In today’s forum, a US-based Catholic writer, Terry Modica, writes our reporter WATIPASO MZUNGU JNR to comment on a feature we published recently. The feature, titled ‘Are the God-fearing labouring in vain?’, sought to find answers to questions some believers ask on why God allows sinners to prosper at the expense of those who fear him. Modica gives her insight of what she understands as God’s love for sinners.
First, I would like to explain that God does not favour sinners. However, there are times when we, who are followers of Christ, feel let down by God. We expect to be favoured more than sinners. We assume that if we are good, if we are obedient to God, if we follow Christ, if we pray for help, then, of course, God should reward us with the answers to our prayers and with prosperity and other good things.
But we cannot manipulate God. No one can earn God’s favour nor his help. It is a sin to try because it’s thinking of ourselves as “better” than God. It’s treating God as if we should be able to manipulate him by our good deeds.
What happens when we seek God’s help but it doesn’t work out the way we expect? When we see non-believers having more success than us in the same things we were hoping God would help us with, we feel like God is treating us less favourably than others.
When we look past our expectations and disappointments, we can begin to see the bigger picture. Consider these facts about the spiritual life:
..When we hope for prosperity while entrusting our lives to God, and then don’t get it, God is actually favouring us with his protection. Prosperity can lead to a lot of problems such as the sin of greed or the sin of relying on wealth instead of on God or the non-sinful but significant mistake of doing something different with our lives than what God knows is really better for us. The same is true for anything we hope for but do not get; God is saying “no” to us because he has something better in mind for us, and if we cooperate with that instead of wallowing in jealousy over how easily sinners seem to thrive better than us, we always find ourselves in situations that make us glad that God said no.
Oftentimes, God’s “no” is really, “Just wait. I will help you mature during the wait. My timing is always perfect and always what is best for you. My timing will bring you better results if you trust me and let me lead you.”
It is not true that the ungodly thrive in all their undertakings. Some do, but only for a season, never eternally, and usually not even long enough to satisfy them. We see only a small portion of what is going on in their lives. They might be thriving financially, but losing their marriages and families. They are quite unhappy deep inside and – very often – not just deep inside but they are fully aware that they are unhappy, so they anesthetise themselves against the pain of feeling unhappy by addictions such as drinking, sexual affairs, and striving to make even more money.
It is not true that followers of Christ are less successful than the ungodly. Many Christians are thriving, wealthy and successful.
Now I will address your three questions specifically.
What is behind the success of ‘bad’ people?
We have all been created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26). We are all God’s children. Therefore, all have talents that, when put to use, help us become successful. Those non-believers who are very prosperous have been using the talents that God gave them. The same principle is available to believers as much as to non-believers.
Do you think God has any merit for loving such people?
It’s not about “merit”. God is love, and it is impossible for God to be unloving. It is impossible for God to stop loving anyone. Love is not love if it withholds itself from anyone. And therefore, God is not God if he withholds himself from anyone. See? It is quite impossible for God to not love such people!
What should the ‘God-fearing’ people do to earn the creator’s grace such as that being lavished on ‘bad’ people?
Your questions reveal two misconceptions that many people have: (1) that we should be able earn God’s help by being “good”, and (2) that “bad” people are “bad people.” God created everyone as good (Genesis 1:31).
Everyone does bad things. We all sin, even the holiest amongst us here on earth. And we all do good things, even those who do the most evil. We must stop labelling ourselves and others as “good” or “bad”. That is judgmental, and Jesus said we must not judge (Matthew 7:1), because only God knows the heart, the motives, and the true condition of the soul. So oops! As soon as we say that someone is “bad”, we are committing the sin of judgmentalism.
We, however, very often fail to favour God with our very best. Rather than try to excel using our talents, we hope to ride on God’s goodness, expecting him to do the work for us. Some non-believers (certainly not all!) become successful – thrive, as you put it – because they work hard to excel. We who are followers of Christ are called to excel – we are called to be like Christ, using our talents to their fullest.
So, rather than spend any more time being jealous of sinners who thrive in ways we wish we would thrive, let us strive to give God our best efforts. I have also posted our discussion on my ministry’s blog: —gnmforum.blogspot.com/2014/01/why-does-god-favor-ungodly.html