There is an evil I have seen under the sun, the sort of error that arises from a ruler: Fools are put in many high positions, while the rich occupy the low ones. I have seen slaves on horseback, while princes go on foot like slaves. Ecclesiastes 10, verses 5 -7.
Let’s put aside all arguments of envy here and now. By and large, merit pays. By and large, experience is rewarded with position, success, affluence (and influence) and rewards. In most things in life, we succeed because of hard work. God gives us talent or advantage or something, we faithfully use that something, and we are blessed. We’re blessed because He chooses to bless us. If I might skate the razor edge a bit, I think it must make God happy to bless us by blessing our success. When we use our gifts in concert for His kingdom, the sky’s the limit. By and large, merit is blessed; by and large, this is how the world works.
Hand in hand with that, how many times have you seen the world turned upside down? Along with success, it happens every day. In a time when times are bad, government doubles down on spending money we don’t have. Politicians play chicken with the general welfare when that flies in the face of all good precedent. Dirtbag movie stars flit from divorce to divorce yet seem to become more glamorous because of it. At work, the guy you think will never be in charge is put in charge of a project out of his league. At school, the kid with no talent (but good connections) gets the starting position on the team, or maybe first chair in the band.
All these are as old as Eden. As long as we set people over ourselves, the mighty will fall and the lowly will rise. On the surface that’s a good thing, a positive. Pride should be taken down a notch and the meek should inherit the earth for this is the will of God. What happens when we work to thwart God’s will, replacing it with our pride? When that happens, the unqualified are advanced, the ill-prepared are placed in charge, and the unsuited are given control. It’s like an Alice in Wonderland kind of reality, where clocks run backward and ought not to be is.
It’s as old as Solomon’s time as well, which as you know was many generations after Eden. In his time, Solomon saw how the rich were brought down and the poor uplifted. He was the wealthiest man in history, and perhaps this weighed on his mind; it would be understandable if it did. Yet what was he talking about? Just riches, material wealth, money & property?
Hitler shouldn’t have been the most powerful man in Europe but he was. Before him, Napoleon shouldn’t have risen as he did, but he did. Torquemada shouldn’t have wielded the power he did, but he did. In our own lives, scheming people shouldn’t get what they want. The woman who uses men to get what she wants shouldn’t get to live in sin and still be exalted in your church. The man who cheats on his taxes yet gets to keep the beautiful house with the manicured lawn. It’s the total scumbag who becomes captain of the wrestling team. It’s how those rich in sin seem to triumph over those poor in it.
It’s about our sins, yours and mine both. It’s a matter of pride, our unhealthy pride, when we put our judgment over what ‘should be.’ We see things happen in the world and don’t understand it and we put our understanding before understanding that maybe He is working in ways beyond us. Doesn’t it come back to our having issues with how God is working in our world? “But Lord.” “Yeah, God, but what about…” See where it goes?
We all have sin. Whether we like it or not, we are ALL rich in sin, yet we put ourselves over Christ who had none. We do it in everything every day. I think THAT is really what Solomon was alluding to. We can get caught up in the material message but there’s a more important one underneath it. We get caught up in it because, in a right world – and in this one, for the most part – we want merit to pay. We want to be rewarded for faithful living and using our talents well, and this is a righteous expectation. How about let’s keep it righteous by laying it at God’s feet and asking Him to guide us when we feel the sense of jealousy coming on? No matter who’s at the top of the heap, how about we be thankful to be where we are and ask God to guide us upward no matter where upward is in the journey?