— By THE REV. LOU TISCIONE
Many have asked the question, “Why do the wicked prosper?”
Prosperity is seen as proof of doing what is good. Those who are seen as prosperous are idolized and followed. Moral integrity does not seem to matter. Evil behavior does not seem to be included in the discernment process.
One thing for certain is that following and idolizing the prosperous simply because of their prosperity is not new. The psalmist wrote, “For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” Psalm 73:3
Asaph acknowledged his sin of envy. He saw the wicked prospering. The prosperity of the wicked has always been a stumbling block for those who desire justice, believing that moral integrity is important.
Asaph defined the wicked as those who lived apart from God. The wicked surround us. We look at the prosperity of the arrogant and proud and see injustice. We live in a culture where some leaders believe that the rule of law is for others. Yet these people continue to prosper and draw followers.
In the same Psalm, 73: 10a, the psalmist stated the effect that these wicked people had on others. “Therefore his people turn back to them…” People will follow the wicked in the hope that they may be included in their prosperity because their critical thinking is replaced with the desire for prosperity above all else.
God did not answer the psalmist. He didn’t answer “why the wicked prosper?” God simply inspired the psalmist to state the fact. Evil men (used in a generic sense to describe men and women) prosper, and people follow them.
The Bible declares why people follow evil rather than good. Genesis 6:5 records God’s view of mankind. God said that, “every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
We have bought Satan’s lie since the Garden. The natural man believes that knowing good and evil is better than only knowing good. Even Christians often act more like non-Christians by following their own passions rather than thirsting after righteousness.
We know that evil is not an entity. Evil has no being in itself. Evil is the privation or lack of good according to the writing of Augustine of Hippo in the 6th Century. Evil is morally wrong behavior. I know God is not the author of evil, yet He uses evil for His good purposes.
The prosperity of the wicked and evil men will be with us until the return of Christ. Their ongoing existence is part of the bad news. People motivated by selfish desires will continue to follow evil men. Evil behavior will persist until the end of this world. Satan will continue to deceive men and women even though he is on a chain. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that we know the rest of the story. Satan has already been defeated. (He’s a slow learner.) There will come a time of perfect justice. The Lord Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead. No one will escape. The wicked who are prospering now will receive justice. In the new heaven and the new earth, evil will be no more.
The psalmist’s struggle with the prosperity of the wicked is the same as our own. He found the answer for living in a world filled with evil and injustice. “But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.” Psalm 73:16
I would encourage you who know the fear of the Lord especially as you worship Him on the Lord’s Day. Learn His holy sovereignty. Know that He is holy and will execute perfect justice. The prosperity of the wicked is temporary. Their judgment is eternal.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more… Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” Revelation 21:1, 22:14
The Rev. Lou Tiscione is pastor of Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA).