- Religion and Philosophy
Bad Things to Good People? or Good Things to Bad People?
"I talked to you last night."
It was just a matter of fact statement from a fellow associate at Home Depot. She caught my attention 'cause I hadn't seen her in two days. "Yep, in my dream." Now I was hooked and just a little freaked. I don't usually roam around in people's dreams. "I was asking you about why bad things happen to good people. You didn't answer me." "Sorry" I said. "Wanna talk?" We chatted just a little. HD doesn't appreciate associates entering into deep philosophical discussions when a customer is hovering around looking for light bulbs. It ended with my promise to bring her a better book than the Rabbi Harold Kushner's When Bad things Happen to Good People. A quick scan of Amazon will show you he's not the only person to write on this question.
What would you do with the answer?
There are a host of assumptions behind the question. An obvious one is that there is consensus on the definition of "good" and "bad." Another is that if we knew the answer life would go better. Try this one on. Your good friend is enduring a long terminal bout with cancer. You feel helpless and frustrated. The question keeps popping into your head. So Jesus himself appears to give you the answer. Will knowing the answer make you feel less helpless and frustrated? I doubt it. Maybe that's why some questions don't have answers, at least not helpful answers. How wise of me not to answer my friend in her dream!
But the question persists
Let's first dispense with two popular but very misguided answers. Kushner's answer is that God would love to fix all the wrongs but can't. Why do bad things happen to good people? 'Cause God can't help it. The God who introduces himself in the Scriptures is all powerful. There are hundreds of Bible passages that say that, but let's stick with one simple statement from Jesus. "With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26
The other answer I suggest you ignore is that God doesn't really care about fixing wrongs. Atheist don't believe there is a god. Agnostics don't know if there's one. Deists hold that if there is one, he is far removed from us and doesn't engage in human affairs at all. All three find the notion of a loving caring God rather fanciful and offensive.
The best answer
A young man named Joseph was once sold into Egyptian slavery by his jealous brothers. In Egypt he became a powerful bureaucrat second only to Pharaoh. When his brothers came to Egypt to buy food, Joseph was there to deal with them. It's a long story, but needless to say, the brothers feared that Joseph would avenge his mistreatment at their hands. But Joseph gave them a line that has rung down through history. "Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today." Genesis 50:19,20
The same thing can be said of those who crucified Jesus. If ever a bad thing happened to a good person this is it. But listen to this prayer offered by the disciples gathered in Jerusalem. "Truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place." Acts 4:27,28
In both cases something deemed bad by man was used for good by God. Methinks the answer to our question lies in this direction. But enough for now. This is the first of several hubs on this subject. I'm partial to short and simple. Besides, your responses will, no doubt, sharpen my next few hubs. So let me hear from you.