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July 26, 1999

No Awards for the Naive

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If you see the poor oppressed in a district, and justice and rights denied, do not be surprised at such things. ECCLESIASTES 5:8
Our thinking might be idealistic, but life tends to be realistic. We live on earth, not in heaven. If we expect our world to operate like a perfect place, we are simply naive: “If you see the poor oppressed . . . and justice and rights denied, do not be surprised at such things” (Ecclesiastes 5:8).
When we open our eyes in the morning, we see it in our own lives, in the newspaper, and in stories we hear from others. Injustice and wrongdoing are everywhere. But despite our normal experience, we are sometimes caught off-guard by such action because we know that it really should be different. To which Solomon replies, “We need to live our lives in the ‘ought-to-be’ category, but we need to view life in the ‘really-is’ category.” What should be and what is are not the same. No awards will be given for being naive. If we are caught off guard by such activity, it is our fault.
Scripture calls for us to be “as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). Most of us are “very” in one of those two categories and “sort of” in the other. We are very shrewd and sort of innocent, or we are sort of shrewd and very innocent. In this case, however, we are supposed to be “very-very,” not “very- sort of.” Though we should not participate in such things, we should be able to anticipate the realities of oppression, corruption, selfish motives, inappropriate financial profit, injustice, and the taking of bribes.
Solomon’s point is not that we should wink at such wrongdoing, encourage it, or even accept it. But he wants us to understand that regardless of our best actions, we will never eliminate it. At the very least, we certainly should never be surprised by it.

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