Why Do Good Things Happen
to Bad People?
James C. Denison
I have many questions I want to ask God someday. Why did he wait so long to bring us Tony Romo? Why won’t he make Ford bring back the 1966 Mustang? Why didn’t he tell me to buy stock in Apple when people thought it was just something you eat? Why can’t I sing? Crucial questions like these.
Here’s an even harder problem for me: why do good things happen to bad people? How can God be fair and let so many sins go unpunished, so many crimes go unsolved, so many criminals go uncaught?
According to the FBI, a crime occurs in America every 22.7 seconds. Only 46.7 percent of crimes are ever solved.
Why were so many thousands of innocent employees hurt by the Enron collapse? The Darfur genocide has killed more than 400,000 and displaced 2.5 million. More than 800,000 people have died in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11, and Osama bin Laden is still free. If God were fair, none of these things would be true, or so it seems.
Last week we learned that God Almighty is also Love Almighty, the God who is love. In everything he does, everywhere he does it, he is love. This week we will explore the other side of the coin: Love Almighty is Judge Almighty. He is the judge of every sin and sinner, of every person and nation, of every unrepentant Nineveh on earth.
Why does he judge us? How does he judge us? Being ready for the eternal judgment of God is the highest priority of life on this planet. Today we’ll learn why that’s true, and why it matters so much to your soul this morning.
Does God judge us?
What was your earliest picture of God? Mine was of a kind grandfather looking over the banister of heaven at his children while they play. An elderly man with a long flowing beard and a proud smile on his face. Gandolf in the Lord of the Rings movies–kind to those he loves, always ready to ride in on his white horse to save the day.
Is that how the Bible really pictures God? “Forty days and Nineveh will be overturned,” he told Jonah to say (Jonah 3:4). We learned last week why they deserved such a fate. They had executed thousands and enslaved millions. They would soon destroy the nation of Israel. They peeled the skin from the victims to use as wallpaper. They were among the cruelest people known to human history. But they weren’t the first or the last to face the judgment of God.
Think of more examples. Does God judge people in the Bible? Let’s count the ways.
Noah’s flood, drowning the entire human race except for a single family.
Fire and brimstone destroying Sodom and Gomorrah
Plagues and the death of the first-born sons of Egypt
The complete destruction of Jericho and the Canaanites
Forty years of wilderness wandering for his own people
The Assyrian destruction of the 10 northern tribes of Israel
The Babylonian slavery of the two southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin
Ananias and Sapphira when they lied about giving to God through the early church (Acts 5)
The destruction of Jerusalem (AD 70) as predicted by Jesus
The coming end of the world: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare” (2 Peter 3:9-10).
Why is Love Almighty also Judge Almighty?
One, his holiness requires that sin be punished. God cannot be a righteous King unless he requires righteousness in his realm. The Canaanites, for example, sacrificed their children to their gods and were involved in horrific immorality and witchcraft (Leviticus 18:25).
If Moses’ enemies had not been punished, their rebellion could have destroyed the nation. If Ananias and Sapphira had succeeded in their deception, the integrity of the infant church would have been destroyed.
Two, to discipline his children so we can experience his full power and grace. Hebrews 6 says that “the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son…No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (vs. 6, 11).
The holiness of God requires him to judge sin, as an oncologist removing the cancer before it spreads. The grace of God requires him to redeem sinners, as a Father disciplining his children so they can learn and grow. And so the love of God Almighty requires him to be Judge Almighty.
How does God judge us today?
Our Father deals with us as gently as he can or as harshly as he must. How does God judge his people today?
He sometimes uses circumstances to judge and discipline us. God made a great storm and a great fish to return Jonah to his purpose. He used the wilderness to judge the children of Israel when they would not follow his call into the Promised Land. He used drought and famine to judge his rebellious people.
Are difficult circumstances and financial hardship always the judgment of God? Of course not, as Jesus made clear when he said that he had nowhere to lay his head (Matthew 8:20). But some can be.
God sometimes uses physical suffering to judge and discipline us. He employed leprosy and disease to turn Moses’ enemies back to himself, and Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” to help the apostle trust more in his power.
Is all physical suffering indicative of the judgment of God? Of course not, as Job’s story proves. But some can be.