“I have seen everything in the days of my vanity. The righteous is destroyed in his righteousness and the evil one lives long in his evil.”
“That’s not fair!” Especially when my kids were younger, that was a common phrase in our home and most of the time, the phrase, “Life’s not fair” was the response. And the bottom line is that life is not fair. As Christians, we are often quick to point out (and rightly so) that if God were fair, we would all be sent to Hell. But even apart from eternal matters, looking at the world around us, life is not fair. People who do evil often get ahead and people who do the right thing out of principle often suffer.
This is the very fact that Solomon is observing as he looks at the world around him and as he looks at his “days of vanity” (note that he is not saying that his whole life is vain, only seasons in his life). Yet, does this mean that God is not fair because he permits this imbalance? Most certainly not. Our world is fallen and has been plunged into the muck and mire of sin. Everything is splattered with it and tainted with it. Like a catfish that has lived all of its life in a polluted reservoir, even the meat of this world tastes of the muck. There is no escaping it; it clings to our being, fills up our pores, and its stench hangs in our nostrils like the odor of a dead skunk. It infects our being. So, what do you expect.
In fact, it is only a matter of God’s grace that sometimes the wicked see the justice they deserve and that sometimes the righteous do win the day. But, what is more important is that God, who has ordained all things that have come to pass, has ordered even what we perceive as injustices to conform the elect into the image of Christ. So yes, even though the evil sometimes live long lives and the righteous sometimes die young, God’s purposes prevail even in these things. So, do not despair when the wicked seem to prevail and those who seek to do justice fall short — do justice anyway. Love God’s mercies anyway. And walk humbly with your God. He has a plan and a design for these things anyway.