All of us at one time or another have raged at the injustice in the world. Indeed, social inequality is one of the most pressing issues of our day. We see power imbalances everywhere, corporate greed ruining the planet, governments suppressing their citizens – and our hearts break.
Into this strife Augustine writes. He takes these challenges head on as he addresses the final judgment of the world in Book 20 of the City of God. The last judgment is the day when life as we know it will stop and the veil that has kept us from perceiving the presence and reality of God will be forever ripped in two. We will face our maker, our master, our martyr – but this time the lamb will become a lion and every single person who has ever lived will give account for their life.
While in this life the relative benefit of those who seek to be godly is obscure:
It will then be made clear that true and complete happiness belongs to all the good, and only to them, while all the wicked, are destined for deserved and supreme unhappiness.XX.1
Unfortunately how this will all work out is not clear to us, or possible for us to discover. Why God sometimes visits judgements on people who deserve it, and sometimes they seem to get away with it. Why those who seek to love God are often buffeted by the winds of adversity, and others who love only themselves are left alone – only God knows the reasons for these things. The important thing is that at the last judgment:
It will become plain that God’s judgements are perfectly just, not only all the judgements that will then be passed, but also all the judgements passed from the beginning, and all which are to be pronounced hereafter until the day of judgment.XX.1
The duty of the believer is not to watch the wind, seeking to discern the whys and wherefores of individual circumstances and connecting them back to individual behaviour. No our duty is to trust in the loving kindness of our Heavenly Father, for:
At that day, it will become evident by what just decision of God it comes about that at this present time so many, in fact almost all, of the just judgements of God are hidden from mortal perception and understanding. However, in this matter one thing is not hidden from the faith of the devout; and that is, that what is hidden is just.XX.1
Are we waiting patiently? Are we trusting implicitly? We who cannot predict with any certainty the path of a single starling as it swoops in the evening sky, let alone the dizzying murmuration of several hundred can certainly not predict the hidden course of perfect justice in the hand of the loving God in the life of one person.
Our response should be to ensure we are sowing seeds of righteousness that will bear a rich fruit on that final day, building our lives with solid gold and precious gems, plucking up the weeds and cleaning out the barn. The rest we humbly leave to the maker, master, martyr God.