Summary: Rewritten for Calverton Baptist Church: In a world of injustice, "bad" people get good things they do not deserve. But grace gives us gentle gifts, gives us the satisfaction of outwaiting our enemies, and allows us to wait for God’s justice.
I was in my office at Takoma Park church, and, as so often happened, someone stopped by to ask for help. The story was very much like most of the stories I had heard. He said that he just needed a few dollars to get by. Tomorrow there would be a job and, “Pastor, if you’ll just give me transportation money, just a few days’ bus fare...” I asked a few questions. I heard more pleas. I at least attempted to talk with him about Christ. Then a moment of prayer, and finally some dollars changed hands. Five minutes after it was all over, a church member said, "Did you see the car that fellow left in?" I was surprised. “He left in a car? He said he needed transportation money, bus fare." My church member told me the terrible truth: "Well, pastor, I would need transportation money too if I were driving a big, shiny, new Mercedes, the one with the large engine and the extra bronze trim."
There is very little justice in this world. We established that last week. Last week we talked about that age-old problem of what you do with your feelings when bad things happen to good people. We thought about how, when good people get into tough times, it just feels as though they are not being treated fairly. But that is old news now and it was old news then. We didn’t waste time trying to figure out why that happens. It just does.
Today we are turning over to the other side of the coin. What about when good things happen to bad people? The exact opposite of last week. When good things happen to bad people, when the goodies come down on people who have done nothing to deserve them; when showers of blessing rain abundantly on folks who have lied, cheated, and stolen, and again there just doesn’t seem to be any justice. The Bible says that God makes His rain fall upon both the just and the unjust. But somebody has put it like this: "The rain, it falls upon the just and unjust fella; the trouble is the unjust took the just’s umbrella."
So when the scoundrels get the goodies, how do you feel? The cheats and the thieves figure out ways to keep their wealth and make the rest of us pay for it; are you angry? Some corporate hotshots market high-risk securities or unsustainable mortgages, run the economy into the ground as their house of cards falls down, and then award themselves and their cronies multiplied millions in bonuses. What do you say to all of that?
About the Mercedes driver, I have to tell you, I lost it over the extra bronze trim! I just lost it when I realized what luxury he had given himself. Why should such a good thing as the church’s charity, money given by ordinary clunker-driving people, be lavished on a bad person? Why should we be taken in by such a rogue? Let’s get down to it: why does God let good things happen to bad people?
Well, as with last week, we are not going to waste time speculating about why that happens. It’s just there. Good things do happen to people who do not deserve them. And we cannot figure out why. But I will give you a clue right now to something we will look at today. It’s not about what we deserve. It’s about grace. It’s always about grace.
Now for a moment back to last Sunday: thinking about what we are to do with our feelings when bad things happen to good people – we noticed that we must pray. We must pray not so much to ask God to put everything back together. We pray to pour our very hearts out to God. When bad things happen to good people, God will hear the cries of anguish. And then we found that when we pray honestly and passionately, God brings forward reserves of memory that help us get through. We remember the grace of God in the past and that helps us build hope for the future.
And in addition, last week, using Psalm 22, we also discovered that sometimes God is silent until we find out how much we need Him. He wants us to acknowledge that we are not as good as we think we are. It’s only when we depend upon Him that we win our victory. It’s only when we throw ourselves on His mercy that we will be satisfied; it may not be today, nor yet tomorrow, but ultimately we will be satisfied. The awesome cry of the psalmist, the terrifying cry of Christ Himself, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Let that cry assault the heavens. And we will find that we can survive when bad things happen to good people.