Question: Why does God allow wicked people to flourish and prosper?
My Answer: We hear this question often in the Bible. Consider the words of the psalmist in Psalm 73:2-13. Asaph was so upset over seeing the prosperity of the wicked that he almost lost his faith in God!
Reasons for the Prosperity of the Wicked
They are sometimes wiser in the world’s ways
“For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.” (Luke 16:8b)
Satan has the ability to give riches
“The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to.” (Luke 4:5-6)
Even sinners can profit from God’s Kingdom principles
There are certain principles that God has instituted in the world. Although these are spiritual principles, they operate just as consistently as natural principles. Just as gravity is a natural physical law that operates for sinners and saints alike, so God’s kingdom principles operate for whomever will utilize them, the wicked included.
One of these principles is that of giving and receiving, sowing and reaping:
• “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap….” (Luke 6:38)
• “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” (2 Corinthians 9:6)
Yet another kingdom law is that of tithing. Those who tithe are blessed.
“‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,’ says the LORD Almighty.” (Malachi 3:10-11)
There are many wealthy people who have prospered largely because of their generosity. Think of the billionaires who set up foundations and trusts, and give generously to charitable works. The very fact of their giving ensures that they will receive blessings in return (see Proverbs 11:25). There are some who are religious and tithe, whether they know the Lord or not. Their obedience in tithing can result in material blessings.
Also, simply working hard and being diligent will produce wealth and abundance. This is the way God ordained that things should be. (See Proverbs 14:23, 10:4)
The conclusion then is that for God to hinder the wicked from prospering when they work hard and give generously, would be to violate His own laws.
The End of the Wicked
Asaph fretted over the prosperity of the wicked until he went into the house of God (Psalm 73:17), then he began to see things in their true perspective. He understood that God will judge the wicked, but that he will live with God forever (see Psalm 73:18-19, 23-26).
Prosperity in this world is only temporary
• “I have seen a wicked and ruthless man flourishing like a green tree in its native soil, but he soon passed away and was no more; though I looked for him, he could not be found.” (Psalm 37:35-36)
• “But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.” (James 1:10-11)
(Also see Psalm 49, especially verses 16-20)
The God of justice will put all things right
“Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret–it leads only to evil. For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land. A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.” (Psalm 37:7-11)
(See Psalm 96:13 and Revelation 11:15-18)
We have True Riches in Christ
Asaph’s answer in Psalm 73 is not only that God will punish the wicked, but that the righteous have something better than material wealth. We have the presence and reality of God in our lives (see Psalm 73:23-28). We have forgiveness, eternal life and the love and power of God (see Ephesians 1:3-8, 3:14-21, Colossians 2:2-3, 1 Corinthians 1:30-31, Romans 9:23, 2 Corinthians 8:9 and Revelation 2:9). These are the true riches, and are greater than any financial or material gain.