Why Does God Not Give Justice to the Wicked?

Some wicked people do receive justice while they live. Think of Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden, as recent examples. They both were forced into hiding and died violent deaths. However, Job is correct that many sinful people seem to live a perfectly comfortable life and die peacefully.

If you are an atheist, the fact that evil people never face justice is a real problem for your worldview. Once a person dies, after all, there is no further chance for justice to be done. If you are a Christian, though, there is an afterlife and God promises that justice will be done.

So it is only in the Christian worldview that justice is guaranteed to be done for both the wicked and the righteous. God promises that each person will face the judgment seat and their thoughts and actions will be assessed by the Almighty Himself.   Whether a person receives justice during his earthly existence is, therefore, not the end of the story.

Commentary on Job 21

In the previous 20 chapters of the book of Job, Job’s three friends have argued that Job is being punished for sins he has committed. Their theology is simple: God always and immediately punishes the wicked and always and immediately blesses the righteous.

In chapter 20, Zophar summarizes this theology: “Surely you know how it has been from of old, ever since mankind was placed on the earth, that the mirth of the wicked is brief, the joy of the godless lasts but a moment.”

In chapter 21, Job answers Zophar. He starts in verses 1-3 by begging his “friends” to listen to him. Job requests that they stop mocking him for a moment and pay attention to what he has to say.

In verses 4-16, Job reminds his friends, first, of the horrible condition he is in. Then he begins to dismantle their faulty theology.  Job points out several facts about the wicked.  The wicked live to a ripe old age with their children. Their houses are secure, seemingly with no judgment from God.  The livestock of the wicked prosper, the wicked enjoy music, and the wicked even die in comfort. To top it off, they tell God to leave them alone! Contrary to Zophar’s theology, justice is not always and immediately meted out. Often the godless prosper and the godly perish.

On to verses 17-21. To Bildad’s claim that “the lamp of the wicked is snuffed out” (18:5) in death and that calamity and disaster are ready to overtake him (18:12), Job asks how often (three times in 21:17–18) do these things really happen? Theologian Roy Zuck, in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, notes, “This so-called fate allotted by God’s anger to the wicked hardly fits the facts. Sinners are seldom blown away suddenly and easily like straw or chaff.”

In verses 22-26, Job reminds us that one man dies having lived a full and vigorous life, while another man dies having lived a life of bitterness and deprivation. Yet both men end up in the same place after they die. Zuck reminds us,

Wealth or health are not ways by which to judge a person’s character. One may be wicked, and die either young or old; or he may be godly, and die either young or old. These facts obviously conform more to reality than did the rigid view of Job’s three prattling prosecutors.

In verses 27-34, Job wonders how it is that his friends are unaware of these facts. Do they not speak to travelers who can tell them numerous stories about how the wicked never face justice for their crimes? No, the wicked are often carried to their grave by a massive funeral procession, and given great honor, because no one dare challenge them while they are alive. Job’s friends are fools and their theology is bogus.

Can There Be Good Without Evil?

Many people seem to think that good and evil are equal and opposite, and that good cannot exist without evil. In the Bible, God is the Good and Satan always represents evil. Are God and Satan equals?

The book of Job answers this question once and for all. God is clearly in command and Satan cannot do anything without God’s permission. God is the Creator and Satan is the creature, so they are not in any sense equal to each other.

God has always existed and Satan has not. Therefore, good existed before evil. Today evil exists along with good, but that is only for a limited time. The Bible promises that at the second coming of Jesus, evil will be quarantined so that all those who love God (the Good) will no longer have to live with those who reject God (and do evil). So, yes, there can be good without evil because evil is the result of finite creatures rejecting God (the Good).

Does God Have a Good Purpose for All Evil?

Many Christians and non-Christians, alike, struggle with why God would allow so much seemingly senseless evil in the world. When a child is buried in the waters of a tsunami, how can there possibly be any good purpose for that? Can’t an all-powerful God do better?

I used to ask these questions myself, but over the years I’ve learned that even though my heart wants to impugn the character of God, my mind tells me that I’m just wrong. Why am I wrong?

The whole argument stands or falls on whether I can prove that God knowingly allows some evil that has no good purpose. But that is impossible. Norman Geisler explains, in his book If God, Why Evil?: A New Way to Think About the Question, why this argument fails:

Not only can no mortal assert with confidence that there can be no good purpose for some suffering (because we do not know it), but we can affirm with certainty that God does know the good purpose for all suffering and other evils. Why? Because God is omniscient, and an all-knowing mind knows everything.

Further, God is omnibenevolent, and an all-good God has a good purpose for everything He does or permits. Hence we know for sure that there is a good purpose for all suffering – including the apparently unjust or innocent kinds – even if we do not know it.

We, as finite human beings, cannot possibly hope to ever know the purpose for all instances of evil and suffering we see, but God, as infinitely knowing, can and does.

Let’s summarize this reasoning:

1. That we don’t know a good purpose for evil does not mean there is none.

2. An all-good God knows a good purpose for everything (including evil).

a. Some evil seems to us to have no good purpose.

b. But an all-good God has a good purpose for everything.

c. So even evil that seems to have no good purpose does have a good purpose.

3. Therefore, there is a good purpose for all suffering, even that which we cannot now explain.

We can be mad at God for allowing certain kinds of evil, but in the end we just don’t have the information He does. When we take our 4-year old to the doctor to receive vaccination shots, she is convinced that there is no good purpose for the suffering she is feeling when that needle enters her skin. But, as her mother knows, there is a good purpose for that needle. The child simply must trust her mother, and we must trust God.

Will God Defeat Evil?

Many skeptics make the following argument:

1. If God is all-good, He would defeat evil.

2. If God is all-powerful, He could defeat evil.

3. But evil is not defeated.

4. Therefore, no such God exists.

Does this argument work? Not according to theologian Norman Geisler. In his book If God, Why Evil?: A New Way to Think About the Question, Geisler explains why this argument fails.

Now, in this form of the argument, it would appear the first two premises are true. Certainly being all-good, God wants to defeat evil. And if He is all-powerful (and can do whatever is possible to do), then there must be some way He can overcome evil without destroying freedom. If not, then why create free creatures to begin with? Why waste all of human history on a project He knows will fail?

Since God is omniscient (all-knowing), knowing “the end from the beginning” (Isaiah 46:10), and since He has set aside a plan of redemption, including the death of His only Son (Revelation 13:8; Acts 2:23), and since He “chose us in Him before the creation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4), and since He infallibly predicts a victorious end of the world (Revelation 21–22; 1 Corinthians 15:25–28), then surely He has a plan that includes the defeat of evil without the destruction of freedom.

So what is wrong with the skeptic’s argument? The answer is found in premise 3.

The real problem then is in the third premise: “Evil is not defeated.” It has no time indicator on it. Since this is an argument in the present, it must be restated as follows:

1. If God is all-good, He would defeat evil.

2. If God is all-powerful, He could defeat evil.

3. But evil is not yet defeated.

4. Therefore, no such God exists.

When the argument is put in form, the conclusion doesn’t follow from the premises. Evil may yet be defeated in the future. It simply does not follow that because God has not yet defeated evil He never will. To claim so is like saying that because a speaker has not yet come to a conclusion in his lecture he never will. Give him a chance. Listen to the whole thing. History is not over. Let’s wait to hear “the rest of the story.” We have no infallible knowledge of the future. Given who God is – keep in mind that He is all-powerful and all-good – we have every right to expect that He will defeat evil.