Why do the wicked prosper, while God’s chosen people barely scrape by? Many of the heroes of the Bible were wealthy: Abraham, Joseph, David, Solomon, Job, Esther and others. Yet now, God does not use a large bank account as a form of blessing.
We are not alone in this complaint. Several Old Testament figures were just as perplexed as we are. Notice Jeremiah’s prayer:Righteous are You, O Lord, when I plead with You; yet let me talk with You about Your judgments. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why are those happy who deal so treacherously? (Jeremiah 12:1)
Job has the same lament:Why do the wicked live and become old, yes, become mighty in power? Their descendants are established with them in their sight, and their offspring before their eyes. Their houses are safe from fear, neither is the rod of God upon them. Their bull breeds without failure; their cow calves without miscarriage. They send forth their little ones like a flock, and their children dance. They sing to the tambourine and harp, and rejoice to the sound of the flute. They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave. (Job 21:7-13)
This question pops up in the Psalms as well: “Lord, how long will the wicked, how long will the wicked triumph?” (Psalm 94:3). It seems to offend the human sense of justice and order when the unrighteous are not crushed immediately and to our satisfaction. We want evil cursed and destroyed and good blessed and promoted uniformly no matter what.
Sometimes we make things more complicated than they have to be. God’s plan is really very simple: Obedience and faith lead to salvation (Matthew 6:33). If we are truly seeking His Kingdom, we will be faithful and obedient to God. This simple blueprint guides our Christian lives.
Yet we have trials, and we search for the “why” of it all. We look for deep, earth-shattering answers. The answers, however, may be so simple that we have glossed over them in our pursuit of the deep things.
After puzzling over the reasons why blessings seem to accrue to the wicked, David hit upon a simple answer and wrote it as Psalm 37. His solution is concise and easy to remember: Do good, trust God and don’t worry. What could be more clear?
Why do the wicked prosper? Some succeed due to Satan’s influence. God may allow others to grow wealthy to try our character. Many steal their way to riches. The rob banks, rob the poor, and basically do anything to get ahead. Some rob their families by working around the clock in order to obtain wealth.Some spend many years in universities and trade schools in order to gain easy money and prestige. Some inherit their wealth. A few seek to be rich, like the lottery winners, Wall Street players, and gamblers of all sorts. There are many reasons why uncalled and unrepentant people seem so successful.
In the end it really doesn’t matter how blessed the wicked have become! Their fortunes are completely out of our hands. God will deal with them when it is appropriate, and only He knows when that time will come. What is under our control is how we respond to it and—far more importantly—how we handle what God has given us. Rather than gaze enviously at their wealth, we should strive to reach the apostle Paul’s example: “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content” (Philippians 4:11). He writes in I Timothy 6:8-10: And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
Remember, riches are the consolation of the wicked! (Lk 6:24) This life is all they get folks. Hell and damnation awaits them forever and ever. James said it this way, “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days. Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter” (Jam 5:1-5).
Whether we prosper financially or not, we know that God has our best interests at heart (Romans 8:28). We can rely on Jesus’ promise in Matthew 6:33 that God will give us what we need if we keep our focus on the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. It is that simple. Do good, trust God and don’t worry!
In the end of all things, the better question to ask is not why the wicked prosper here on earth, but why will the righteous gain eternal life and live forever with God, Christ and his holy angels? It is because they have obeyed the gospel of Christ and continued in His doctrine (Mk 16:16 f; 2 Jn 9). It is for this cause the righteous have chosen to walk in the steps of the Savior (1 Pet 2:20,21). It may not be profitable to be a servant of God in this life, but in the life to come, Christians shall inherit riches untold!