For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. (Psalm 139:13-14 ESV)
Open the newspaper, turn on the television news, click onto any of the hundreds of news websites and you will see it: bad things happen to good people every day. We see reports of natural disasters taking the lives of tens, hundreds, even thousands. We read of people dying at the hands of terrorists and man men, almost on a weekly basis it seems these days. Then there are the tragic stories of folks dying in freak accidents, the fault of no one or no thing, such as the case of the couple who recently had such a tragic accident on their motorcycle. Frequently these incidents lead us to wonder why bad things happen to good people.
The answer is not usually an easy, clear-cut one; many times we are left with no real satisfying answer to the question. But often we wonder why God let these things happen and even blame Him for these things. For some, perhaps many, folks the reasoning goes something like this:
- The world is filled with suffering and evil
- God created the world
- Therefore God is to blame
While the first two points are unquestionably true, the final point, the conclusion, is a far cry from the correct answer. The truth is, and we rarely want to hear this truth, that we, human beings, are the ones who hold the bag of responsibility in the end. Let us examine, biblically, why it is I say that the blame lies with us, not upon God.
God created the world good
Gen 1:1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
Gen 1:31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.
God made the whole of creation absolutely perfect. At this point there was no death, no sickness, no “anything” that was not good.
God created people with the ability to choose
Gen 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
In many places in God’s Word it is made clear that we have a choice, freewill, as to what we will do in a given situation. Joshua presents one of the most memorable and often quoted examples of this:
Jos 24:15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
And Jesus Himself asked a similar question of the Twelve:
John 6:67 Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?
It has been said that the single biggest thing that sets people apart from animals is the fact that, being made in God’s image, we have a God-consciousness and can make moral decisions that animals don’t have and can’t make. God made us for His pleasure, to honor and worship Him; He made us to love Him. If we had no choice in the matter we would be robot-like and would not be able to truly love God – or anything, anyone else for that matter. Therefore, God gave us the gift, responsibility, really, of freewill choice. And it is a gift that humans often don’t use well history teaches us.
People chose evil
Gen 2:16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:
Gen 2:17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
God gave Adam and Eve the choice or obey Him or to disobey Him; they chose to disobey, they chose evil. Adam and Eve chose sin.
Their choice brought evil into the world
Rom 5:12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:
J. B. Phillips, an English Bible scholar, translator, author and clergyman, wrote, “Exercise of free choice in the direction of evil … is the basic reason for evil and suffering in the world.” When we are tempted to blame God for the bad things and evil in this world, we need to stop and remember that is was us, mankind, that introduced sin and evil into the world – not God.
Their choices had lasting consequences
Since the Fall in the Garden of Eden the world is no longer good. The Bible explains it like this:
Rom 8:20-22 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, (21) Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. (22) For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
Adam and Eve’s action brought on not only their spiritual death but also a curse on all creation. Nature began to revolt, if you will, under this curse: genetic breakdown began, pain and death became a part of the human experience, as well as the plant and animal kingdoms. The good creation was now marred and no more. We now live in an unjust world that made is chaotic and unfair by a humanity rebelling against its Creator.
When we hear about children starving in third world countries what is our first thought? I’m going to make a stretch here and guess it isn’t maybe we should not be so indulgent, the ones with plenty and make a very concerted effort to help the less fortunate. Did you know that the earth produces enough food to provide every person on it with three 3000 calorie meals each day? God provides; we just don’t steward well.
When an innocent person is killed by a drunk driver do we think that blame lies with God for allowing it? What about the choice the driver made, the series of choices actually, that were wrong, evil, and culminated with the death of an innocent person? It is, again, humans using their freedom of choice to do evil, not good, that caused this bad thing to happen.
We could go on and on with illustrations and examples but I think these two give you a pretty solid idea of where the real blame or responsibility lays: sinful people making sinful choices cause evil and bad things to happen.
Okay, you say, what about earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters, what about disease, what about cancer? Surely God must bear the responsibility for these things that just happen, that no one caused by making an evil choice, right? No, He doesn’t. These things were never a part of His plan for humanity or the earth. Remember, when Adam and Eve chose to sin in the Garden they brought devastation upon the whole of creation; without their sin there would be no natural disasters, there would be no genetic breakdowns that lead to disease, there would be no cancer. Again, people making bad decisions caused bad, very bad, things to happen.
Now for a moment, think about all of the good things that happen to us. Think about all of the unexpected, and undeserved, blessings that happen in all of our lives. Perhaps the question we should be asking is not “Why do bad things happen to good people?” but “why go good things happen to bad people?”