One of the age-old questions people often ask is, “Why would a loving God allow bad things happen to good people?” Job was immortalized in the Bible as one of the most righteous people who ever lived, yet God permitted him to suffer tremendous adversity. David was a man after God’s own heart and had been anointed by Samuel to be king over Israel, yet he had to flee in from Saul the wilderness for years.
People all like to think of themselves as good and deserving of God’s blessings. We think it unfair when life is hard, or misfortune besets us. So we ask why a loving God would allow “good people” to suffer.
I will address that question another day, but today let’s turn the question around. Let’s ask why a holy God ever allows bad people to experience good.
Why does a holy, righteous God allow good things to happen to bad people?
Solomon declared “there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not” (Eccl. 7:21).
In Romans 3:10–12, 23, Paul proclaimed, “As it is written (in Psalms 14:1-3; 53:1-3): There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”
Matt. 19:17, Mark 10:18, and Luke 18:19 all record Christ’s reply to a young man who addressed Him as “Good Master.” Jesus “said unto him, Why callest thou Me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.”
Since there are no “good people,” we should stop asking why bad things happen to them. We should focus on the positive instead of on the negative. Instead of complaining about our troubles, we should be grateful for our blessings.
We will review reasons why God permits people to suffer in a future post. Today, let’s examine why even bad people experience good.
1. They live in harmony with natural law – We live in a physical universe governed by the law of cause and effect. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Some inputs naturally produce certain outputs. A related principle is the law of the harvest; you reap what you sow (Gal. 6:7). If you plant corn you will grow corn.
An ungodly man may earn spiritual judgment by immoral thoughts and behavior. But he can still reap good things materially if he lives in harmony with the physical laws of this world. Any farmer can reap a good crop if they diligently plow, fertilize, plant, and water good seed. Many people experience good results in this world because they diligently work wisely in harmony with natural law.
2. They live among “good” people – Few people live in isolation. We naturally share in the blessings and troubles of the area we live in. We experience the same climate, weather, culture, government, laws, current events, etc. as the others in our region. If God sent famine, drought, or pestilence to punish the wicked, it would adversely affect any “good” people living around them.
God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). God is gracious and does not want to punish people. He is “slow to anger, and of great mercy” (Ps 145:8 and Ps 103:8). Before He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, God told Abraham so he could intercede on their behalf (Gen. 18:16-33). As a result, God would have spared those cities if there had been as few as 10 righteous people in them (Gen. 18:32).
Salt is a preservative. A little salt can prevent decay. In the sermon on the mount, Jesus called His followers to be salt and light, as a testimony for God and a preservative against sin (Mt. 5:13-16). Ungodly people often owe the peace and prosperity they experience to the righteous people living in their midst.
3. The goodness and love of God – People may question why God allows negative things to happen, but it is because of God’s goodness and love that we ever experience His blessings. Despite our sinfulness, God still loves us. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
God created Adam and Eve in His likeness so He could have fellowship with them. He did so even though He knew they would sin, which would necessitate His being born into the world as a man to die a terrible death to pay for our sins. God takes no pleasure in trouble, sorrow, or the death of the wicked (Eze. 33:11). His desire is for all to turn away from their sin and trust His Son, Jesus Christ for eternal life.
During the sermon on the mount, Jesus challenged His followers to, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matt. 5:44-45)
This indicates that bad people experience good things because God loves even His enemies. He blesses those who curse Him, and does good to those who hate Him, even those who despitefully use and persecute His children. And the goodness of God is intended to lead all to repentance (Rom. 4:2).
The living God has richly given us all-things to enjoy during our life here on earth (1 Tim. 6:17). But we must not mistake God’s goodness, patience, and love as permissiveness or weakness. For “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27).
Those who take God’s goodness for granted, and die without turning to Christ as their savior, will stand without hope before Him, as their holy judge. Those who die without Christ will be cast into outer darkness, cut off from God and His goodness forever.
So give thanks to God, repent of your sin, and embrace His mercy while you may.