Why do bad things happen to good people? In our previous two episodes, we’ve been considering some very difficult questions for which, in my more than 40 years of being in the ministry, and more than that of being a Christian, I’ve never come up with a answer or read an answer or heard an answer that fully satisfied me. I get some degree of understanding, but not as much as I would like.
Of course, that agrees with what Paul said. Paul said, “We’re looking through a glass darkly or dimly.” That is, imagine that that’s our perception of things. We don’t understand or see everything. It’s not all clear to us. We’re looking through a glass that’s fogged over, and we can make out some stuff on the other side of that glass, but we can’t see as much as we want. This is one of those questions. Why do bad things happen to good people?
Well, first of all, we’ve got to question about the ‘good people’ part, because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (see Romans 3:23).
Very few of us could say, “I deserve better treatment.” No, we’re all getting better treatment than we deserve, okay?
If it wasn’t for the mercy and grace of God, you and I would have been french fries a long time ago, and we often take that mercy for granted.
The Example of Job
But why do bad things happen to good people? The primary example of that happening would be Job. He was the best person on the earth, according to God Himself, and some very bad things happened to him. It was to test him to see if he would serve God and love God even if God didn’t bless him. That’s quite a test. Something to think about when we suffer difficulties, because some people do give up on God when they face difficulties. “Why is God allowing this?”
Think of all the Christians down through the years who have suffered martyrdom or imprisonment or severe persecution for their faith. They all have to at least have the thought, at some time or another, “Why, God, if you love me, are you letting me go through this?” Paul had to reassure some of those Christians, saying, “Nothing can separate us from the love of God, the love of Christ: persecution, tribulation, distress, peril, all those things, nothing can separate us from the love of God” (see Romans 8). And you have to believe that when you don’t feel like it.
If God allows you to go through difficulties, or face tests, it doesn’t change the fact that Jesus died for you, and God loves you, and He may be testing you. That could be a possible reason why bad things happen to good people.
How to Respond When Others Suffer
There’s a passage of Scripture in Luke 13.
Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him [Jesus] about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. – v. 1
We don’t know the details of that event, but there were people from Galilee who came to Jerusalem to make some sacrifices, and somehow, they wound up being slaughtered by Pilate with their sacrifices. And it wasn’t Pilate himself, it was obviously his soldiers, or somebody under his authority.
And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? – v.2
Well, no doubt, if Jesus’ audience had been entirely honest, many of them would have said, “Well, yes. God is sovereign. God controls everything. Why would God ever allow such a terrible thing to happen to these people if they didn’t deserve it? And obviously, they’re worse culprits than the average person. We don’t know what their sins were, but obviously their fate reveals that they are bad guys, and they got what they deserved.”
A False Assumption
Well, Jesus, the Son of God, God in the flesh, says to that assumption, “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (v. 3).
But He doesn’t answer the question. Just like He didn’t answer the question (fully, in my understanding) why the man was born blind that we read about in our previous episode and reading from the story in John 9. “No, I tell you.” But then he goes on to warn everybody, “But, unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
Wow, that’s what Jesus said during a time of calamity. “Let it be a warning to those who survived. Repent of your sins. Turn to the living God with a living faith.”
Jesus didn’t stop there. He goes on to cite another example that would’ve been on everybody’s minds.
Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? – v. 4
If Jesus’ audience would’ve been honest, many of them would have said, “Yes, God’s sovereign. This couldn’t have happened apart from His sovereignty, and so, God is fair, God is just, God is the judge. Obviously, these 18 guys must’ve been deserving of the Tower of Siloam.”
Well, Jesus goes on to say the same thing. “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (v. 5).
The Danger of Judging What We Don’t Understand
Here’s one message. You think they’re worse culprits? No, you’re all equal culprits in God’s eyes. Don’t be assuming that because you were spared, that you weren’t deserving of the same fate.
Now, we don’t know why the Tower of Siloam fell onto 18 guys. Sounds like, obviously, there was chance involved in it. Why would a tower fall on people? Were they building the tower, constructing it, and there was some flaw in their building technique, and a big rock was dislodged, and that caused the collapse of this thing on 18 of the guys who were working? Or were 18 men just standing there in the shade of that tower, and there was a slight earthquake that caused that tower to fall?
Jesus doesn’t give us the answers. He just says, “Let that serve as a warning to you that death can come unexpectedly, at any time, and there’s no formulas here. And I’m not going to give you a formula. I’m not going to even give you insight as to why, but it does happen.” Let’s face it. Around the world, there are accidents, there are natural disasters and so forth, and we do find evidence in Scripture, yes, that some of these things can happen as a result of God’s judgment. He takes credit. “I’m judging you.”
But in these cases here, maybe we shouldn’t be asking why bad things happen to good people, but the exact opposite. Why does anything good happen to anybody? Because we’re all bad. Okay? This is, again, a Little Lesson, and that’s a big question. Thanks for asking it.