Good things, bad people and eternity

Published 10:32 pm Friday, September 13, 2013

By Rev. Dr. Chris Surber

Call me pessimistic, but I’m much more concerned lately with why good things happen to bad people than I am with why bad things happen to good people.

Both are important questions, but it occurs to me that I see a great many more selfish, self-seeking, self-centered people prospering, compared to the relative peril of so many more good people. Why?

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I can easily relate to the sentiments of the prophet Jeremiah when he spoke to God about this very thing. “LORD, You always give me justice when I bring a case before You. So let me bring You this complaint: Why are the wicked so prosperous? Why are evil people so happy?” (Jeremiah 12:1 NLT) A quick and common way that Christian leaders often use to answer this charge is the cliché that no one without the goodness of God in them is really happy.

The trouble with that answer is that there is really no biblical or practical way to justify that claim. While it is certainly not true for all wicked and prosperous people, many of them seem to be perfectly happy.

And why not? I know a number of Christians who are miserable wretches. Clearly it is as possible to be unhappy with the goodness of God in your life as it is to be happy without it.

If this is so, why does God allow it? Why does God allow wicked people to prosper? There are a number of ways to answer that question but I think we see a really good answer right in the next verse in the Bible. “But as for me, LORD, You know my heart. You see me and test my thoughts. Drag these people away like sheep to be butchered! Set them aside to be slaughtered!” (Jeremiah 12:3 NLT)

Jeremiah is saying that prosperity without the goodness of God is short-lived. In the context of the remainder of the passage, he is saying that even in this life, prosperity gained through wicked actions is not going to last.

We see this all the time. You don’t see a lot of gangbangers or drug dealers in retirement homes. And you do see a lot of white-collar criminals in blue collar prisons. When really good things happen to really bad people, their prosperity is normally short lived.

Not only that, but even if it should last through this lifetime, it will rob the wicked of lasting prosperity in the life to come. “Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom He promised to those who love Him?” (James 2:5 NLT)

Good things may happen to wicked people in this wicked world but great things happen to bad people who connect with our great God by faith. In fact, those things are so great they outlive this world.

Chris Surber is pastor of Cypress Chapel Christian Church in Suffolk. Visit his website at www.chrissurber.com.