Monday, October 6, 2014

Why do the Wicked Succeed?

      We humans have quite a sense of justice. To illustrate my point, let me show you what I mean with an example I read once.

      You're walking home from a friend's house, glancing down occasionally to glance at the note about what a good friend you are that your friend was kind enough to send home with you. Then suddenly, Mitch, the neighborhood bully rushes by on his bike, snatching your note and rides off ahead of you, laughing meanly. He's biking much faster than you can run, so you just sit there with a shocked look on your face. Mitch, glancing down to look at the note he just snatched from your hand, rides straight into a stop sign, falling to the ground with an audible grunt and a satisfactory little crunch when he hits the ground. You run up, snatch your note from his limp fingers, and walk home.

     You're probably thinking about now, "What did that story prove?" If you're like me, you instantly get this feeling of "Ha, he got what he deserved" when Mitch runs into the stop sign. Some of you may have even laughed out loud. Why? Because we like the poetic justice of it. Mitch gets punished for his wrong behavior, and you come out unscathed. If you've ever watched 50's and 60's westerns, you've seen the same idea of justice. The bad guy always loses and the good guy always wins. We like that idea!

     In Psalm 73, Asaph, the psalmist, writes a psalm that, to me, is impressively honest. Asaph's point of the psalm is the injustice he sees when he, a righteous man, is weary and weak, while the wicked are prosperous and successful. His original conclusion is that this makes no sense. Why would those that are wicked be more powerful than those that obey God? (v.12) And if that is the case, why would he worry about keeping a pure heart with God? (v. 13)

     His contrast between the wicked and the righteous is very disheartening. After having listed all the ways the wicked are more successful (v. 3-12), he then devotes some time to the righteous (v. 2, 14-16). One of the reasons I think this psalm may strike a chord in many Christians is that we see it around us. Constantly, we see non-Christians take political office, we hear of the persecution against Christians in foreign lands, and we feel the hate and anger of many against Christians today in our culture.

     Solomon discusses the same things in Ecclesiastes (Ecc. 2:13-16). Solomon's conclusion is similar to Asaph's. Solomon states that life is vain because no matter his wisdom or riches, he dies just as the fool dies. Asaph states that no matter his righteousness or the fool's ungodliness, the unrighteous remain more powerful than the godly.

     However, amidst all this melancholy, both men find the answer to the question. Solomon ends his pursuit of wisdom and the point of life in Ecclesiastes 12:13, "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man." Man's duty is not to be wealthy and powerful; it is to fear God, and obey his commandments.

     Asaph answers his question in v. 16, 17 of Psalm 73, "When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me; Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end." Asaph was disheartened until he went into the presence of God, the power that we possess that the unrighteous do not. We have access with God through Jesus Christ.

     Asaph's answer comes at his realization of God's sovereignty. God has placed those whom he chooses in these positions of power, and he works his will through them. God has placed them in dangerous positions, and He does as He pleases. All men are under his subjection, and he works his will through them. By the same token, we can trust his justice. The wicked's time will come, even if we do not see it. God delays it because of His mercy, but their time will come.

     So, what is the application here? What we see the world doing around us, how prosperous they are, how successful they are, and how wealthy they are has nothing to do with our duty. As Solomon stated, our pursuit of God is carried out by fearing Him through learning about Him, and by obeying His commandments. God can be trusted to take care of the wicked without our help.

     Is it still gonna frustrate us? Absolutely! But at the end of the day, if we truly trust God, then we can trust that his ways are not only higher than ours, but his timing is as well.


  1. Great job, Taylor! It was really encouraging and answered a VERY common question tons of people have!

  2. Thanks for the encouragement, Ryan!