Summary: In today's lesson we learn that we can trust God even though the world is filled with injustice.
We like stories with happy endings. Whether the story is in a book or movie or even in real life, we like stories with happy endings.
Sometimes, however, stories don’t have happy endings. Sometimes stories have sad endings. And although we prefer stories with happy endings to stories with sad endings, we understand that life and its stories don’t always have happy endings.
But sometimes stories have unjust endings. Those are the stories that we don’t like—especially if we are the recipient of the injustice. We don’t like living in a world of injustice, but because we live in a fallen world, we know that some stories have unjust endings.
Listen to how the Preacher put it in Ecclesiastes 3:16-4:3:
16 Moreover, I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, even there was wickedness, and in the place of righteousness, even there was wickedness. 17 I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work. 18 I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they themselves are but beasts. 19 For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity. 20 All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return. 21 Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth? 22 So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot. Who can bring him to see what will be after him?
1 Again I saw all the oppressions that are done under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them. 2 And I thought the dead who are already dead more fortunate than the living who are still alive. 3 But better than both is he who has not yet been and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 3:16-4:3)
In 1947, Simon Wiesenthal formed a volunteer organization to help find and prosecute Nazi war criminals. During the next forty years, Wiesenthal’s organization helped track down more than one thousand war criminals, including Franz Stangl, the former commandant of the Treblinka death camp.
What was Wiesenthal’s motivation? He had plenty of good reasons. During World War II, he spent the last three years of the war in a series of labor and concentration camps. The Nazis killed 89 members of his and his wife’s Jewish families during the war. But when asked the reason for his work, he pointed to one concrete experience that happened in a World War II death camp.
One day two Nazi officers rode to the site where the prisoners were excavating rock. One of them grabbed a Jewish man and made him stand back to back with another Jewish man. He had a guard bind the two men together with a rope. Then, just as calmly as if he were swatting a fly, he pulled out his gun and shot through the first man’s head into the head of the man behind him, killing both men with one bullet. He turned to the other officer and said to him, “See, I told we’ve been wasting 50 percent of our bullets.”
Simon Wiesenthal’s responded to this atrocious act by saying, “God was on leave.” He wondered where God was when the world was filled with injustice.
I doubt that any one of you has ever gone through anything as appalling as what Wiesenthal went through. However, you may have experienced injustice in your life. For example, you may have been involved in an accident that wasn’t your fault, and yet someone testified falsely that the accident was in fact your fault, and you have to pay the damages. Or perhaps you turned in a test, and the teacher accused you of cheating because your answers were exactly the same as another student’s answers. Or perhaps you gave a large sum of money to someone to invest with the assurance of a significant return on your investment, only to discover that you have been defrauded of your life’s savings. Or perhaps your coworker made unwanted sexual advances towards you, and when you told your superiors, you—and not your coworker—got fired.
I think it is probably fair to say that everyone of us has experienced some form of injustice in this life. To be sure, some of the injustice we experience is relatively minor and the consequences are also relatively minor. But, some of the injustice we experience is significant and even horrific, and the consequences are devastating and life altering.