Summary: This sermon focuses on the story of the Widow’s Oil from 2 Kings 4 and answers the questions: "Why do bad things happen to good people, where is God when they do, and what do we do when it happens to us?" Part of a series entitled "Seven".
We’re in a series called "Seven" learning unforgettable lessons from forgotten lives of the Old Testament. This week we are going to take a look at a woman who is having a very difficult time in her life. In fact I’m not sure things can get worse. If you have a Bible, turn to the passage in 2 Kings 4:1 while I give you some background. It’s the time period, about 850 BC, when Israel has been split into two kingdoms - North and South. We find our story in the Northern Kingdom, which is run by a king who has ignored God. The nation is in turmoil, enemies are getting stronger, the economy is getting weaker and the leadership of the country is trusting more in their own wisdom rather than God’s. And in the midst of this, as a result of national crisis, family after family is facing personal crisis of their own. (Can anyone relate?) Here’s one of those stories:
The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, "Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the LORD. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves." 2 Kings 4:1
Okay, here’s her story. This woman married a man who served God as a prophet. He was in the ministry. He was a godly man in a very ungodly society. And in the middle of all Israel’s trouble, this man of God suddenly dies. He hasn’t done a very good job with the family debt and didn’t get the right amount of life insurance and has now left the family in a bind.
To make things worse, now the creditors are banging on the door, demanding payment. The creditors "size up" the situation. The woman is older and doesn’t have the ability to work and repay the debt, so the creditors decide that the only way to settle the her account is to take this woman’s sons and enslave them until the debt is paid.
Now, is anyone troubled by this story? Not just the enslaving of children, but the thought that this man of God would die and his family not be taken care of? Let’s be more general...anyone here frustrated with the situation where bad things happen to good people? Or even worse, when good things happen to bad people? What’s that all about?
Let’s take a few minutes to talk about that because I feel like it is a real issue for us today. I here a lot of "I don’t get it. Why would God do that?" kind of talk even in our situation today. A lot of people feel like their personal situations are unfair. We haven’t done as much bad, haven’t been as irresponsible as other people, yet it feels like we are experiencing the brunt of the consequences of this economy...struggling financially, losing jobs, homes, sense of peace...and we don’t get it. We’re thinking, "Okay, I started going to church, focusing on my family...c’mon God, what are you doing? That’s not...fair!"
A few thoughts: First, I would suggest that you and I do not want fair. Fair would mean that everyone in the world got equal treatment... Which would mean that, to be average, you and I would be living without electricity making less than $1000 a year. So you don’t want fair.
Second thought. When we say we want fair, what we really mean is we want favor. Our perspective on fairness is imbalanced at best. It’s tainted. Think about it, when bad things happen to good people, we get all bent. Be cause they didn’t "deserve it". Yet when the same thing happens to bad people we think "he had that coming". See, what we really believe is that good people deserve to be treated better by God, not equally. That they should have much less trouble in this world because they are good people. We’ll talk about that in a minute.
Third thought. We don’t like it when bad thing happen to good people, but it is even worse when good things happen to bad people. How do they get away with it? That’s not fair! You’re right. Here’s news if you haven’t figured it out: God is not into "fair". He’s not into fair. Now, I did not say we wasn’t consistent or just. But he’s definitely not into fair they way we think of fair. Here’s what I am saying: the fact that good things happen to bad people is not fair, it’s gracious. It’s a sign of God’s character. God is gracious. We serve a grace giving God. A God of second chances. A god who is slow to anger and shows compassion on those who don’t deserve it. And that is a good thing. The Bible mentions that in Romans 5:8 - God demonstrates his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Aren’t you glad God isn’t just fair?