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Why do the wicked prosper? A challenge to God's justice.

Updated: Apr 22, 2019

One of the attributes of God is He is just (1 John 1:9). In its simplest form, justice dictates that bad behavior gets punished and good behavior gets rewarded. However, this is not always what we see happening around us which can bring us to question God’s justice. We see sin abounding and going unpunished, and good people and innocent children striving with hardships. The prophet Jeremiah pointedly challenged God's administration of justice: "You are always righteous, O Lord, when I bring a case before you. Yet I would speak to you about your justice: Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?” (Jer 12:1). Habakkuk had a similar question: "How long oh Lord must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out 'Violence!' but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong?” (Hab 1:1-3).

God answers the two prophets attesting that, while they may not see it, He does have a plan to deal with the wickedness that abounds (Jer 12:7-14; Hab 1:5-11). After spending time with God, Habakkuk, being more than comforted (Hab 3:2), bursts into praise with two old poems from Moses’ time. They declare the amazing glory of God (Poem 1, Hab 3:3-7), and His magnificent power (Poem 2, Hab 3:8-15). God not only uses the unholy, as well as the holy, in His plan, He uses creation: the waves, rivers (Hab 3:8), the sun and the moon (Hab 3:11), to impart His plan.

This humbles Habakkuk (Hab 3:16). He now realizes, that despite appearances (no figs, olives or sheep; symbolizing no evidence of God’s prosperity, God’s peace or God’s people) (Hab 3:17), God’s is at work all powerfully and in his timing (Hab 3:16). When Habakkuk took his eyes off his own plight and put them back on our Lord, not only was he able to rejoice (Hab 3:18) under God's sovereignty, he was also able to pray for the enemy, "in wrath remember mercy" (Hab 3:2).


God is always just and our faith allows us to be sure of that ~ even when we cannot see

  • His perfect moral code is entirely different to ours. Even if we are daily reading His word and establishing His moral code as the basis for our life choices, we still fall short. We are bombarded by worldly views on right versus wrong, and we have an inherently selfish nature that always skews ‘equity’ in our favor.

  • He is longsuffering (Psalm 86:15). We do not see God's punishment on those who do wrong, but that does not mean it hasn't happened or won't happen. God has eternity in His hands; we see only today and a biased image of the past.

  • He is a God of mercy. He is sovereign and can choose to extend mercy to the righteous and unrighteous alike without any reason other than His compassion. “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy” (Exodus 33:19). This doesn't render Him unjust, rather it makes Him just and merciful.

  • God is not self-centered. God does not punish for revenge, but for discipline; to bring back the lost to Him. He administers His justice with perfect authority; never under- or over- punishing. It is His desire that none should perish. He loves without condition, chastening those He loves to foster repentance, cleansing and nearness in relationship with Him.

  • He provides our strength (Hab 3:19). Knowing that He is faithful and just (1 John 1:9), we can place all our hope in God (Psalm 31:24). And in the midst of His powerful work, there is no limit imposed to the heights that He can take us to when we walk alongside Him (Hab 3:19).


1. Have you ever felt someone was prospering outside of God’s will? How did that make you feel about them? About you? About God?

2. Should justice equally balance rewards for good behavior and punishment for bad behavior? If you could choose to skew the balance more to one side, which side would you pick? Why?

3. Do you have a ‘prodigal’ in your life that you are praying for? Are they prospering? How would you like to see God re-direct him/her back to God?


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