Why do bad people prosper while the good suffer?

By on 7-28-2012 in Life, Theology

Why do bad people prosper while the good suffer?

America, and the world, is in a growing economic crisis.  Yet, in the midst of so much suffering it seems like the rich get richer while the poor continue to suffer.  How is this fair?  Can politicians make it right?  Can we use the power of government to bring social Justice?

 

Spurgeon summarizes our lament this way:

 

From their youth up these men, who deserve perdition, revel in prosperity. They deserve to be hung in chains, and chains are hung about their necks; they are worthy to be chased from the world, and yet the world becomes all their own. — Charles Spurgeon

 

And even the prophet of Israel Jeremiah was forced to take this question to God… along with a rather morbid suggestion on what he thought God should do to those who unjustly prosper.

 

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? You have planted them, and they have taken root and prospered. Your name is on their lips, but you are far from their hearts. 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 12:1–3 (NLT)

 

In answer to the question, here are some compelling quotes worth consideration.

 

“The recompense on this side of the grave should, according to the design of God, remain as an object of faith. Here also God conceals Himself, in order that He may be found by those who seek Him. That this is so seldom done, even by the well-disposed, that even they are so much inclined to look upon the righteousness of God as inoperative in this life, is a melancholy proof of the degeneracy of the Church and of the lamentable prevalence of infidelity. — Hengstenberg

 

True piety is not a matter of enjoyment of temporal prosperity, but of the acquisition of the eternal good.— John Peter Lange

 

That we may win our way victoriously through the trials of our faith, through the sorrows of life and through the allurements of the world, we have need to resort assiduously and devoutly to God’s holy place. — John Peter Lange

 

Prosperity and adversity have opposite effects upon the pious and the ungodly. — John Peter Lange

 

Earthly prosperity is no more an infallible sign of God’s favor than temporal suffering is a proof of the Divine wrath. — John Peter Lange

 

Affliction often passes by the palaces of the rich, because they are not worthy of so great a blessing; instead of improving it, they would misuse it; whereas it visits the poor and becomes their salvation. — Augustine

 

The most sinful things are commonly the first to receive applause among men; what wonder is it then, if men seek to excuse them, yea, even to make them pass for virtues? — Augustine

 

Wealthy transgressors have applause and a great following in the world, and serve often to lead men astray. — Augustine

 

He who begins to talk like the world, will soon become accustomed to act like the world. — Augustine

 

Worldly prosperity is slippery ice, on which one easily falls. — Augustine

 

God allows the ungodly to go free like the wild beast; but the hunter will pursue them some time. — Arndt

 

We all confess it to be the most indubitable article of our faith that God governs the world, but how different would our assurance of this be in time, of trouble if we believed it implicitly. — Tholuck

 

When our faith becomes sight then all the dreams of the ungodly are found to be empty bubbles. — Tholuck

 

He who envies the prosperity of the ungodly, has not yet gained a clear view of God. — Vaihinger

 

We know from God’s word, that the world passes away and the first thereof: therefore let not the lust of the world allure us. — Schaubach (1 Sunday after Trinity) 

 

“Take eternity into your estimate, and the delusion will vanish; and you will see, that no state in which an ungodly man can possibly be, is any more to be compared with yours, than the twinkling of a taper is with the light and splendour of the meridian sun.” — Charles Simeon  

 

“Doubtless, in countries where the rights of individuals are secured by just laws and a righteous administration, this inequality will be less apparent, than in places, where there is more scope afforded for the unrestrained exercise of fraud and violence: but in every place there is ample evidence, that worldly prosperity is the attainment, not of spiritual, but of carnal minds” — Charles Simeon  

 

“If riches increase, we are immediately ready “to set our heart upon them,” and to trust in them rather than in God. They foster pride in the heart of the possessor; and lead not unfrequently to an oppressive conduct towards the poor, and to the most daring impiety towards God.  — Charles Simeon  

 

“Let us then remember, that if God sends us trials which we would gladly escape, or withholds comforts which we would desire to possess, he does it in wisdom, and in love: and in all probability we shall one day see reason to adore him for the things which we now deplore, as much as for any of those benefits in which we are most disposed to rejoice. — Charles Simeon  

 

Dr. Joe Miller (aka JR) is a Professor in Southern California, teaching a variety of courses in Theology and Leadership. In addition, he works as their Digital Media Coordinator and Instructional Technologist. Dr. Miller has a diverse educational background and authored multiple books on church history, biblical theology, and Leadership. Joe and his wife Suzanne enjoy the sun and surf with their 3 sons in San Diego, CA.

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