Summary: The parable tells four basic truths: 1. There seems to be injustice in the way the world works. 2. The evil in the world is the work of the evil one. 3. There is a reason God tolerates evil. 4. There is a day of reckoning coming.
Our country has been devastated in recent days by storms and floods. First it was Hurricane Katrina, and now Hurricane Rita. But they are not the only things we have faced as far as natural disasters in the world. Wildfires started by lightning, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, disease and plague, hurricanes and tornados, earthquakes and floods, landslides and avalanches, famines and droughts are all things that make us question how safe the world is and why these things happen. For many people it makes them question the goodness of God, or even the existence of a good God.
The parable that we are looking at this week speaks to the issue of evil in the world. There are four basic truths I see Jesus teaching in this parable. The first is this: There seems to be injustice in the way the world works. We sometimes find ourselves saying, “Wait a minute! I thought you were a good God and that you made a good world. How did this evil get into it? Why do all these terrible things happen?” We are like the Master’s servants in the parable who say, “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?” We read the opening pages of the Bible that say, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31), and we want to know what happened. Did God make a mistake, or lots of mistakes? Since he created everything, did he also create evil? After all, many good people died in the recent catastrophes in the South. Churches, children’s homes and church camps were destroyed, and Christians were numbered among the dead.
When something bad happens to you or someone else, it is not because of some specific sin in your life or theirs, but the fact that you live in a fallen world — a world that has fallen away from God. The human race as a whole has invited evil into the world through our collective sin. This is, therefore, a world where evil is present and real. And part of what makes evil so evil is that it is so unfair and unjust. Good people suffer while bad people sometimes prosper. Why do bad things happen to good people, and why do good things happen to bad people? This was the prophet Jeremiah’s complaint. He said, “You are always righteous, O Lord, when I bring a case before you. Yet I would speak with you about your justice: Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?” (Jeremiah 12:1).
I have read articles on the Internet about the hurricane and floods hitting New Orleans being the judgment of God on that wicked city. They point out that it hit on “Southern Decadence Day,” otherwise known as Gay Mardi-Gras. But most of the revelers had not arrived, because it did not hit on the day of Souther Decadence, but two days before. And how do you explain that the French Quarter where the event was to be held was the least affected area? The thing that really angers some people is that God does not punish the wicked and destroy them like they think he should. This was the problem of Jonah who was placed on suicide watch because God spared the evil Ninevites instead of destroying them. Jesus declared the awful injustice of God when he said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:43-45). God not only exercises mercy in the place of judgment, but asks us to do the same. This is the scandal of God: his inexhaustible mercy.
Sometimes we get impatient with God, because as the Psalmist said, “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities” (Psalm 103:8-10). We like it when God does that for us, but we are angry when God does it for our enemies, or those we consider worse sinners than ourselves. Do you remember the time that the disciples came across a man who had been blind from birth? They said to Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2). And Jesus said, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned.” The disciples had everything in a neat little package: “When something bad happens it is because of some sin, known or unknown in the person’s life.” But Jesus clearly said it was not that way.