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The author of Ecclesiastes made a puzzling statement when he wrote that “time and chance happen to them all” (Ecclesiastes 9:11 Ecclesiastes 9:11I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happens to them all.
American King James Version×
). Some interpret this to mean that, sometimes, bad things happen for no real reason. But is that true?

Bad things certainly happen. But it would be completely out of character for the same God who does not forget so much as a sparrow, and who assures us that “you are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:6-7 Luke 12:6-7 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? 7 But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: you are of more value than many sparrows.
American King James Version×
), to allow anything to happen without a reason.

Think about the implications of something happening without any reason. It means one of two things: either God wasn't paying attention or didn't care. That's like calling the Almighty either incompetent or apathetic.

We know that neither is true. God is all-seeing (Psalms 33:13-15 Psalms 33:13-15 13 The LORD looks from heaven; he beholds all the sons of men. 14 From the place of his habitation he looks on all the inhabitants of the earth. 15 He fashions their hearts alike; he considers all their works.
American King James Version×
), never-sleeping (Psalms 121:3-4 Psalms 121:3-4 3 He will not suffer your foot to be moved: he that keeps you will not slumber. 4 Behold, he that keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
American King James Version×
) and cares deeply about His people (Romans 8:38-39 Romans 8:38-39 38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
American King James Version×
). So we must examine the alternative—that, while God does not directly cause evil, He knowingly allows it to happen.

Because humanity has elected to follow its own way instead of God's, God “gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful” (Romans 1:28-31 Romans 1:28-31 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; 29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 Without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
American King James Version×
). God has, in essence, taken a step back from a world that says it doesn't want Him around. He is allowing its inhabitants to see the result of a life without Him.

That result is, from a human perspective, time and chance. Though God has not lost the ability to restrain Satan and his demons at will, humanity has forfeited God's protection by turning its collective back on Him. As a result, “The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all” (Ecclesiastes 9:11 Ecclesiastes 9:11I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happens to them all.
American King James Version×
). Bad things happen as a result of humanity's choices; as a result of sin and forsaking God. But none of them happen “accidentally” or apart from God's will.

As it is written in the Psalms, “the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy” (Psalms 33:18 Psalms 33:18Behold, the eye of the LORD is on them that fear him, on them that hope in his mercy;
American King James Version×
). That is a promise. (What about when bad things happen to God's people? See the Related Online Resources below.)

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  • donelvik

    its good to know once again that nothing happens in this life (nothing no matter how minute) by accident. much more assuring that God knows about anything and everything that happens to me and He is in control.

  • Ivan Veller

    Hi Donelvik,

    If I am understanding correctly, this article (which is ambiguous as written) could be interpreted to mean:

    (A.) Everything in life, no matter how minute, occurs for a reason. (This idea assumes, for instance, that every person we meet on a given day is intentionally, specifically, and purposefully brought into our lives by a divine purpose; and, in a broader sense, that life contains *zero* accidents and ‘no coincidences, only God-instances’).

    However, I believe that the author(s) of this article means:

    (B.) God has his reasons for permitting inherently senseless tragedies to occur. (For instance, a rebel fighter in Sierra Leone chances upon, and mutilates, a civilian (who, through mere coincidence, happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time). It is an evil act, perpetrated randomly, haphazardly, and on a whim; leaving the person maimed for life. But God, instantaneously analyzing the situation, chooses to allow the natural course of human affairs to play out without divine intervention (perhaps to expose the hideous evil of Satan’s way of living, so that upon being granted with the opportunity to follow God, people will be utterly and totally committed to obeying God and never, ever following Satan ever again).

    Three scriptures to add to the discussion:

    “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the [“a” (LEB 2010)] way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13b ESV 2007).

    “Indeed, the LORD’s hand is not too short to save, and His ear is not too deaf to hear. But your iniquities have built barriers between you and your God, and your sins have made Him hide His face from you so that He does not listen…Therefore justice is far from us…Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far off. For truth has stumbled in the public square” (Isaiah 59:1-2,9a,14a, HCSB 2009).

    “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 ESV).

  • onikeh

    I searched the internet about: Does “Time” and “Chance” have a spiritual interpretation? Then one of the responses was yours “Time and Chance”? “What’s that?”. I have read through what is stated. Here is my own view regarding this subject: The book of Ecclesiastes does speak a lot about Humanity’s basic thinking in association with living in this
    world with Our GOD Jehovah’s given knowledge and wisdom. GOD has given human kind all the knowledge and wisdom to survive and live in this World. Case in point: Today CNN announced about an Earth Quake in IRAN that killed nearly 300 and some more people. TIME and CHANCE has a lot to play into this scenario. But the people of IRAN have a JEHOVAH “given” knowledge and wisdom to abate or avoid these deaths. Through GOD given knowledge and wisdom in the Scientific field of Geological activities, the US Geological Survey did know about eventual earth quake blow up in this region. Even the IRANIAN Scientist are aware of this area being located in fault zone. So the big question is simply: If IRAN has knows and knew about fault lines in these inhabited areas, why not advice the people to move? Sure enough they can afford the cost. Well, they trying to build a nuclear bomb, and it cost a lot of money to that. If we humans heed what the Bible says we will fair on in this World, otherwise as the book of Ecclesiastes states in 9:11 “But time and chance happen to them all.”

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