Time and Chance


God did not create us as puppets. God created us in His own image: Not the image of a puppet. That means we have choice and that means we can make wise choices and not so wise choices. Nevertheless, our choices, regardless whether they are wise or not are subject to change due to unforeseen circumstances. The Bible relates this as “Time and Chance.” We see this all the time and there is even a name for it, “The law of unforeseen consequences.”  Here are two versions of the same story that illustrate the point


Uncertainty is common to all men.

This farmer had only one horse, and one day the horse ran away. The neighbors came to condole over his terrible loss. The farmer said, "What makes you think it is so terrible?"

A month later, the horse came home--this time bringing with her two beautiful wild horses. The neighbors became excited at the farmer's good fortune. Such lovely strong horses! The farmer said, "What makes you think this is good fortune?"

The farmer's son was thrown from one of the wild horses and broke his leg. All the neighbors were very distressed. Such bad luck! The farmer said, "What makes you think it is bad?"

A war came, and every able-bodied man was conscripted and sent into battle. Only the farmer's son, because he had a broken leg, remained. The neighbors congratulated the farmer. "What makes you think this is good?" said the farmer.

Truly, blessing turns to disaster, and disaster to blessing: the changes have no end, nor can the mystery be fathomed.


Disaster and blessing are born of each other and their transformation is hard to predict.

There once was an old man who lived at the northern border of the state. He was skilled at raising horses. One day he discovered that his horse had disappeared into the neighboring state of Hu. Neighbors felt sorry for him, but the old man said, "Who knows if this will turn into a blessing?"

A few months later, the missing horse suddenly returned, bringing back a fine horse with it. Neighbors came to congratulate the old man on his good luck. But the old man said, "Who knows if this will turn into a disaster?"

His son loved riding the fine horse, and one day he fell off the horse, broke his legs and crippled himself. Neighbors came to comfort the old man, who replied, "Who knows if this will turn into a blessing?"

A year later, the neighboring state of Hu invaded, and all the young and strong men were drafted to fight the war — nine in ten ended up being killed. The son, being crippled, stayed home and his life was spared.

Blessings can become disasters, which can then transform into blessings. The change is never ending, and its mystery is forever unrevealing.


The Bible warns us of such things and throughout Ecclesiastes refers to many such things as vanity or worthless. But it also tells us of the answer to uncertainty, as we will see.

*   (Eccl 9:9-15 NIV)  Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun-- all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun. {10} Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom. {11} I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all. {12} Moreover, no man knows when his hour will come: As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so men are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them. {13} I also saw under the sun this example of wisdom that greatly impressed me: {14} There was once a small city with only a few people in it. And a powerful king came against it, surrounded it and built huge siegeworks against it. {15} Now there lived in that city a man poor but wise, and he saved the city by his wisdom. But nobody remembered that poor man.


There is another poor man or maybe not so poor but a farmer that is still remembered and this man served as a role model to a one time great civilization. In fact we have a city whose name is derived from the name of this man: Cincinnati.

Cincinnatus, Lucius Quinctius (circa 519-430 bc), Roman general and statesman. He was reputedly a consul about 460 bc, and about two years later the Roman Senate chose him dictator of the Republic. Cincinnatus was charged with rescuing a Roman army that faced annihilation by the Aequi, a tribe of ancient Italy. He defeated the enemy within 16 days but refused all honors and resigned the dictatorship. Vested again with dictatorial power in 439 bc, he suppressed an incipient plebeian insurrection and then retired to his farm. Later generations considered him a model of Roman virtue.


It seems that Cincinnatus was the kind of man that we could respect.

*   (Mat 20:25-28 NIV)  Jesus called them together and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. {26} Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, {27} and whoever wants to be first must be your slave-- {28} just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."


OK let me wrap up with some answers to uncertainty as I read it in Ecclestiastes.

*   (Eccl 2:24-25 NIV)  A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, {25} for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?

*   (Eccl 3:12-13 NIV)  I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. {13} That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil--this is the gift of God.

*   (Eccl 3:22 NIV)  So I saw that there is nothing better for a man than to enjoy his work, because that is his lot. For who can bring him to see what will happen after him?

*   (Eccl 12:10-14 NIV)  The Teacher searched to find just the right words, and what he wrote was upright and true. {11} The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails--given by one Shepherd. {12} Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them. Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body. {13} Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. {14} For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.