This is a several part series on the question of how God treats good and bad people. Someone recently said to me that they wondered why good things were not happening in life, even though he had been a good person. Here is the first question:
Should good things happen for good people?
You may have heard the expression that God will give an answer, but it might be Yes, No or Later.
Yes. There is a general principal that good things follow natural choices. This is a matter of making wise choices. For example, wearing your seat belt gives you a better chance to survive an accident. So choosing to be honest, decent, fair, thoughtful and just should have good consequences.
Beyond that there is a personal principle, by this I refer to the promises of God to bless and reward. For example, Deuteronomy 6:5, “…be careful to obey so that it may go well with you…” This is the idea that the Lord actively rewards (or punishes) behavior, beyond the natural consequences of our choices.
No. However, there is also a recognition that “…time and chance happen to all…” as it says in Ecclesiastes 9:11. That is to say, stuff happens that does not make sense to us. These appear to be “chance” or “bad luck.” We believe with our faith that God is in control, but we often see with our eyes things that do not fit what we think to be true.
This is a major point of the book of Job. Job suffered great calamities and he did not know why they happened. His friends said that since God rewards and punishes us for our actions, that Job must have done something unjust or offensive. They were wrong. Their explanation was too simple and legalistic. We learn from their example that we can not always know why bad things happen to good people, or good things happen to bad people. God’s ways are mysterious to us.
Later. Some of the care and reward from God is in the present. In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray “Give us this day our daily bread.” The idea is that each day we are given what we need to get along. Some of them come during our lives but we have to wait. One example of that is the father of our faith, Abraham. He was promised a land and descendants as numerous as the stars. However, he did not own any of the promised land, except for a piece of land to bury his wife Rachel. He did not have a son until he was nearly 100 years of age. The the promises were true, but slow in coming.
Some of the rewards and punishments are reserved for the future. There is a Hall of Fame for Faith in Hebrews 11. We find some of the great people of the Bible listed there, such as Noah, Abraham, Joseph and Moses. We also find un-named martyrs, who did not receive anything in this life:
36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised…
What we have as believers is Faith: That is a certainty about the character of God and the promises of God. But Faith is not only what we see, it is most often what we can not see.
Homework: If this makes you anxious, let me suggest a prescription. Take Psalm 23 three times a day with thought and prayer. Read or say it slowly, phrase by phrase as a meditation and or a prayer in the morning, around noon and at night.
The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
3 He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord