Why Do The Wicked Prosper and I Do Without?
by Randy Sessions
Ridgecrest Baptist Church
February 23, 1997 (AM)
Eccl. 7:15; 8:14 (Jer. 12:1-2)
Let's begin by asking ourselves why we should ever ask such a question. The answer is obvious. It is easy for us to look around and see many prosperous people who are cheats, liars, and thieves. Our nature leads us to wrongly conclude that they are prosperous because they are as they are. Instead, we should learn that the prosperity they now enjoy is in spite of their tendency toward wickedness. As the cynic in the book of Ecclesiastes says, "Good citizens are treated as criminals, while criminals are honored as though they were good citizens." Yes, it happens all around us. But if God is truly good and righteous in His dealings with mankind, why is this so?
This is a question that is as old as mankind and as universal as the air he breaths. Job, one of the most ancient men in the Bible said to God, "Do not condemn me; Show me why You contend with me. (3) Does it seem good to You that You should oppress, That You should despise the work of Your hands, And smile on the counsel of the wicked? " (Job 10:2-3) . The prophet Jeremiah asked almost the same thing of God: "Whenever I complain to you, Lord, you are always fair. But now I have questions about your justice. Why is life easy for sinners? Why are they successful? 2 ... you let them prosper ... Yet even when they praise you, they don't mean it." (Jeremiah 12:1-2 (CEV)). As old as this question may be it is still of contemporary concern. To put it plainly, it just seems unfair to most of us that God would let the wicked prosper while we do without many things we want, and sometimes even those things we truly seem to need.
In order to properly understand any of this we must first:
- Understand the differences in God's view of prosperity and our view of prosperity.
- Prosperity is more than material wealth. Let's face it, people, we are all incredibly conscious of material possessions. The problem with that is focus. If we are focused on wealth we can't be focused on God. It is somewhat like natural vision. The human eye can't focus on two objects at the same time. As we shift our gaze from one object to another, the first, while still present in our sight has become non-central in to our vision. In relation to this Jesus said, "You cannot serve God and money" (Matt. 6:24). "But doesn't God want us to prosper?" you ask. That question can only be answered by looking at God's value system.
- God addresses the accumulation of wealth. Jesus said that riches can actually choke out the word of God which has been sown in a person's heart (Matt. 13:22). He said that it's hard for the rich to enter God's kingdom (Mark 10:23-24; Luke 18:24). Paul told Timothy to instruct the rich people in his church not to trust in their riches or become haughty because of them (1 Tim. 6:17). Listen to Proverbs 23:5b (NKJV) "...riches certainly make themselves wings; They fly away like an eagle toward heaven." In other words we would say, "Easy come, easy go."
- Jesus questions the true value of earthly possessions when He asks, "For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matt. 16:26).
- God gives us some insight on things which are more valuable than earthly goods.
- A value cannot be placed on a person's reputation. "A good reptutation and respect are worth much more than silver and gold." (Proverbs 22:1 (CEV))
- Good health is a type of prosperity. "Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers." (3 John 2 (NKJV))
- The wealth inherent in having a family is a blessing from God.
- Concerning children: "Children are a blessing and a gift from the Lord. 4 Having a lot of children ... is like a warrior with a lot of arrows. 5 The more you have, the better off you will be..." (Psa. 127:3-5a (CEV)).
- And of wives we read: Prov 19:14 (NKJV) Houses and riches are an inheritance from fathers, But a prudent wife is from the LORD.
- Knowing God through Christ is the most important prosperity of all. Paul describes the blessings of salvation as "the unsearchable riches of Christ," (Eph. 3:8 (NKJV)).
POINT: The human view of prosperity generally focuses on material possessions. God views prosperity in a far different way. When we learn to see prosperity as God sees it we will find ourselves less concerned with the material prosperity of the wicked.
- In spite of that we still are often overwhelmed with a sense of unfairness. In order to cope with the fact the we sometimes lack what others enjoy we must learn that:
- God has set certain laws of nature in motion. These laws might be called laws of processes. By and large, He allows them to function without interruption. When He does interrupt them, that is what we call a miracle. Knowing that miracles are exceptions to rules we expect the rules to be the normal mode of operation. First, we will see some examples of natural laws in other areas, then we shall see some of these rules that affect our earthly prosperity or lack of prosperity.
