Do you know anyone who is really mean or exceedingly unethical, and also is rich and seemingly happy with life? It’s the age-old question re-worded. Why do good things happen to bad people? One of the wealthiest people in the world is Kim Jong-il, the dictator in North Korea. The people of that nation are cut-off from the rest of the world. They have experienced starvation. They have no religious freedoms. The media is run by the state. Why is their leader allowed to live a life of ease while such a high percentage of the citizenry wallows in poverty, often unable to even have enough food to eat?
Job asserts that good things happen to bad people all the time! He refers to them as “the wicked.” He who has lost everything (Job 1:13-19; 2:7-8) looks at the wicked and sees family wholeness and security in the home (Job 21:8-9, 11). The have success in farming (21:10). And in general, they rejoice because their lives are so good (21:12-13).
Job’s miserable experience has led him to believe that God is against him but is indifferent toward the wicked. And the wicked return the indifference. Job has the wicked ask, “What is the Almighty that we should serve Him? And what profit do we get if we pray to him?”
Job is not asking that question, but he says the wealthy wicked ask it because their lives are so blessed. What do they need God for? They have everything.
It would be a neat exercise to through these questions out to faithful believers today. What is the Almighty that we should serve Him? And what profit do we get if we pray to him? Why do we need God? I say it would be a neat exercise because I am convinced that disciples who earnestly follow Jesus would be able to answer these questions in a variety of creative and thoughtful ways. And I think those answers would be edifying to other Christians.
Answers to these questions he never intended to be answered would not necessarily help Job or anyone who suffers understand the cause of their plight. But, hearing the testimony of the faithful as they pour out their reasons for worshipping God and following Jesus would remind the sufferer who sees the world only through pain-tinted lenses that suffering is not all there is. Joy exists too and we can ask God to lead us to joy and to give us joy.
The joy of God will never come as we imagine it. It is from God and Job’s friends are right. We cannot fathom the depths of God’s existence. But, we can trust. The joy of God does come. Even in bad times, we can trust that God is good. Even when the Kim Jon-ils of the world prosper while millions ache in poverty that was imposed upon them, we can believe that God has a plan. God has a plan that involves deep, intimate, unending relationship with those who turn to Him and eternal alienation from and damnation on those who disregard God, like dictators who live fat and happy while their people have nothing.