Why do bad things happen to good people? This philosophical question relates to world events and the harming of children and poverty and many other things. I have no perfect answer. Yet Jesus touches on this in his healing a man blind from birth…
1 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
6 After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7 “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.
1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “What do you people mean by quoting this proverb about the land of Israel:
“‘The parents eat sour grapes,
and the children’s teeth are set on edge’?
3 “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel. 4 For everyone belongs to me, the parent as well as the child—both alike belong to me. The one who sins is the one who will die.
14 Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well.
This strikes a bit close to home because my granddaughter was born with hearing impairment. She has cute little hearing aids at the age of 6 months and they help her hear what she wouldn’t otherwise hear. Rabbi, who sinned, this girl or her parents, that she was born hearing impaired?
You can fill in the blanks with your own question of the Saviour. Inquiring minds want to know. Why Jesus? Why?
The answer Jesus gave in the case of the man born blind is, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Sometimes things we would call unfair or disadvantageous or disability are so that God can work and show his power. Then show your power, God… show your power.
I think for many people who do not revere or trust God, this answer may come across as thin. And self-serving. What kind of narcissistic God would allow people to be harmed so he can look good by fixing them? I see the perspective. And these are complicated matters which will not be fully resolved until we meet God and fully comprehend his nature and glory. We do presuppose that humans have a right to be born fully seeing or fully hearing, and I think we’ll have different perspectives on our ‘rights’ on the other side of heaven also.
Sometimes the bad things come from the actions of other people. God has allowed each of us to have free will, and the exercise of free will can negatively impact other people. God asks each of us, as he did through Joshua to the people of Israel, to choose whom we will serve (Joshua 24:14-15). When people choose to serve other gods or themselves as gods, bad things happen to good people. No one wants to give up their free will, yet we all want the free will of others limited if it will harm us or those we love.
The accountability for sin, though, is clearly with the sinner. Although there was a multi-generational sin impact taught in the time of Moses, Ezekiel clarifies the ideas for us in his prophecies: The one who sins is the one who will die. The consequence and accountability for sin is on the sinner. My granddaughter is not hearing-impaired because of the sins of her parents or my generation or the previous generations.
Speaking of which, bad things can happen to ‘good’ people because of their own action. Good is in quotes because when Jesus dealt with the disabled man in John 5, he very clearly drew a relationship between the man’s situation and his own sin. He wasn’t so ‘good’ after all. After healing him, Jesus said, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”
And so we see this question is far from simple, is viewed differently in the eyes of each beholder, and will likely not become clear until we meet God. Until then, the more important question, I think, is what will I do? Will I help those who are victims or needy or suffering or disadvantaged? Will I do the best with the situation I have been dealt to honour God each day? As I have questions, I also have choices…