- Some examples of natural laws:
- The law of child rearing: Prov 29:15, 17 (NKJV) The rod and rebuke give wisdom, But a child left to himself brings shame to his mother. ... 17 Correct your son, and he will give you rest; Yes, he will give delight to your soul.
- Laws governing the consequences of certain actions or conduct: Prov 30:33 (CEV) If you church milk you get butter; if you pound on you nose you get blood, and if you stay angry you get in trouble.
- The law of growth is illustrated in Mark 4:1-8 (esp. v.8). If you want something to grow best, plant it in the best soil.
- The law of sowing and reaping: Gal 6:7 (NKJV) Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.
- Natural laws directly related to prosperity.
- Laziness produces lack. 1 Th 4:11-12 (NKJV) ...aspire to ... work with your own hands ..., 12 ... that you may lack nothing.
- Waste produces poverty. The story of the prodigal son in Luke 15 (esp. 13 & 14) exemplifies this perfectly.
- Debt produces servitude.
- Whether your own: Prov 22:7 (NKJV) "The rich rules over the poor, And the borrower is servant to the lender." Remember, "no man can serve two masters..."
- Or as comaker for another: Prov 22:26 Do not be one of those who shakes hands in a pledge, One of those who is surety for debts;
- Stay current on all obligations. Often this means passing by the "extras" and learning to be frugal. Rom 13:7-8 (NKJV) "Render therefore to all their due: ... 8 Owe no one anything except to love one another..."
- Money invested is better than money horded (or spent). John 12:24 (NKJV) "... unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain."
NOTE: You may already know that Jesus was talking about giving His life as a sacrifice so that many could be saved. This, too, is the principle of investment. He invested His life to gain many more lives. Conversely, "He who loves his life shall lose it..." or in the words of Princess Leia, "The more you tighten your grip, the more will slip through your fingers."
- There are also some spiritual laws that deal with prosperity.
- You will receive in proportion to what you give. Luke 6:38 (NKJV) "Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you."
- Dishonest gain will not remain. Prov 13:11 (NKJV) Wealth gained by dishonesty will be diminished, But he who gathers by labor will increase.
- Generosity toward others in need will be blessed by God. Prov 28:27 (NKJV) He who gives to the poor will not lack, But he who hides his eyes will have many curses.
- The first portion of all gain belongs to the Lord. Prov 3:9-10 Honor the LORD with your possessions, And with the firstfruits of all your increase; 10 So your barns will be filled with plenty, And your vats will overflow with new wine.
POINT: One of the principle reasons that we have less the we might otherwise have is because of poor management coupled with disregard for Biblical principles of handling finances.
- In fairness to one another, we must acknowledge that conditions and events beyond human control often dictate a person's level of prosperity. Even then, however, one's condition can usually be made better when he lives by the principles discussed above.
- On the subject of fairness, God owes no man anything.
- It is only by His grace that any of us have the quality of life we now enjoy. This applies equally to the just and the unjust. It is like the sunshine and the rain; as it falls on the earth, neither makes exceptions on the basis of a man's character.
- Concerning salvation, God's grace falls only on those who trust in His Son and come to Him according to His own plan.
- If God dealt fairly, or justly, with man all of us would be doomed to die in our sins. Rom 3:23 (NKJV) "...all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."
- Instead He has granted mercy in the name of His Son, Jesus.
- Rom 6:23 (NKJV) "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
- Rom 5:8b (NKJV) "...while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
- "Mercy" means that we do not receive the punishment that we justly deserved because Jesus bore the punishment of all our sin. This is not "fair" to Jesus but He did it for us.
- God has also granted us grace. In "grace" we receive the good blessings of God that we do not justly deserve. This is not "fair" either, but no complains about it! Eph 2:8-9 (NKJV) "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast."
- Something else about God that isn't fair: When anyone comes to Him through faith in Jesus Christ, He never turns them down. John 6:37 (NKJV) ""All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out."
CONCLUSION: It is true that what goes on in the world sometimes appears to be unfair. It is also true that God has a higher purpose for every apparent injustice. It is likewise true that God deals mercifully and graciously to all who are willing to receive Him into their lives. And sadly, it is true that God will repay evil for evil upon all who do not repent of their sins and turn to Him. The prosperity of the world that the wicked currently enjoy is fleeting at best. It will quickly fly away in the face of God's judgment. It behooves all who consider themselves deserving of better, "not to think of themselves more highly" than is appropriate; rather each one should humble himself before God. "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness" and many good things will be heaped upon it.
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