Why bad things happen to good people

I want to write an article today that I have trouble believing. Not because it’s hard to believe, but because I don’t like believing it. I guess that’s part of the trouble, there are things that we don’t want to be true, but truth exists despite our desires… sigh.

Anyway, the article is basically surrounding this statement: I know why bad things happen to good people.

I’ll bet several of you are going to guess that I’m going to say something like…

  • To develop them, strengthen them and grow them up
  • For the betterment of those around them
  • For some unseen reason known only to God

Actually, those are all pretty good theological/philosophical positions. My answer won’t be nearly that clever, or popular.

So, why do bad things happen to good people? Well, I don’t really think there are good people.

Told you that wouldn’t be a popular answer.

The anguish over the question of why bad things happen to good people is one of injustice. How can someone good suffer loss? How can pain be justified in a good person’s life? Where is the logic in bad things happening to someone who only does good?

These are all great arguments against a God who is supposed to be all good and all-powerful. But, they come from a flawed presupposition.

There are no good people.

And if there are no good people, then there is really no question of injustice.

One of the greatest references in the Bible to this thought played out is one of the most difficult passages to explain if I am wrong.

Uzzah and the Ark
2 Samuel 6:5 And David and all the house of Israel were making merry before the Lord, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals. 6 And when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. 7 And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah, and God struck him down there because of his error, and he died there beside the ark of God. 8 And David was angry because the Lord had burst forth against Uzzah. And that place is called Perez-uzzah, to this day.

It must be a bummer to be Uzzah, eh?

Just a paraphrase, they were having a great church service and one of the ministers (Uzzah) tries to make sure the Ark of the Covenant does not fall down and hit the dirt. So, he lifts his hand up to steady the ark.

And… God kills him.

Say what!!! That is so unfair. The dude was serving God. He was trying to do the right thing. It was just a reflex. He was trying to protect the ark.

On top of all these objections, doesn’t it seem like God overreacted just a tad? I mean wouldn’t some boils or blindness do the trick? Did God really have to kill him?

Again, all this comes from the position that Uzzah was innocent when this horrible thing happened to him. He just wanted to keep the ark from getting dirty.

As Matt Chandler from the Village Church in Plano, Texas, says, Uzzah tried to keep the ark from getting dirty, but his own hand was filthy. The dirt had never rebelled against God, but the hands of man were covered in rebellion.

Psalm 14:2 The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man,
to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. 3 They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.

Isaiah 64:6 All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

God established the law. No one was to put a hand on the Ark. Despite his good intentions, he had broken the law. Maybe if he had been completely innocent and without sin his intentions would outweigh the mistake, but he was not.

He was guilty, God was just, and even though it’s hard to accept… there is no one good.

We struggle with this, and some of you are probably a little upset with me even as you read. It’s because we live in a culture of comparison. We think of the most righteous person we know and hope that someday, before we die, we are as “good” as them.

We look at the most wicked person we know, and we are thankful we are so much “better” than they. But neither of those comparison points are the standard. God is the standard and any other measure short of that is illusion and false security.

Think about high school. Remember how you thought that guy who played first chair in the band would be one of the best musicians in the world? Remember how that star running back was so easily going to play in the NFL? Remember how that gal who played lead in the senior play was well on her way to an Oscar?

So, how did all that work out for them?

The problem was, once we got out into the real world we realized that there were much better musicians, a lot more athletic athletes, and she really couldn’t act. But, we were so focused on seeing them as the best people in the room, that we thought they must be the best people ever.

We do the same thing with righteousness. In a world of evil and brokenness we see people who appear good, maybe even righteous in themselves.

But, even a hotdog looks good to a starving chef.

We cannot define righteousness/goodness on a backdrop of an evil and broken world. We will get skewed results every time.

None of us are as righteous as we think, especially when we compare ourselves with the real standard. When we compare our lives, character and spirit with the God of the universe… there is no one that is good.

But, some of you theologically astute individuals will now argue that in Christ we have been made good. Surely, these who have been redeemed, reconciled, restored and all the other religious ‘re’ words are now good and should be exempt from bad things happening to them, right?

Let’s just answer that with two comments.

  1. If we were evil, but we have been justified by Christ, isn’t that blessing enough? Do we really have the right to call foul for bad things happening when our righteousness is not even our own?
  2. If bad things happened to Jesus (who had His own righteousness), how in the world could we ever think we would be exempt?

This is not my favorite thought, but I do love the sense that it makes.

Why do bad things happen to good people? They don’t. There are no good people.

As inherently evil people, everything we get that is not wrath, smiting or punishment is a blessing. So, we need to quit looking for the things that seem unfair and pursue a life of thankfulness for the mercy we have received.

I have not suffered as much as many and can’t even begin to identify with the troubles of millions. I am not making light of yours, or anyone’s pain.

But, I hope you will be able to put into perspective the difficulties of your life and the struggles of those you know by understanding that more ‘unjust’ than our suffering is the blessing we have received that we have never deserved, nor could ever afford.

Be blessed in Christ alone.

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