Have You Ever Wondered—
If God Is Love, Why Does He Permit Wickedness?
THIS is a valid question, and it deserves an answer. But before it’s answered we should enlarge our view of wickedness and its permission. It’s not realistic to limit the question to God’s role in the matter. What about the role of humans? Many who object to God’s permission of wickedness are persons who not only permit it but practice it themselves.
And when their practices of wickedness bring down upon their heads its penalties, why do they wail in protest, “Why me, God?” As much as to say that if it’s someone else who is the victim, it’s all right. This tendency of people to shift the blame to God is noted in the Bible: “A man’s own folly wrecks his life, and then he bears a grudge against the LORD.”—Prov. 19:3, “New English Bible.”
Self-interest results in famine in many lands. Love of money makes industry pollute the environment, greatly increasing disease and deaths. By declaring wars men kill millions and maim millions more. By sowing social injustices and economic inequities people reap a bumper crop of crime. Their “new morality” ruins marriages, breaks up families and spreads venereal diseases. Overeating, they become obese and impair their health. Overdrinking, they get cirrhosis of the liver. Their heavy smoking is an invitation to lung cancer.
WHAT IF GOD STOPPED THEIRS?
Would those who complain about God’s permission of wickedness be pleased if he stopped theirs? If he plucked the cigarettes from their fingers and the third or the fourth highball from their tipsy hands, would they rejoice that lung cancer and liver trouble brought about in that way had ended? And if God destroyed their armament factories, divided their food stores among the hungry and distributed their surplus wealth among the poor and disadvantaged—would they rejoice in that?
God forbids the conduct that produces most of the wickedness we now endure. It’s within the people’s power to stop it, but many people go right along with it. The facts force us to conclude that it’s not wickedness that most of mankind wants stopped but its consequences. They want to sow it but not reap its crop. If they can evade the consequences, many rush into wrongdoing. During blackouts when police are at a disadvantage, looters run wild. If cheating on taxes can escape detection, millions commit the crime. It’s fear of punishment, not hatred of wickedness, that keeps many honest. As the Bible explains: “Because sentence against a bad work has not been executed speedily, that is why the heart of the sons of men has become fully set in them to do bad.”—Eccl. 8:11.
WHY PERMITTED UNTIL NOW?
When a father gives to his son a possession or a responsibility, he is naturally interested in seeing how his son will care for what he has received. In like manner, Jehovah God made man the earth’s caretaker. Man failed, disobeyed God, and thereafter Satan raised the challenge that God could not put persons on earth who would remain faithful to God.
That this issue existed is shown by God’s words to Satan relative to Job: “He worships me and is careful not to do anything evil.” Satan answered challengingly: “Would Job worship you if he got nothing out of it? You have always protected him.” Satan was permitted to do his worst, short of killing Job, but could not break Job’s integrity to God. (Job 1:6-12; 2:1-10, “Good News Bible”) God has allowed Satan time to prove his challenge, even until now.
However, aside from meeting Satan’s challenge, other purposes have been served by permitting hardships to befall mankind. Thousands of years of human rule have demonstrated man’s inability to govern himself independent of God. “To earthling man,” the inspired prophet wrote, “his way does not belong. It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step.” (Jer. 10:23) By experiencing hardships the nation of Israel learned that they needed God’s guidance. (Ps. 107:11-13) We should learn also and realize that God’s kingdom is the only way to free us from wickedness.
Mankind’s only hope is to live in a paradise earth where God “will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore.” (Rev. 21:4) Surely our appreciation of life without tears, mourning, outcry, pain or death will be greatly enhanced by our having experienced these tragedies in a world where wickedness was permitted. We take things for granted. Only after we lose them do we appreciate them.
HOW WILL GOD END WICKEDNESS?
In order to end wars, end warmongers. To end famine, end profiteers. To end pollution, end polluters. To end crime, end criminals and the bad conditions that may produce them. To end the immoralities that destroy families and breed disease, end the practicers of immorality. Six thousand years of reformers, social workers, politicians, institutions for rehabilitation—all have failed to correct evils and end wickedness.
God’s permission of wickedness will end by his removal of Satan and all humans who insist on practicing it. Many who complain of God’s permitting wickedness also complain of his way of stopping it. But just as gardens can’t exist full of weeds, so a peaceful paradise can’t exist filled with evildoers. God’s way is the practical way: “The upright are the ones that will reside in the earth, and the blameless are the ones that will be left over in it. As regards the wicked, they will be cut off from the very earth; and as for the treacherous, they will be torn away from it.”—Prov. 2:21, 22.