I’ve asked it. You’ve asked it. We’ve all asked it.
Why do evil people succeed? Why does the Lord allow his people to suffer while the wicked prosper in life?
I’ve asked these questions countless times, even as recent as this morning. Actually, these questions are so common that we even find numerous Biblical accounts in which the Lord is questioned for what appears to be the wicked prospering despite their evil ways.
Jeremiah asked, “Why are the wicked so prosperous? Why are evil people so happy?” (Jer. 12:1). Job asked, “Why do the wicked prosper, growing old and powerful? … [T]he light of the wicked never seems to be extinguished. Do they ever have trouble? Does God distribute sorrows to them in anger?” (Job 21:7, 17). And David asked, “O Lord, why do you stand so far away? Why do you hide when I am in trouble?” (Ps. 10:1).
The same things we question today have clearly been questioned for many lifetimes. Nevertheless, it’s undoubtedly trying to witness the success of the wicked all awhile we suffer, sometimes even at the expense of the very actions that lead to their success.
While I’d like to say the next few lines will provide clear answers to these questions, they won’t. Rather, you’ll find that what appears is not always as it is.
Culture Defined Success
We humans like to define success based on the things of this world. Twenty-first century culture tells us that to be successful we must get richer, look better, have more, and be known by many regardless of who we must crush along the way. And this false presumption is far from God’s truth. It’s a sad and disheartening reality that can blind us from God’s promises as we observe in disbelief and envy the already rich win the lottery, the corrupt employee receive the promotion we’ve been longing for, or the wealthy parents take their kiddos on yet another luxurious vacation while the closest thing to vacation our kids will experience is to the local park.
Earthly vs. Heavenly Success
I’m sure you already, much like myself as I pen these words, have a very specific person or even a particular group of people that has surfaced in your mind.
So… they appear to have succeeded despite their evil ways. They appear free regardless of the lies they’ve told. They appear to be perfectly healthy despite their selfish behaviors. They appear happy and free of suffering though their greed has led to the pain and suffering of others.
But, that’s just it … they appear. From our viewpoint they appear successful — they appear to be blessed in spite of their wickedness — yet hidden from the public eye, concealed beneath the pride and strained grins, are broken souls starving for something more.
The souls of the wicked may appear to “have it all” in accordance to the twenty-first century definition of success, and though we may suffer as followers of Christ, we have found success of which is far greater than any one might find here on earth.
Shifting Our Prosperity Perspective
Our perspective on prosperity begins to shift when we focus not on success as it is defined by the world but instead as it is defined by our gracious Redeemer. For though we believe in the Lord we remain sinners merely saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:1-10). And there will soon be a day when “the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father and will judge ALL people according to their deeds” (Mt. 16:27, emphasis mine).
“Don’t worry about the wicked or envy those who do wrong.
For like grass, they soon fade away. Like spring flowers, they soon wither.” (Ps. 37:1-2)
“Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you.” (vv. 3-5, emphasis mine)
Consider It All Success
The wicked may continue to appear to prosper but I choose to trust in the unfailing words of our Lord for He is good and His promises never fail (Lk. 1:37; 18:19). I will consider all that I am in Christ and all that I have through Christ a success for there will come a day when my enemies, too, will have to stand before the King and answer for all they have done.
As in the words of Solomon, “even though a person sins a hundred times and still lives a long time, I know that those who fear God will be better off. The wicked will not prosper, for they do not fear God. Their days will never grow long like the evening shadows.” (Ecc. 8:12-13).