Furthermore, I have seen under the sun that in the place of justice there is wickedness and in the place of righteousness there is wickedness. (Ecclesiastes 3:16)
If you speak to some of the majority of unchurched people, especially in America, one of the major reasons they will give is “I was hurt”…at some church or other. Taking on the micro or personal level, many of them have a point. From observing various church operations, across a medium sized Midwestern city for two plus decades, which can legitimately be extrapolated nationwide due to demographics and doctrine, there is a lot of truth to the statement that “if it weren’t from some Christians, the lost may actually become Christians”.
There have always been crooked preachers in America, who use the trusting nature of most Christians to fatten their wallets and live a lifestyle they could never afford, if they worked a regular job like the rest of us. The abomination of the purveyors of Prosperity Gospel will continue, unfortunately, until Jesus Himself shuts this church age down, and calls His people home. However the Prosperity Gospel has always been with us since before Jesus Christ, the Son of God, went to the Cross.
Jesus Himself indicted the “church” leaders of the time – when He started His final condemnation of them in Matthew Chapter 23. Here is some of it in part:
13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. 14 [Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation.]........
23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!
27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
The reason He did this was their decadent and ungodly lifestyle, couched in language of the Law of Moses. As you read these charges, consider these men. They were supposed to be the ministers of God but committed adultery yet did not take care of their families and yet stood in the public square and acted more piously than anyone else in the Holy City. They flaunted their “phony” piety in the town square and city streets, while living ungodly lives in private. Interchange white robes and the great Biblical priestly accoutrements of the Old testament with $1000 Italian suits, big fancy cars, houses and mindless television shows begging for donations and “sowing seeds”, and you have the same people!
There is nothing new under the sun! In fact, this is what the Preacher – King Solomon after he repented and came back to God – was talking about almost 1000 years before Jesus in the Book of Ecclesiastes! Let us read Ecclesiastes 3:16-17 again in light of what we just learned happened to the descendants of these same priests which Solomon was speaking of here:
16 Furthermore, I have seen under the sun that in the place of justice there is wickedness and in the place of righteousness there is wickedness. 17 I said to myself, “God will judge both the righteous man and the wicked man,” for a time for every matter and for every deed is there.
Lest we heap all the blame on those prosperity “gospel” TV charlatans, the real damage is even more devastating in our own local churchees. A preacher or church leader doesn’t have to be caught having an affair, or cheating on his taxes or verbally abusing some of his congregation to chase of impressionable young minds or people in the pews of any age. The deacon who is flippant or rude to a stressed out single mom. The stuck up long time member who sees a little kid sitting in "her pew". The person who absent-mindedly forgot to wear food gloves while dishing out a food item from a tray at the church potluck. The little cliques of the well-to-do who will look down to speak to the blue collar guy and his wife and two young boys, while spending most of that minute looking away to find someone more to their suiting, to whom they wish to speak....these are the modern scribes and pharisees and in a sense, the kind of people who should be careful they don't end up on the wrong side of Jesus on Judgment Day!
Solomon alludes to this in Ecclesiastes 3:17 when he said the following "I said to myself, “God will judge both the righteous man and the wicked man,” for a time for every matter and for every deed is there"....and this will happen, but verse 3:16 reserves the strongest judgment for the those in authority. To whom much is given, much is expected and God's Laws and Precepts are meant to be obeyed.
This is the underlying truth in Ecclesiastes 3:16
- There is injustice and wickedness everywhere. Those who were placed in positions of great authority in the normal course of things, have more often than not in the course of human history, mightily misused their positions. They could be kings, politicians, judges and others in civil authority.
- In the Lord's House, first the Temple of the Lord from the time of King David until Titus destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD, to the church of the Lord Jesus Christ today, things were supposed to be a lot better. The Lord's House was/is supposed to be "THE place of righteousness" which it still is, even with men's failings. But even there, sin has corrupted. God will judge there as well.
This is the end of the story - and a recurring theme throughout the entire Book of Ecclesiastes. Indeed the preacher - King Solomon - does end the book in Chapter 12 with the following statement, in brief: (paraphrase) "in the final analysis, the crux of the matter is this: Love God and Keep His Commandments, because the Lord will bring every act into Judgment". Here is where the matter still resides today, until its appointed time.