Why Do Bad People Prosper and Good People Suffer?

In Psalm 73, the psalmist struggles to understand something so common in this life: why is it that so often the wicked prosper and righteous people suffer?

Good things happen to bad people, and bad things happen to good people. Why is there this injustice? Those who want to live a life pleasing to God often suffer. They often don’t have their best lives now. Why is that?

Unfortunately, we can’t interpret a disaster as a sign of God’s disfavor or material prosperity as a sign of God’s favor toward us. The reasons for all of these things lie hidden in God’s purposes and plans. God’s secret will remains hidden from us, but his revealed will is certain and clear.

As the psalmist navigates his way through this tough question, he finally concludes that although the wicked may prosper in this life, God has placed them on a slippery slope and they will eventually perish. Life may look good for the wicked now, but it won’t be good later. And the psalmist comes to this realization that it doesn’t matter how much the wicked prosper, because that will be their only portion. But the psalmist rightly sees past this folly, and he knows of the joy that is to come for the righteous.

The psalmist can suffer now for a little while, because glory is going to be so good that this present evil is only one drop of pain compared to an ocean of pleasure! He utters these beautiful words:

Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Ps. 73:25–26)

Yes, this world is unfair. Life is not fair. But the psalmist remembers that he is just a pilgrim on the way to Zion, the great heavenly city that is to come. He has an inheritance—a portion—that is greater than all of the wealth and riches Wall Street has to offer. God is his portion. 

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (Ps. 23:6)

Photo of Nicholas Davis

Nicholas Davis

Nicholas Davis is lead pastor of Redemption Church (PCA) in San Diego, California. Nick has worked for White Horse Inn for several years, has contributed to Modern Reformation and other places, and is a writer for Core Christianity. Nick and his wife, Gina, have three sons. He blogs at nicholasmartindavis.com. Connect with Nicholas on Twitter @MundaneMinister.