There is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.
Solomon said do not be worried about the good things that happen to bad people, and do not be worried about the bad things that happen to good people. Why? Because there is no such thing as a good person. Look at Ecclesiastes 7:15-17: “I have seen everything during my lifetime of futility; there is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his wickedness. Do not be excessively righteous and do not be overly wise. Why should you ruin yourself? Do not be excessively wicked and do not be a fool. Why should you die before your time?”
No verses in Ecclesiastes are more subject to misinterpretation than these. Some people interpret them to mean, “Do not try to be too good and do not try to be too bad–just moderately sin and you will be okay.” Is that what Solomon was saying? No. In Hebrew, “Do not be excessively righteous” is a reflexive verb. Another way to translate it would be “Do not be righteous in your own eyes.” Solomon was saying we should not assume we are righteous, because “there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins” (v. 20). That is exactly what Paul would later explain in Romans 3: “There is none righteous, not even one. . . . For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (vv. 10, 23).
This is antithetical to what the world says. The world’s evaluation of the human condition is that man is basically good–yes, we are a little flawed here and there, but deep down we are good. Now look at God’s evaluation of mankind in Genesis 6:5: “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” When God looks down on the world, when He looks down on you, He says every deed you do and every thought you think is only evil continually.
You might say, “Isn’t that a little bit harsh? Look at all the good things I do! How can you say those are evil?” But even the good things we do have been tainted by sin. Theologians call that the doctrine of total depravity. It is important to understand that total depravity does not describe the depth of our sin but the breadth of our sin–that is, sin has so infected us that it taints everything we do, even the good things. Every part of our lives has been polluted by sin. That is the reality of our condition. Solomon was saying it does not make sense to be worried about bad things happening to good people, because God says there are no good people. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Why Good Things Happen To Bad People” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2009.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org.