Men who are bound by the Fall claim to have a problem with evil. Evolutionists, humanists, Communists, atheists, and some agnostics are chief among them. On the one hand, they deny the concept of evil, which reinforces their “philosophy of meaninglessness.” On the other hand, they incorporate the concept of evil to deny the existence of God.
They argue, if God is all good and all powerful, how could evil exist? How can God be all good and allow evil in the world? How can he be all powerful and not stop it? According to them, because evil exists, he cannot be both, all good and all powerful, therefore he does not exist.
They deny he exists and yet spend much of their time hating and denouncing him. Why fight someone who is not there? It seems like an exercise in futility. G. K. Chesterton commenting on this bewildering plight of atheists stated, “If there was no God, there would be no atheists.”
Biblically, however, God’s word assures us that deep down all men, including atheists, know he is there. In fact, that is one of God’s names, Jehovah Shammah, the Lord who is there. What is the real issue? Though they know he is there, they suppress the truth in unrighteousness. They merely love their sin more than they love God (2 Timothy 3:4).
Unregenerated men deceive themselves into thinking they will not be held accountable to God. Psalms 10:13 states, “Why do the wicked renounce God? He has said in his heart, ‘You will not require an account.’” Moreover, they boast, “The Lord does not see, nor does the God of Jacob understand” (Psalms 94:7). They mistakenly think, “With our tongue we will prevail; Our lips are our own; Who is lord over us” (Psalms 12:4). Romans 1:18-20 describes their “state of denial” predicament:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.
Is there a problem with evil? Yes, but if the truth be known, we do not really have a problem with evil, as much as we have a problem with God. We sin, suffer the consequences of evil, and then rail against the heavens. Proverbs 19:3 explains, “The foolishness of a man twists his way, and his heart frets against the Lord.”
Furthermore, there is no darkness; there is no variation or shadow of turning in God (1 John 1:5; James 1:17). It is impossible for him to lie (Hebrews 6:18). In other words, there is no evil, darkness, or deceit in God nor does he tempt man to commit evil. He is holy, righteous, and just in all his sayings and doings (Psalms 19:9). The Judge of the earth always does what is right (Genesis 18:25) He is “Totally Other.”
The Apostle James reveals how evil manifests in the earth. James 1:13-15 states:
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
Part of the problem with evil stems from man’s resentment against the integrity of God. God means what he says. Jesus encouraged men to have this kind of integrity. He taught, “But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one” (Matthew 5:37).
In the beginning, God warned Adam and Eve not to sin or else they would die. Satan convinced them otherwise. They paid no heed, went their own way, and reality hit them like a ton of brick. Who told the truth that corresponded with reality? Thus, sinful man has been left seeking to justify himself at the expense of God’s integrity ever since.
How did Jesus deal with the problem with evil? Luke 13:1-5 grants insight:
There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.
Why does bad things happen to good people? In every tragedy known to men, this question gnaws at us. If you ask the wrong question, however, you will not receive a satisfactory answer. Those who questioned Jesus about the atrocity concerning Pilate murdering and mingling the blood of his victims with his pagan sacrifices were, in essence, asking this question.
Jesus’ response is illuminating. He did not countenance the question. First, there is no such thing as a “good” person. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Besides, both Old and New Testament present this assessment that reveals the true condition of men:
As it is written: There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.” “Their throat is an open tomb; With their tongues they have practiced deceit”; “The poison of asps is under their lips”; “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; Destruction and misery are in their ways; And the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:10-18).
Second, Jesus responded with his own question, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things?” It was a rhetorical question that Jesus used to declare, “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” These people asked Jesus the wrong question. The true question should be, “Why do good things happen to bad people?” Why does the sun shine on the evil and the good? Why does the rain fall on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45)? In essence, Jesus was encouraging them to redirect their questions, “How come you escaped being murdered? Why was not your blood mingled with the sacrifice? How come the tower did not fall on you, etc.?” If we ask these kinds of questions, perhaps, it will lead to the response that has the power to save, heal, and deliver our souls. It will guide us to an answer that reveals God’s gracious offer that none should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).