Summary: When unworthy people get good things, prayer helps us discover that we too do have good things, that the issue is not goods but our feelings, and that ultimately God is just and gracious.
There is, indeed, very little justice in the world. But that’s very old news. We established that last week. Last week we talked about that age-old problem of what you do what 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. Well, no, let’s say what we really thought. We didn’t think about "they"- we thought about "we". We thought that we, good people as we surely must be ... here we are in church, after all ... we good people think that we deserve a better deal than we get. We seemed to agree, last Sunday, that there is very little justice in this world.
But that is old news now and it was old news then. We didn’t waste time then, and we won’t waste it now, trying to figure out why that happens. There just isn’t any fully satisfying answer. There isn’t any logic that gets all the pieces of that puzzle put together. Bad things happen to good people, they just do, that’s that, and it’s better not to strain the brain trying to figure it out.
But we did, last Sunday, find out that prayer enters that picture. Prayer enters that picture not by our asking God to fix the unfixable or put everything back together. Prayer enters the picture as in prayer we pour our very hearts out to God. When bad things happen to good people, God will hear the cries of anguish, and will bring forward reserves, memories, that will help us get through. We also found that sometimes God is silent until we find out how much we need Him. Then we win our victory. Then we will be satisfied; it may not be today, nor yet tomorrow, but ultimately we will be satisfied. We just have to go ahead and cry out, with all the anguish that lies buried, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" and let that cry assault the heavens ... that’s what we must do in prayer, when bad things happen to good people. Because human justice is not going to cross our thresholds.
Now today let’s turn over to the other side of the coin. Look at this from the other side of the ledger. What about when good things happen to bad people? The exact opposite of last week. When good things happen to bad people? When all the goodies seem to 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? You know the Bible verse that tells us that God makes His rain fall upon both the just and the unjust? 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."
Why is it that the scoundrels get the goodies? How is it that the cheats and thieves figure out ways to keep their wealth and make the rest of us pay for it? What do you say when you read in the morning papers that some corporate hotshot has fired three thousand workers, cheapened his products and services, increased the profit margin, and awarded himself multiplied millions in bonuses for doing all this? Why? Why?
Well, if you can answer that, you can tell me what was going on the other day when I listened to somebody’s tearful appeal for help. He just needed a few dollars to get by. Tomorrow there would be a job and an income ... pastor, if you’ll just give me transportation money. A few questions, more pleas, an attempt at a witness, a moment of prayer, and finally some dollars changed hands. Ten minutes after it was all over, someone else who was in the church building said to me, "Did you see the car that fellow left in?" "Car? He said he needed transportation money?" "Well, pastor, I would need transportation money too if I were operating a big, shiny, new Mercedes ... the one with the big engine ... and the extra bronze trim."
I lost it with the extra bronze trim. I just lost it. Why should such a good thing as my charity, the church’s charity, be lavished on such a bad person? Why should we be taken in by such a rogue? Why does God let good things happen to bad people? Why?
But now, remember, last week we said that there wasn’t really an answer to the why. That the issue was our feelings. Our deep down emotional response to things like that. The issue is not what we think up here in the head. The issue is what we feel down here in the heart and how we are going to work that through.