By Dr Biodun Sotunmbi
Theme: Why Does The Righteous Suffer And The Wicked Prosper? Ps. 73:1-14
It is important to look closely at our text and see what it has to offer in relation to this theme. The points made by the Psalmist can be grouped into 3 categories.
1. He acknowledges the fact that God is good to his nation, Israel, especially to those who are pure in heart.
2. But He is puzzled about God’s “apparent negligence” in allowing the wicked to prosper when everyone else should see them wallow in physical, material and mental poverty and distress.
3. He complains in verses 12-14 concerning his own situation - he does the will of God and yet he goes through the kind of hardships that the wicked do not have to endure.
Finally the Psalmist seems to ask God, why? Jeremiah, the Prophet, too, asks a similar question in Jeremiah 12:1-4
So does Habakkuk in Habakkuk 1:1-4.
And you and I too!
We ask, why are answers to our prayers delayed? And sometimes the answers do not come the way we expect? Not even the great Apostle Paul escaped this predicament 2Cor. 12:7-10.
We look around us and see women who desire to marry, get suitors and, in no time, get married and children follow. They do not have to fast and pray. No delay.
Those who may be looking for jobs are able to secure one or even two, depending on how well-connected their parents or other relations are. They do not have to go to a prayer-mountain for months on end.
On the other hand many children of God face hardships in many areas of life. Some even experience untimely death. Why?
Before we consider God’s own side of the story let us define what we understand by the term Righteous, Wicked, Prosperity, Suffering.
Who are the righteous? They are the ones who are holy, who live according the will of God, not some of the time, but all the time. Very and few believers meet this requirement, I John 1:8-10.
Therefore the safest definition of the righteous is those whose sins are covered, Zech 3:1-5.
So, no one can look God in the face, and say “how can you allow this to happen to me, knowing as you do, that I am righteous”? Lk. 18:19
The wicked are those who deny the existence of God, Eph. 2:1-3. Those who commit acts of cruelty against man or beast, knowing that their action is wrong and inexcusable.
In the context of this presentation prosperity refers to the general well-being of a person including wealth.
Suffering exists in two categories
1. The experience of punishment for crime-committed or sin against God.
2. Suffering attendant to committed service to God. An example is the experience of Paul the Apostle 2Cor. 11:23-33
3. Suffering as a trial of faith. An example is Job.
So why does the wicked prosper?
In the first place the prosperity of the wicked is short lived. Compared to eternity life on earth is short indeed. Now to the question why does the wicked prosper, even if for a time?
God allows the wicked to flourish
To give them a long rope so that they may have the opportunity to abandon their evil ways and repent if they so wish. For those who persist in their sinful habits their unenviable end may serve as example to both the wicked and the righteous 2Kings 9:30-37. In any case they will surely end up in hell.
So, then, why should the righteous suffer?
1. Some do, on account of their sins. An example is God’s own favourite, loyal follower, King David. He committed adultery and, in his attempt to cover up his tracts, eliminated the husband of his mistress. He paid dearly for his sins, 2Sam. 12:7-12.
2. For some other believers, though, suffering is a trial of their faith, a test of their loyalty to God. An outstanding example is Job. He passed the test and God rewarded him mightily, Job. 42:10-17.
3. In any case, at the core of the Christian faith is suffering. Jesus Christ was sinless. Yet throughout His ministry on earth, He was harassed, insulted and finally executed by those He came to the world to save, and reconcile to God.
So, if His followers suffer persecution why should they complain? John 16:33. Their final reward is not in the world but in the hereafter, Mark 10:29-30.