.

Even under inequities caused by human government, Christians are to pursue peace (Romans 12:14-21, Titus 3:1). This is one reason why we pray for our leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-4).

Solomon gives practical advice to a wise employee of a despotic king. When serving under the rule of a tyrant who pontificates wickedness, it is not a good idea to show a stern face. The oath refers specifically to an employee's promise to serve the ruler or more generally to our obligation to submit to God-appointed authority (Romans 13:1-7). Godly people working in all environments will face situations at odds with their faith. It is their responsibility to respond wisely and peacefully, knowing there will be no perfect kingdom until the rule of Jesus.

In our world filled with strife, people need to see Christians showing how to live in peace. They need to know how to have a relationship with the Prince of Peace.

Ecclesiastes 8:3 says there is no need to join in an evil matter. We are to submit to the position appointed by God, not to compromise our convictions. Trust God to handle the person He's put in the position and all of their actions.

Live Righteously.

Believers must be healthy in order to persevere in righteous living while enduring inequity in human government. Regardless of how righteous a government may or may not be, we are equipped to do this without being distracted from our primary mission. God gives us the ability to live for a cause bigger than ourselves and greater than any human government.

Solomon's practical wisdom advises us not to flaunt wisdom when confronted with a foolish ruler.

"The wise man should recognize that such a royal matter is a temporary feature of reality which will meet its appropriate recompense in due course. This he should know in his heart even while behaving outwardly that he knows no such thing. The recognition that what is good and just will prevail in the end will help him to endure in the meantime what is admittedly miserable or evil."

Live Justly.

"You cannot be profoundly influenced by that which you do not know."

Ecclesiastes 8:8-9 reminds us that all wickedness will have its day of reckoning. God accomplishes His will despite wicked governments. His justice and mercy work together.

Rulers feel protected by their positions and unassailable (Ecclesiastes 8:10-11). This naturally frustrates those who want to see God's justice worked out. Saints who have been martyred are still calling out for God's justice in Revelation 6:9-11. Despite this frustration and yearning, we do not need to be unkind, activists, or vigilantes while we wait for God to work justice. The Lord does not take pleasure in the wicked's death (Ezekiel 33:11). He does not think like we do. He has already meted out justice and wrath on His own Son and is now being patient with wicked humanity (2 Peter 3:3-9).

Solomon reminds us that righteous rewards last longer than those of wickedness (Ecclesiastes 8:12-13). Affliction is short compared to a joyful eternity with our God (2 Corinthians 4:17). We will rule over Creation with our Creator for eternity.

"Solomon himself, now as a wise person, knows that reality will not ultimately conform itself to the fantasies of fools. Wisdom resists the idea that wickedness pays, even though it seems to go on and on unpunished."

"The just deserts of the wicked often seem to fall on the righteous God-fearer while the rewards of the righteous seem to drop in the lap of wickedness. it's understandable only by the wisdom found in the fear of God that the plan of God and the ability to enjoy life as offered by God is still there for those who will trust Him." – Walter Kaiser

There are certain things in God's plan that we will never understand. But we can live peacefully, righteously, and justly and enjoy doing so. While we wait for ultimate justice, there are simple ways we are to enjoy life every day (Ecclesiastes 8:16-17).

Application Points

  • Spend as much time in prayer for governmental leaders as you are disgruntled by them.
  • When you are frustrated by inequity in human government, trust God's ultimate plan and continue to be faithful.
  • With God's help, you can live peacefully, righteously, and justly and enjoy doing so. While waiting for ultimate justice, what are some simple ways you can enjoy life every day?

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 – Living righteously.
  • Micah 6:8, Malachi 3:16-18 – How we are to live in the midst of injustice.
A Hymn to Encourage: "You Are the LORD!"

You are eternal, God of ages past
Alpha, Omega, You, the First, the Last!
None may compare, there is no god beside You.
Holy! Unchanging! There is none like You.

You are the Lord! You are our God!
Father, Son and Spirit! You are the Lord!

You are Creator, God of everything.
You spread the heavens, You made the stars to sing;
You made the earth, creating man to know You.
Sov’reign! Almighty! There is none like You.

You are Redeemer, God of boundless love
Father who chooses, Son who shed Your blood;
Spirit who grants new birth that we might trust You.
Gracious and merciful! There is none like You.

You are exalted, God of endless praise
Saints from all nations praise You all their days.
Gathered around Your throne we will exalt You.
Worthy and Glorious! There is none like You.