Let’s first answer this question with another question: “Do bad people deserve bad things to happen to them?” This is, after all, the law of Karma. Logically, it makes sense that bad things should happen to bad people and it appeals to our sense of justice. But, the sad reality is that this is not the case at all. There are many extremely wicked people, responsible for death, rape, murder, mayhem, corruption, abuse and all kinds of unspeakable evil and yet they live in palaces and drive around in their new Bentley in apparent prosperity. They experience every earthly pleasure while their minions go about turning the cogs of their business and political enterprises, which are built on the exploitation of others. Perhaps an extreme example, but nonetheless true (and I am by no means implying that all rich people have obtained their wealth through ill-gotten gains, that is obviously false and is merely an excuse used by anarchists and subversives to justify rioting and looting on the streets, so let’s be a little slower to pick up stones). So, if bad people don’t get their just deserves, what about good people?
We’ve all heard about the loving family that were all killed in a terrible car crash. Or the gentle, kindly soul that was murdered whilst helping the poor in a slum neighbourhood. We read this and we get angry because it just feels so wrong and unjust. Again, this is based on our human sense of justice. What we fail to comprehend is the reason why things are the way they are in the world in the first place. What is the root cause of injustice? You may not like the answer, but I am compelled to speak the truth and not what is expedient: it is your sin and my sin. Allow me to explain: In the beginning, when God created the world, He made it good and He was its sovereign ruler. He ruled it with a perfect balance of justice and mercy. He gave man charge of His creation and told him to exercise dominion over it (Genesis 1:26). This dominion was intended as a partnership to maintain the lordship and rulership of God over His new creation, to ensure that it prospered and continued in a state of peaceful harmony. Satan pre-existed the world as we know it and had already decided to shake off the yoke of God’s rule and had been evicted from heaven as a result. His fall from grace is recorded in the book of Isaiah 14:12-14:
“How you are fallen from heaven,
O Lucifer, son of the morning!
How you are cut down to the ground,
You who weakened the nations!
For you have said in your heart:
‘I will ascend into heaven,
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God;
I will also sit on the mount of the congregation
On the farthest sides of the north;
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds,
I will be like the Most High.’
Yet you shall be brought down to Hell,
To the lowest depths of the Pit”
Satan was now operating on the earth to attempt to disrupt God’s plan. The shortest and most expedient route to accomplish his purpose was to get the pinnacle of God’s creation – Man – to rebel against the lordship of God. He did this using guile and deceit – tempting man into thinking that God did not have only good in mind when He forbade man to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (in other words, preventing man from usurping the role of deciding what is “right” and “wrong”): Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:15 – 17).
Satan’s tactic was simple: get Man to doubt in God and then to rebel against Him and in so doing throw the creation in disarray and thus to harm God (which is the only way Satan had left to get “back” at God, since he is not God’s equal and could never endure a direct confrontation as we saw earlier): “Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’” Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.”
From that day onward, there was a separation between Man and God, which we refer to as “the Fall of Man”. Sin had now entered the world and with it, for the first time, death. “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” (Romans 5:12). The cause of this separation was the rebellion of Man against the law and order of God and it was now replaced by an order with Man at the top – where we had become the judges of “good and evil”, deciding by our own standards what is right and wrong. It was the birth of a man-centric order with the associated moral relativism and all the ensuing social mayhem and wars that this resulted in over the centuries as one man or nation’s version of “right” fought to triumph over another. The rest is history.
We live with the consequences of the decision that not only Adam and Eve, but all our forefathers and which we ourselves make daily: to live life as if we are a law unto ourselves, rather than living in subservience to an almighty, good God. The word subservience has become like a swear word in our culture, associated with being weak and pathetic, or worse. If we consider the unadulterated dictionary meaning i.e. to be prepared to obey another unquestioningly, then one can quickly see why the only context it should be fully applied to is where that “another” is a truly good, just and merciful being. Of course, only God fits that description, but since we have rejected God, we now live in a world where anything goes and rebellion is the norm. Children rebel against parents, employees rebel against employers, criminals rebel against laws, students rebel against teachers. That is the pattern of this world and the ensuing chaos results eventually in the madness where good is called evil and evil is called good: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness” (Isaiah 5:20). Satan, of course, continues to capitalise on this situation by seducing and deceive people to copy him rather than God. And Jesus clearly elucidated the character of Satan: “The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. I’ve come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10).
If you understand that evil is not a force, but a person and that this person works both directly and indirectly through other people that have yielded to his will, it is no surprise that evil prospers and good is punished or oppressed. Equally, let us not make the mistake of assuming someone’s well-being or misfortune is related to their “moral goodness”. Jesus made this clear when some people asked him this very question: “There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” Our self-righteousness would have us believe that we are “good” and that if only God would eliminate all the “bad” people in the world, there will be bliss. I think we should pause for a minute to consider that we need to be careful what we wish for! The fact of the matter is this: you and I are responsible for this mess, not God, Satan or the government. It is your and my sin that has polluted this world, far worse than any carbon emissions. Every white lie told, every impure or hateful thought, every petty theft or violent crime – all are contributors to the global malaise. And unless we recognise the root cause of the problem and repent of it, we “will all likewise perish”.
I don’t want to leave it there, because the situation is not hopeless, but it does point to the very reason for the existence of this site: why we must be saved.
To give some more context, perhaps the clearest message I have heard on this subject, explaining the dynamic behind the spiritual forces at work in our world was delivered by my favourite Bible teacher, David Pawson. You can listen to it here: https://youtu.be/W2EJbTCd3m0