Why Do Good Things Happen to Bad People?

In Truth in a Culture of Doubt, Andreas Köstenberger, Darrell Bock, and Josh Chatraw provide a concise explanation of the interaction between evil, the wickedness of sin, the cause human suffering, the holiness of God, and how God is good to us when we don’t deserve it.

“According to the Bible, people hurting others for no legitimate reason is evil, but this is only part of what makes evil so intolerable. According to the Bible, evil is evil because it offends a holy and righteous God. The magnitude of this offense is difficult for humans to imagine, especially in this day and age when personal accountability is in increasingly short supply. We don’t like anyone telling us what to do.  But the Bible teaches that, in a general sense, all suffering is rooted in cosmic rebellion against a God who tried to tell us what to do. How dare he? Due to this rebellion the good and perfect world God created descended in a downward spiral. Because we all, not only corporately but also individually, are part of this rebellion, we approach the question of God and his role in human suffering with the notion that we are undeserving of this evil world. Yet the Bible sees things in view of the cosmic rebellion and insists that God graciously gives good things to the world despite our evil. From this perspective perhaps it would be more appropriate to speak of the ‘problem of good’: in view of all our individual and corporate evil, how is it that God, in his love, gives us so many of the good things we enjoy in this world?

While the Bible teaches that all people have turned away from their Creator, it doesn’t deny that there are ‘good’ people. Christian theologians have long pointed out that not all people, comparatively speaking, are equally ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ There is a difference between Adolf Hitler and Mother Teresa or between Osama bin Laden and Billy Graham. Normally, when considering the question, ‘How can bad things happen to good people?’ this is the type of comparative good or bad most have in mind. Indeed, the Bible asks the question at times in a similar way (consider the book of Job). But, though this is no doubt an unpopular notion, it is also important to accept that the Bible also teaches that, at a deeper level, we have all slapped God in the face, shaken our fists in rebellion against him, and told our Creator that we would do things our way (Rom 3:9-20). In view of God’s righteousness and holiness, what is shocking is that God didn’t respond with immediate justice. Instead, his merciful plan was to enter into his creation in the person of his Son in order to make things right and to overcome the evil of his creatures (Rom 5:8).

…the Bible says that suffering entered the world because God’s creatures rebelled. Despite this rebellion God entered into his creation to remind his creatures that he not only cares enough to suffer with us, but he also cares enough to establish a plan to make this world right again. The Bible does not glibly answer the question of evil and suffering by saying such things as that, with enough human effort, ‘there does not have to be world poverty.’ The Bible takes evil and suffering far too seriously to offer such a simplistic and naïve response.

Indeed, God wants humanity to serve him and seek to make this world a better place, but the Bible insists that no one other than the Creator himself will ultimately make things right again.”[1]


[1] Köstenberger, Bock, and Chatraw, Truth in a Culture of Doubt, B&H Publishing Group: Nashville, 2014, pp. 28-31.

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