Wickedness in the Church

“And again, I observed that which was under the sun. In the place of judgment there is wickedness and in the place of righteousness there is wickedness. So, I spoke to my heart that the righteous and the wicked will be judged by God; there is a time for every matter and a time for every work — it is there.”

(Ecclesiastes 3:16-17)

Having teased us slightly with the answer to his question (namely, the sovereignty of God), Solomon again looks to the world “under the sun” and begins reflecting on the injustice and wickedness of man in places where justice is supposed to be done. Yet, there is corruption amongst those who hold the power of judgment over others. 

Isaiah writes:

“How the faithful city has turned to whoredom; a full measure of righteous judgment lodged with her but now she is murdering. Your silver is dross; your wine is weakened with water. Your princes are rebels and your companions are thieves. All of you love a bribe and you run after rewards, but the fatherless have no justice and the dispute of the widow is not brought to them.”

(Isaiah 1:21-23)

Paul the Apostle did not shy away from quoting pagan writers to show that some observations are plain even to those apart from divine revelation, and so in one instance he says to the Corinthians, “bad company ruins good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33 — a quote from the Greek dramatist, Menander). When the city that is designed to stand for God’s righteousness tolerates selfish gain, bribery, and corruption, then she will fall into wickedness and injustice. And there is no greater illustration of this than when the leadership of the Jews elected to put Jesus to death — committing the greatest injustice of all time (though it is a blessed injustice for those of us who are redeemed by the Lamb’s blood). And this injustice in Jerusalem did not begin with Herod and Pilate. Isaiah writes of it; Solomon writes of it; and frankly we see God’s condemnation of the people throughout the Scriptures. 

The sad thing is that we see this same kind of injustice take place in many churches. When church leaders use their influence to coerce church members, when pastors seek to use their position for personal gain, when the widows and orphans are ignored by the deacons whose job it is to take care of them, when church discipline and instruction takes a back seat in the lives of the elders who are called to this task in the life of the church, when ideas are embraced because they are pragmatic or because other churches are doing them, not because the Bible instructs us to do them, when we permit any or all of these things, then we are guilty of permitting wickedness to take the place of righteousness in God’s house. We are no better than the Pharisees, Sadducees, and chief priests who executed our Lord. 

Solomon indeed is wise to say that there is nothing new under the sun. The sad thing is that we who are redeemed and who have Solomon’s words before us often fall into the same traps and sins as the wicked of generations past rather than learning from their errors and walking in righteousness.

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